More Blockchain Synergies With IoT: Supply Chain Optimization

The more I learn about blockchain’s possible uses — this time for supply chains — the more convinced I am that it is absolutely essential to full development of the IoT’s potential.

I recently raved about blockchain’s potential to perhaps solve the IoT’s growing security and privacy challenges. Since then, I’ve discovered that it can also further streamline and optimize the supply chain, another step toward the precision that I think is such a hallmark of the IoT.

As I’ve written before, the ability to instantly share (something we could never do before) real-time data about your assembly line’s status, inventories, etc. with your supply chain can lead to unprecdented integration of the supply chain and factory, much of it on a M2M basis without any human intervention. It seems to me that the blockchain can be the perfect mechanism to bring about this synchronization.

A brief reminder that, paradoxically, it’s because blockchain entries (blocks) are shared, and distributed (vs. centralized) that it’s secure without using a trusted intermediary such as a bank, because no one participant can change an entry after it’s posted.

Complementing the IBM video I included in my last post on the subject, here’s one that I think succinctly summarizes blockchain’s benefits:

A recent LoadDelivered article detailed a number of the benefits from building your supply chain around blockchain. They paralleling the ones I mentioned in my prior post regarding its security benefits, of using blockchain to organize your supply chain (with some great links for more details):

  • “Recording the quantity and transfer of assets – like pallets, trailers, containers, etc. – as they move between supply chain nodes (Talking Logistics)
  • Tracking purchase orders, change orders, receipts, shipment notifications, or other trade-related documents
  • Assigning or verifying certifications or certain properties of physical products; for example determining if a food product is organic or fair trade (Provenance)
  • Linking physical goods to serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags like RFID, etc.
  • Sharing information about manufacturing process, assembly, delivery, and maintenance of products with suppliers and vendors.”

That kind of information, derived from real-time IoT sensor data, should be irresistible to companies compared to the relative inefficiency of today’s supply chain.

The article goes on to list a variety of benefits:

  • “Enhanced Transparency. Documenting a product’s journey across the supply chain reveals its true origin and touchpoints, which increases trust and helps eliminate the bias found in today’s opaque supply chains. Manufacturers can also reduce recalls by sharing logs with OEMs and regulators (Talking Logistics).
  • Greater Scalability. Virtually any number of participants, accessing from any number of touchpoints, is possible (Forbes).
  • Better Security. A shared, indelible ledger with codified rules could potentially eliminate the audits required by internal systems and processes (Spend Matters).
  • Increased Innovation. Opportunities abound to create new, specialized uses for the technology as a result of the decentralized architecture.”

Note that it the advantages aren’t all hard numbers, but also allowing marketing innovations, similar to the way the IoT allows companies to begin marketing their products as services because of real-time data from the products in the field. In the case of applying it to the supply chain (food products, for example), manufacturers could get a marketing advantage because they could offer objective, tamper-proof documentation of the product’s organic or non-GMO origins. Who would have thought that technology whose primary goal is increasing operating efficiency could have these other, creative benefits as well?

Applying  blockchain to the supply chain is getting serious attention, including a pilot program in the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest.  IBM, Intel, Cisco and Accenture are among the blue-chip members of Hyperledger, a new open source Linux Foundation collaboration to further develop blockchain. Again, it’s the open source, decentralized aspect of blockchain that makes it so effective.

Logistics expert Adrian Gonzalez is perhaps the most bullish on blockchain’s potential to revolutionize supply chains:

“the peer-to-peer, decentralized architecture of blockchain has the potential to trigger a new wave of innovation in how supply chain applications are developed, deployed, and used….(becoming) the new operating system for Supply Chain Operating Networks

It’s also another reminder of the paradoxical wisdom of one of my IoT “Essential Truths,” that we must learn to ask “who else could share this information” rather than hoarding it as in the past. It is the very fact that blockchain data is shared that means it can’t be tampered with by a single actor.

What particularly intrigues me about widespread use of blockchain at the heart of companies’ operations and fueled by real-time data from IoT sensors and other devices is that it would ensure that privacy and security, which I otherwise fear would always be an afterthought, would instead be inextricably linked with achieving efficiency gains. That would make companies eager to embrace the blockchain, assuring their attention to privacy and security as part of the deal. That would be a definite win-win.

Blockchain must definitely be on your radar in 2017.

 

Lo and behold, right after I posted this, news that WalMart, the logistics savants, are testing blockchain for supply chain management!

 

I’ll be on live Thursday morning talking the IoT and Smart Cities

Cities are the future of global civilization and the economy, and smart cities are the only way they’ll survive and prosper!

