Could Information Silos Kill the Internet of Things?

I missed this when it came out in July, but thought it was worthy of notice!

In an Information Age article, Maurizio Pilu, a European leader in development of the IoT, throws cold water on those of us who believe the IoT may be as big an innovation as the Industrial Age. Pilu, who runs the UK’s Connected Digital Economy Catapult, which was established by the Technology Strategy Board to growth the UK’s digital economy, says that the IoT is an “..evolution, not a revolution.”

He should know: after all, his prior job was running the TSB’s “Internet of things” program.

“He believes the Internet of things will (sic) gradualy follow analyst company Gartner’s much-cited hype cycle – a peak of inflated expectations, followed by a trough of disillusionment, followed by enlightenment and mainsteam adoption.

“If that’s true, then the trough is surely on its way. Last year, Gartner’s hype cycle for emerging technologies had the Internet of things approaching its peak.

“One risk factor that jeopardises the Internet of things’ potential is siloed thinking, Pilu believes. Every industry projects its own demands on the Internet of things, and the result may be disjointed – and therefore less powerful – systems.”

I don’t buy Pilu’s argument, but I do agree that “siloed thinking” is a threat to full development of the IoT. You’ll remember that my first “Essential Truth” about the IoT is that we must begin asking a fundamentally new question that is at odds with the old way of treating knowledge — hoarding proprietary information:

Who else could use this data?

In part, Pilu’s skepticism stems from the results of a program last year:

.. the TSB oversaw a significant research programme to study the potential impact of the Internet of things.

“It brought together over 400 business and public sector organisations to develop proof-of-concept projects for potential Internet of things applications. These ranged from a mobile fitness app that could sell aggregated data to retailers to an assisted living system to monitor patients in their homes.

“Ten study groups examined these projects, conducting interviews and focus groups, to assess their technical, social and ethical impact.

“’One thing we found across all the studies was uncertainty about how to unlock the value from the Internet of things,’ says Pilu.  ‘But another common theme was the use of data.’

Pilu argues that making data openly available will be the key to unlocking the Internet of things’ real potential.

But, as many of the TSB’s projects found, this is not always possible. One study looked at the public infrastructure on city streets, for example, and found that the associated data is often held in closed systems or discarded quickly after being gathered. 

“’There are few incentives to make data available, owing to a combination of actual or perceived liabilities, unclear returns and costs,’ it concludes.”

So sharing information won’t come easily. It’s an issue to which I plan to devote much of my efforts in the field. I’ll keep you posted!