My piece in Harvard Biz Review blaming #370 crash on lack of “Internet of Things” thinking!

Hey, everyone else has weighed in with an explanation on why Flight 370 crashed, so I did, today, with a piece in the Harvard Business Review blog in which I blamed it on lack of “Internet of Things thinking.”

May sound crazy, but I think it’s true, because of two of my “Essential Truths” about the IoT — two things that we can do now but never could before, which open up a huge range of possibilities for change:

  • limitless numbers of devices and people can share the same data on a real-time basis
  • for the first time, we can get real-time data on how devices are actually operating, even conditions deep within the device

In this case, if Malaysia Air had only been willing to pay $10 more per flight, it could have had a wide-ranging flow of real-time data from the plane’s engines. Under regular conditions this data could have allowed the company to tweak the engines’ performance, while also allowing them to do “predictive maintenance,” catching minute problems as they first emerged, in time to make safe, economical repairs rather than waiting until a catastrophic failure.

AND, it also would have allowed them during the crisis two weeks ago to have immediately switched to monitoring the engine data when voice transmissions ended, so they would have known immediately that the plane was still flying, in time to have launched planes to intercept the plane and land it safely.

HOWEVER, what was missing was this “Internet of Things thinking,” so they didn’t think expansively about the value of sharing the data.  They saved $10 per flight, but lost 290 people. Somehow the math doesn’t add up…


Pardon me for “shouting” in this headline, but I just had a stark realization that if one of my Internet of Things Essential Truths had been practiced by Rolls-Royce and Malaysia Air, Flight 370 might have been saved:

We have to start asking, where are there situations where real-time data from a variety of sources could help coordinate inter-related activities to improve safety & efficiency and reduce costs?

What I realized was that if Malaysia Air and Rolls-Royce and the air traffic controllers had simultaneous access to the real-time data from the engines’ sensors (rather than Rolls-Royce alone having it, simply to measure engine performance), the airline would have realized that the plane was still in flight, and planes could have been scrambled immediately to search for it, rather than waiting days before the data came to light.

That’s a bone-chilling reminder that with the IoT, we must always ask the question:

who else could benefit from having simultaneous access to real-time data?


Can Internet of Things help solve the Malaysia 370 mystery?

Posted on 13th March 2014 in Internet of Things, M2M, transportation

It appears from a Wall St. Journal article  that Malaysia Air 370’s Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines may have had built-in sensors

Rolls-Royce Trent 800 jet engine

that allowed the engines to send real-time operating data to Rolls-Royce for analysis. According to the WSJ, the data may indicate that the plane flew for an additional four hours after its last radio transmissions.

Whether or not this proves to be true, it does give a preview of what life will be like when the IoT is fully functional: real-time data will become a critical tool in transportation management and safety. In this case the data might help locate the wreckage. In others, the fact that it will allow traffic controllers, whether on the ground or in the air, to react to danger in real time, will save lives.