Join me and two SAP experts on the subject, Dina Dayal (global vice president for Digital Enterprise Platform Group) and Saj Kumar (vice president of Digital Transformation and Internet of Things) as we guest on Bonnie D. Graham’s always-enjoyable Coffee Break With Game Changers, 11 AM EDT, 8 AM PDT (it will be archived at the site if you can’t listen live.

Bonnie likes us to start with a provocative (and relevant) quote, and mine will be from Jane Jacobs’ great Death and Life of American Cities:

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because,
and only when, they are created by everybody.”

… with the emphasis on everybody: I’ll explain that there really is an important role in smart cities for city government, the private sector, and — often ignored — grassroots innovators.

A critical key is the global Things Network, created by Wienke Gieseman and his Gang of Ten in Amsterdam,  who created a free LoRaWAN city-wide data network for $12,000 and in less than a month, and then went on to create a global network and a crowdsourced campaign to bring the cost of LoRaWAN hubs down to $200.

I like to think I was there at the beginning, working with Vivek Kundra, then the DC’s CTO (before his accomplishments there led Obama to name him the first US CIO). Vivek and Mayor Fenty took the bold move of releasing more than 40 major city data bases on a real-time basis, then held a contest to get smart developers to create new-fangled “apps” (remember, this was 2008!) to capitalize on them. Because the apps were open-source, they’ve been constantly copied and improved in the years since then.

And that’s only the beginning:

  • creative startups such as Alicia Asin’s Libelium, working with an enlightened city government, have made Barcelona a massive testlab for the Iot, and arguably THE smart city of the day
  • Columbus OH won the Obama Administration’s Smart City competition for its all-inclusive transportation scheme (and I do mean all-inclusive: who ever thought a better transportation network could be used to cut infant mortality???)
  • Smart Cities organizations have been formed in cities worldwide to share ideas — we’re all in this together!

And, of course, I’m going to bring the discussion down to earth by really getting down and dirty — yessiree, we’re gonna talk trash cans.

Be there or be square!

 

3 Steps to Make Your City a World Leader in the IoT

I don’t know about you, but, in the face of grim news globally, I’m determined to make this an incredible year of change and growth.

Happy New Year!

I took a longer than normal time off, to pick up our youngest in Hong Kong after a semester abroad in Thailand, then vacation in Bali.

Hong Kong Internet of Things Association

I started the trip with a speech to the Hong Kong Internet of Things Association, in which I laid out my vision of radical change in corporate management and organization made possible by the IoT, away from the increasingly-obsolete hierarchical and linear forms that made perfect sense in an early 20th-century setting when data was hard to gather and share, but doesn’t when the IoT can allow instant sharing of real-time data by all who need it.

But the most interesting issue came up in the following q & a, when someone asked whether Hong Kong could become a global leader in the IoT.

I told them yes, and followed up with an op-ed in today’s South China Morning Post laying out the steps.

I believe the same steps can help your city become an IoT leader, and that this is a case of the-more-the-merrier: the more cities become IoT leaders the quicker widespread innovation and IoT adoption will become, and the more liveable and efficient our cities — the necessary focus of global growth in this century, especially to meet the challenge of global warming — will become.  So here goes!

  1. Create an IoT community.The one in Boston that I founded is now three years old, and numbers almost 2,000 members. My reason for doing it was that I’d run into many people working in the IoT here (Boston is listed as having the 4th largest concentration of IoT headquarters) but they were largely working in isolation, without a forum to bring them together.

    Forming an IoT network is a crucial step, because the IoT is inherently collaborative: as I’ve written many times before, “network effects” make each individual IoT device or service more valuable if they can be combined with others (for example, Apple’s HomeKit now allows someone to simply say “Siri, it’s time for bed,” and that voice command can trigger collaborative action by a variety of devices from different manufacturers, such as turning down the thermostat, locking the front door, and turning off the lights, which makes each of these IoT devices more valuable than they would be in isolation). Equally important, face-to-face contact may spark ideas that even the most talented IoT practitioner wouldn’t have thought of, huddled alone in his or her garret (or kewl cow0rking space…).

    An association that brings together all of your IoT practitioners will create synergistic benefits for all of them.

  2. Embrace the “smart city” vision. 

    This has the biggest potential payoff for your city, whether or not it becomes a big IoT commercial hub.Traditionally, cities have been laggards in technology adoption, but that’s no longer the case, starting in 2008, when I had the extreme privilege of being a consultant to DC CTO Vivek Kundra (who later became the first US CIO, specifically because of his achievements in DC) when he launched the DC Open Data initiative and the Apps [remember, this was 2008: what the heck are these “apps”???] for America contest to design apps to capitalize on this real-time data.  Hundreds of cities worldwide have embraced the concept, and because it stresses that the solutions be open source, cities that are late to the game can quickly benefit by adopting and adapting creative solutions that others have pioneered.

