Essential Truth: Gathering “Ground Truth” through IoT

This is the second in my occasional series of “Essential Truths” — key principles and questions about the Internet of Things.

On Tuesday, when I speak to our next Boston/New England IoT Meetup on the issue of “human communications and the IoT” one of the concepts I’ll be focusing on is what Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors calls “ground truth,” a concept he was exposed to through his work with clients in the defense industry.

This is the idea that when devices become “smart,” they give off “digital exhaust” (in the same way as our searches do, which Google analyzes, allowing improvement in search results) which creates “device intelligence” that we can analyze and act upon. That is ground truth: accurate data about real-world conditions that we can share in real-time to improve operating performance and analysis.

According to Chris,

“You will have data, objective facts, about that tree or tidal pool, that machine or that vehicle, that room or that field, that patient or that criminal. The data in that ground truth will complement certain aspects of our perceptions about those things; and displace our misperceptions. And that ground truth will help us all make better decisions about how to manage our time on earth.”
— “Internet of Things: Grandest Opportunity, Most Stubborn Challenges

It seems to me that this is one of the IoT’s most important potential benefits: improving decision-making by being able to base it on factual, timely information.

Think, for example, about the contentious issue of global warming. Cisco’s  “Planetary Skin,” and HP’s  “central nervous system for the planet” projects will deploy unprecedented numbers of remote sensors planet-wide, yielding real-time data about how global warming is affecting your community. It may not win over the hard-core global warming deniers (they’ll never listen to reason, IMHO!) but it should provide the objective evidence that rational people can agree on as the basis for action.

Even better, we can also improve this decision making because of my first “Essential Truth,” learning to ask “who else can use this data?”  Think of it: within limits, of course, the more perspectives that are brought into decision making the more likely we are to make sound decisions, because the likelihood of leaving out some important perspective and not analyzing all the possible ramifications is reduced. In the past, we could never do that, because we didn’t have the real-time data, and we couldn’t involve all of those people on a real-time basis.

I suspect that this will be a major issue for management theorists to bat around in coming years, and that our decision-making processes will be fundamentally altered for the better. IMHO, it is this change in decision making, not advances such as automatic regulation of assembly lines or building in feedback loops between manufacturers and customers, is perhaps the most important thing that the IoT will allow. It will have profound impact!

Thanks for the concept, Chris!

Automated factories: that’s not the IoT’s potential!

It’s easy to see why some people make the assumption that one of the results of the Internet of Things will be fully-automated factories.

After all, if automatic, real-time machine-2-machine data sharing would allow self-starting and self-regulating machinery, wouldn’t that allow us a utopian vision of completely autonomous manufacturing?

Instead, I think Bosch’s Volkmar Denner nailed it with this blog entry. He says that rather than complete automation:

“Instead, it’s about finding ways to increase agility. Putting that into figures, optimizing resource allocation within a more flexible production process can result in a jump in productivity of as much as 30 percent. Our goal is to be able to customize even the smallest unit volumes while retaining optimum productivity, and ultimately leading to achieve optimized multi-variant series production.”

I agree totally that what’s going to happen is an end to centralized management and top-down control of information (see my last post, on “Buckyball Management”!, with decentralized, self-management emerging that could threaten old industry leaders who don’t get it (see my posts about how GE does get it!) :

“… And I’m convinced that this shift will provide opportunities for established companies to offer new business models. But they too need to watch out: the IoTS is shaking up what until now has been very much a closed market, opening it up for entirely new players such as IT companies. Here, the IoTS is not just about connecting objects, machines, and systems. On the contrary, it’s also about how to use the data that this connectivity generates. And instead of using this information only within the plant itself, now everyone along the manufacturing chain can be given access to the data over the internet. Once again, the knowledge gained from these data can be applied to generate new business models.”

Denner says that one of the #IoT services that Bosch — the leading supplier of automotive sensors and one of the leaders in industrial sensors — is developing is predictive maintenance, which innovators such as GE (with its jet turbines) and the railroads (I’ve never traced my ancestry on my father’s side, but I harbor the possibility that I’m descended from the Stephensons, pere et fils, who invented the locomotive, so I have a warm spot in my heart for that industry…) are already doing.  As Denner says, “Having such a solution in place allows organizations to offer their customers new and improved levels of service, including a guarantee of reduced downtimes.”

So don’t count out the human element in manufacturing once the IoT is commonplace: in fact, it will be more important, and more valuable, than ever!

survey: M2M natural evolution of “consumerization of IT”

A new survey of worldwide IT decision makers (ITDMs as the acronym goes…) by Harris Interactive for SAP includes some pretty convincing reminders that the Internet of Things (in this case the emphasis is on M2M) is as much about empowering people as it is about things.