    When the IoT came along, many of these cities and their entrepreneurial residents were quick to realize their real-time data could lead to IoT apps and services that would deal with many of the prime concerns of cities: traffic control, mass transit, electricity, public health, environmental quality, and water and sewage (Credit where credit is due: IBM’s pioneering Smarter Planet service started working with many of the early adopters even before the smart city movement had a name).

    Cities that have launched comprehensive smart city programs, especially Barcelona’s, which includes projects ranging from free wi-fi to health monitoring for seniors to an app to find parking spaces, have realized tangible benefits while cutting operating costs and that will be the case for newcomers as well.

    Sometimes these initiatives tap the collaborative nature of the IoT to produce a public benefit that would be hideously expensive if they were carried out by municipal workers. For example, in Boston the “Street Bump” smartphone app uses the phone’s sensors to detect if the user’s car hits a pothole, then instantly reports the exact location to the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW). In essence, every driver becomes a de facto DPW employee!

  3. Finally,  join in the worldwide “Things Network” movement.As I’ve written before, this will create citywide, free networks for IoT data exchange, in essence turning an entire city into an IoT laboratory for experimentation and mutual benefit.

    This campaign, which was crowdsourced by only 10 technology enthusiasts in Amsterdam last August, successfully created a citywide data network there in less than a month, using 10 $1200 (USD) “LoRaWan gateways.”  LoRanWan is particularly suited to the IoT because it demands little power, has long range (up to 11 km) and low bandwidth. It wouldn’t require passwords, mobile subscription and zero setup costs.

    There are already 27 cities pursuing Things Networks, and the parent organization is making the concept even easier to deploy through a successful Kickstarter campaign last Fall to raise money to build a new LoRaWan gateway that would only cost $200.

    Unlike the full involvement of city government in initiatives such as opening city data bases, a Things Network is best done by volunteers, so that it will not be co-opted by official government agencies or powerful commercial interests: it is most powerful if it’s open to absolutely anyone who wants to try out a smart Internet of Things idea, while also potentially saving the city the cost of administering an expensive program that could instead be run by volunteers at little cost.

So there you have it: 3 practical steps to make your city a world leader in the Internet of Things that will improve urban life and make the city more efficient even if you don’t make the top 10.  Let’s get cracking!

Share It (Data) and They Will Come: Crowdsourced Citywide IoT Network

I haven’t been as excited about anything for a long time as I am about a global revolution that began last week in Amsterdam!

Cities are rapidly becoming the very visible and innovative laboratories for IoT innovation, which is logical, because they’ve been in the forefront of open data — as I saw first-hand when I was consulting for Vivek Kundra when he opened up vast amounts of real-time data as CTO for the District of Columbia as part of its Apps for Democracy initiative in 2008 that was part of the larger democratizing data movement.

Now there’s an exciting new development in Amsterdam, that really is bringing power to the people: The Things Network, the first crowdsourced free citywide IoT district. Astonishingly, volunteers brought the whole system to launch in only four weeks!

So far, the creators are visualizing a wide range of uses, but I particularly liked a particularly local one for a city synonymous with canals:

“A pilot project to demonstrate the Things Network’s potential will see boat owners in the city (there are many, thanks to its network of canals) able to place a small bowl in the base of their vessel. If the boat develops a leak and starts taking on water, the bowl will use the network to send an SMS alert to a boat maintenance company that will come along and fix the problem.”

How cool is that?  It also illustrates what I think is one of the key intangibles about the IoT: when you empower everyone (and I mean that literally!) by opening up data, people will find more and more innovative IoT devices and services, stimulated by their own particular needs, desires — and sometimes, even pain (that’s why I think even the most optimistic views of the IoT’s impact will be dwarfed as it becomes ubiquitous!).

Even more exciting, the group’s goal is to bring the technology to every city in the world! That, my friends, will be an incredible global game-changer. Think of it: EVERY city will become an open laboratory for change.

The Things Network uses low-power, low-bandwidth LoRaWAN technology to create the network: ten $1,200 hubs covered the whole city!  Having been hiding under a rock, I must admit I’d never heard of LoRaWan. Here are the benefits:

  • don’t need 3G or WiFi to connect with the Internet — no WiFi passwords, mobile subscriptions
  • no setup costs
  • low battery usage
  • long range
  • low bandwidth.

The whole scheme reminds me of the old Andy-Hardy-it’s-crazy-enough-it-might-work thinking:

“Dutch entrepreneur Wienke Giezeman came up with the idea for the Things Network just six weeks ago when he came across a €1,000 ($1,100) LoRaWAN gateway device and realized that with 10 such devices, the whole of Amsterdam could be covered. He pitched his idea at an Internet of Things meetup in the city and received a positive response.

“Work then began to create a community-owned data network that developers could build on top of without any proprietary restrictions. Companies including The Next Web and accountancy giant KPMG have agreed to host gateway devices at their premises, and the City of Amsterdam local authority is enthusiastic about the idea.”

How’s this for a vision?

“Because the costs are very low, we do not have to rely on large telco corporations to build such a network. Instead, we can crowdsource the network and make it public without any form of subscription. Our mission is to enable a network by the users for the users.” (my emphasis)

Most important from a democratizing data standpoint, it will all be open source:

“Our goal is to make the network architecture as decentralized as possible. And avoid any points of failure or control. We already have a community of 10 developers writing network software and equipment firmware.”

Giezeman wants to cut the cost before launching his plan of making the concept worldwide. He will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a smaller, €200 ($220) LoRaWan (vs. the $1,200 current ones). He may offer consulting services to capitalize on the idea, but that’s not the current priority.

That kind of openness and lack of strings attached, IMHO, is going to really lead to incredible innovation!  We’re holding a Boston IoT MeetUp hackathon next month to try to bring similar innovation to The Hub, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if cities everywhere launched a virtuous competition to speed smart cities’ adoption (and, don’t forget: this has huge implications for companies as well: there’s nothing to stop smart companies from creating new products and services to capitalize on the shared data!).

I note Amsterdam is 84 square miles, and The Hub of the Universe is 89 sq. miles, so I suspect the costs would be similar here.  I’m throwing down the gauntlet: let’s make Boston the second IoT city!

Let a thousand neighborhoods bloom!

 

The Internet of Things’ Essential Truths

I’ve been writing about what I call the Internet of Things’ “Essential Truths” for three years now, and decided the time was long overview to codify them and present them in a single post to make them easy to refer to.

As I’ve said, the IoT really will bring about a total paradigm shift, because, for the the first time, it will be possible for everyone who needs it to share real-time information instantly. That really does change everything, obliterating the “Collective Blindness” that has hampered both daily operations and long-term strategy in the past. As a result, we must rethink a wide range of management shibboleths (OK, OK, that was gratuitous, but I’ve always wanted to use the word, and it seemed relevant here, LOL):

  1. First, we must share data. Tesla leads the way with its patent sharing. In the past, proprietary knowledge led to wealth: your win was my loss. Now, we must automatically ask “who else can use this information?” and, even in the case of competitors, “can we mutually profit from sharing this information?” Closed systems and proprietary standards are the biggest obstacle to the IoT.
  2. Second, we must use the Internet of Things to empower workers. With the IoT, it is technically possible for everyone who could do their job better because of access to real-time information to share it instantly, so management must begin with a new premise: information should be shared with the entire workforce. Limiting access must be justified.
  3. Third, we must close the loop. We must redesign our data management processes to capitalize on new information, creating continuous feedback loops.
  4. Fourth, we must rethink products’ roles. Rolls-Royce jet engines feed back a constant stream of real-time data on their operations. Real-time field data lets companies have a sustained dialogue with products and their customers, increasingly allowing them to market products as services, with benefits including new revenue streams.
  5. Fifth, we must develop new skills to listen to products and understand their signals. IBM scientists and medical experts jointly analyzed data from sick preemies’ bassinettes & realized they could diagnose infections a day before there was any visible sign. It’s not enough to have vast data streams: we need to understand them.
  6. Sixth, we must democratize innovation. The wildly-popular IFTTT web site allows anyone to create new “recipes” to exploit unforeseen aspects of IoT products – and doesn’t require any tech skills to use. By sharing IoT data, we empower everyone who has access to develop new ways to capitalize on that data, speading the IoT’s development.
  7. Seventh, and perhaps most important, we must take privacy and security seriously. What responsible parent would put an IoT baby monitor in their baby’s room after the highly-publicized incident when a hacker exploited the manufacturer’s disregard for privacy and spewed a string of obscenities at the baby? Unless everyone in the field takes privacy and security seriously, the public may lose faith in the IoT.

There you have ’em: my best analysis of how the Internet of Things will require a revolution not just in technology, but also management strategy and practices. What do you think?