“..most ITDMs in all six countries view M2M as the natural evolution of the ‘consumerization of IT,’ with India and China at 92 percent and 90 percent respectively. The majority of Brazilian, German, UK and US ITDMs agreed, with a combined average of 81 percent.”

A lot of mobile devices are changing everything!

A quote from Sanjay Poonen, president of SAP’s Technology Solutions and Mobile Division, neatly ties the technology and human elements together:

“Today, M2M technology is primarily being used to collect vast amounts of machine data. The ‘Internet of Things’ goes one step further by integrating data from machines, ERP, CRM systems, social media and more, in real time, allowing humans to intelligently interact with devices, devices with devices and devices back to humans – the ultimate social media collaboration of man and machine.” (I spared you the self-serving conclusion: that SAP is uniquely qualified to bring all this together..LOL.).

Other important findings include:

  • “pluralities from all six countries surveyed said that smart cities would be the coolest (now there’s a technical term…)  possible outcome of M2M: China (35 percent), Brazil (35 percent), Germany (30 percent), India (27 percent), US (25 percent) and UK (21 percent).” Come on, US
    “ITDMs”: only 25% of you agree??
  • “…an average of 70 percent of the ITDMs in all six countries surveyed agree that companies that fail to implement M2M technologies will fall behind their competitors.”
  • Companies  will gain more insight into their business: China (96 percent), India (88 percent), Brazil (86 percent), Germany (79 percent), US (74 percent) and UK (61 percent)
  • Businesses will be able to respond to real world events: China (92 percent), India (86 percent), Brazil (82 percent), Germany (82 percent), US (78 percent) and UK (73 percent)

“Those surveyed also view the following as presenting the biggest opportunities for M2M in the workplace:

  • Increased efficiency was the No. 1 response in Brazil (54 percent), UK (53 percent) and US (49 percent)
  • Increased productivity for employees was the top selection in China (69 percent), significantly higher than any other countries surveyed
  • Increased employee collaboration was the No. 1 opportunity in Germany (63 percent)
  • Increased mobility among the workforce was the biggest opportunity in India (65 percent).”

I cast my lot with the Germans: while efficiency and productivity will definitely improve, I think the real hidden bonus of M2M in the workplace will be how collaboration will increase when everyone can share the same near-real-time data!

At the same time, the respondents said there were significant obstacles to full use of M2M. As Poonen summarized:

“The benefits of M2M are undeniable but there are barriers toward the adoption of M2M solutions, such as the lack of complete multi-industry offerings, management, security and big data issues, and deficiency of suitable global connectivity solutions that are needed by multinational enterprises.”

This survey is yet more evidence, as if we needed it, that the Internet of Things is finally rising in corporate awareness — or at least among those “ITDMs!” Now the question is how many of their employers will begin to craft IoT action plans.

 

GE gets it about #IoT: collaboration will be critical attitude

Posted on 17th April 2013 in Internet of Things, management

I had a fascinating phone interview this week with Christina, “CK” Kerley, a brilliant marketing consultant who’s increasingly moving into the Internet of Things arena. I strongly suggest that you check out her videos.

She was most interested in my comments about the management implications of the IoT. I told her that a lot of companies that still practice traditional hierarchical, top-down management won’t be able to fully capitalize on the IoT because a critical element of it that isn’t fully understood is that for the first time, everyone in a company will be able to simultaneously share near-real-time information.

That’s going to bring about fundamental change to those companies that are willing to share information:

  • people will be able to carry out their responsibilities more efficiently because they will have real-time information
  • it will be possible to break down “silos” between departments, as personnel in various departments will have simultaneous information to the the same information, increasing collaboration
  • it will also be possible to share information simultaneously with your supply chain and customers, reducing inefficiency and increasing collaboration.

I’ll guarantee you: when that happens, unprecedented innovation will result, because individuals will be empowered as never before.

One company that clearly gets it is GE, which is really practicing what it preaches about the “industrial internet” (if you have access to the print edition of Time, check out their recent story about making it in America again — it features GE’s Schenectady factory manufacturing the new Durathon batteries — one of the ways it is able to compete with the Chinese is that the assembly line is laden with sensors to relay real-time information…).

I was fascinated by this story about GE’s collaboration with Quirky and Electric Imp to hold a contest to develop several IoT products in time for the holiday 2013 season.  The disparity in size between the goliath GE and Quirky and Electric Imp couldn’t be more pronounced, but GE opted to partner with them:

“GE will open thousands of its most promising patents and new technologies to the Quirky community for the development of new consumer products; and a co-branded product development initiative to build a full line of app-enabled connected devices for the home in areas such as health, security, water or air that will be developed using advanced manufacturing tools and technologies. This new line of products will be co-branded Wink: Instantly Connected.”

Yep, with the Internet of Things collaboration will be critical, and I suspect GE will head the pack!

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