Real-time data sharing critical to “Smart Aging” and collaborative health care

Posted on 25th February 2015 in health, Internet of Things, open data, SmartAging

It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t encountered the phenomenon first hand, but there’s something really exciting (and perhaps transformative) when data is shared rather than hoarded. When data becomes the focus of discussions, different perspectives reveal different aspects of the data that even the brightest person couldn’t discover working in isolation.

That transformative aspect is very exciting when it involves health care.

I’ve written before about the life-saving discoveries when doctors and data scientists from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and IBM collaboratively analyzed data from newborns in the NICU and discovered early signs of infections that allowed them to begin treatment a day before there was any outward manifestation of the infection. Now, the always-informative SAP Innovation blog (I don’t just say that because they’re kind enough to reprint many of my posts: I find it an eclectic and consistently informative source of information on all things dealing with innovation!) has an interesting piece about how Dartmouth Hitchcock is sharing real-time data with patients considering knee-replacement surgery.

In some cases, that data leads patients to decide — sigh of relief — their condition doesn’t warrant surgery at this point, while it confirms the need for others.  In both cases, there’s a subtle but important shift in the doctor-patient relationship that’s at the heart of my proposed “Smart Aging” paradigm shift: away from the omnipotent doctor telling the patient what’s needed and instead empowering the patient to be an active partner in his or her care.

The key is using the data to predict outcomes:

“‘Prior to anyone ever getting surgery, we want to try to predict how they’re going to do,’ Dartmouth-Hitchcock orthopedic surgeon Michael Sparks said in an SAP video. ‘But we’ve never had that missing tool, which is real-time data.’

“D-H recently began using real-time data analytics and predictive technologies to help people suffering from chronic knee pain to choose wisely and improve their outcomes. ‘It is actually a partnership to help people get ‘through this,’ Sparks said. ‘And it’s the analysis of data that adds to their ability to make a decision.’”

For the first time, the patient’s choice really becomes informed consent.

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IBM’s MessageSight — mastering IoT’s huge data volumes

Posted on 30th April 2013 in automotive, Internet of Things, mobile

The good thing about the Internet of Things is that it will give us unprecedented amounts of real-time data: IMS Research predicts the “… more than 22 billion web-connected devices by 2020… will generate more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data every day.

The bad thing about the Internet of Things is that it will give us unprecedented amounts of real-time data: how can we possibly process it, let alone reduce it to manageable, intelligible (remember the “Wisdom Pyramid?” — just accumulating data isn’t the goal: it’s turning it into actionable wisdom) information?

Now IBM has introduced a critical tool to help deal with that volume of data: the MessageSight appliance.

It uses another important new breakthrough, the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), the proposed lightweight open standard for M2M communication (more about that in a future post).

MessageSight is designed specifically to handle the explosion in mobile computing devices. It can support one million concurrent sensors or smart devices and can scale up to thirteen million messages per second.  Wow!

“’When we launched our Smarter Planet strategy nearly five years ago, our strategic belief was that the world was going to be profoundly changed as it became more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. IBM MessageSight is a major technological step forward in continuing that strategy,’ said Marie Wieck, general manager, WebSphere, IBM.  ‘Until now, no technology has been able to handle this volume of messages and devices. What’s even more exciting is that this only scratches the surface of what’s to come as we continue down this path of a Smarter Planet.’”

IBM cites a possible application in the auto industry:

“For instance, an automotive manufacturer can use IBM MessageSight to help manage the features and services of its automobiles. With thousands of sensors in each car, a dealer can now be notified when a ‘check engine’ light turns on in a specific car. Based on the information transmitted by the engine sensor, the dealer could then notify the owner that there is a critical problem and they should get their car serviced immediately.”

MessageSight is part of IBM’s MobileFirst package of mobile enterprise software, services, cloud and analytics capabilities. The company claims:

“IBM’s MobileFirst platform is the first in the industry to speed the process of building apps by enabling companies to seamlessly integrate analytics and capture the complete on-device experience of how customers are using apps, including insight into gestures, dwell time and navigation.”

Among its features, MobileFirst now offers geo-location services:  “geo-location triggers can be used to extend applications to take contextual action based on a user’s location to provide personalized service.” It also offers cloud services for mobile.

“According to IDC, the market for mobile enterprise infrastructure software and services was $14.5 billion in 2012, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 16.3%. IDC expects this market to reach $30.9 billion in 2016.”

I’ve long believed that IBM is THE leader in the Internet of Things, particularly given the tangible results its Smarter Cities programs have achieved (BTW, regarding my post yesterday about government getting up-to-speed on the IoT, the Obama Administration would do well to look at Smarter Cities as an operating manual…). MessageSight should cement that lead in the technology field!