The Full Potential of IoT
Are driverless cars in the horizon? [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnLqt4jLYdg]
This Christmas our family got together and as a tradition we watched a James Bond movie. My nephew, who is an energetic seven-year old, was very excited about the film. Next morning, it was gifts time and Santa was pleased with all of us. I got a Moto360 smartwatch. My nephew had a ball mimicking James Bond with it. He found out that he could talk to the watch and the watch could do things for him. The watch could tell him football scores, the temperature outside (and inside) and lots more. There was our very own James Bond Jr.! And then he suddenly saw my car start. Confounded, he started to look around only to find me playing with my phone and the secret was out. Before we knew it, he was changing TV channels using my phone, watching a DVRed football game on it and playing songs from my PC to his bedroom speakers, all controlled by his tablet.
Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT). Today's world is all about things that are interconnected. I can monitor my home security and change my thermostat setting while I am drinking coffee at the local coffee shop. And this is just the beginning. Wearables and applications using those wearables are gaining momentum. Using a phone to interact with a car is passé. This year's Consumer Electronics Show showcased smart cars: autonomous vehicles that create video conferencing and collaboration environment as you go places.
You see, the rise of wearables doesn't just include people. Machines, too, are wearing sensors! There is so much potential here and enterprises are only now beginning to grasp everything that the IoT is capable of. When you start thinking about these possibilities - begin with the 3Vs of Big Data. When you consider how the volume, the velocity, and the variety of information affects how an enterprise does business, then IoT becomes the perfect place to innovate and develop new ways of reaching your consumer base.
There is a confluence of technologies at play to make IoT real. Enormous commodity computing power with massive storage is real with cloud scale infrastructure. Network pipes and their speeds are ever evolving. Who remembers the sounds of a telephone modem (52 Kbps) on which most homes began the ecommerce revolution in the 90's? Today, gestures, speech, touch make interaction so much more natural.
We are starting to see businesses launch products and services using IoT. Think about employee health, for example. Global enterprises spend a lot of money and time addressing health and safety in the workplace. IoT can help those companies become more proactive and preventative. We're working with one of the world's premiere mining companies to innovate ways to monitor employee safety. A Canadian start up iLOC created a smartwatch, fully self-contained with cellular connectivity, motivated by special needs children. The same technology behind keeping a worker safe is used to keep machinery running like a Swiss watch. From an oil pipeline to a network of ATMs, we're monitoring them to prevent failure.
With smart meters, utility companies already know a lot about power usage in neighborhoods and can offer incentives to customers. Now, to that add the data being gathered by 'things' in the home/factory/office space. Actual use hours, temperature preferences, times spent in certain areas of the location. The role of 'things' and sensors is evolving and creating enormous possibilities for commerce. Of course, we will have to deal with issues of security, privacy and the extent of autonomous control extended to 'things.'
Sensors, IoT, massive computing take us closer to realizing artificial intelligence (AI). Ray Kurzweil writes, "As AI continues to get smarter, its use will only grow. Virtually everyone's mental capabilities will be enhanced by it". The promise is real and potential is huge. Recently, one of my friends justified his Nest purchase by telling me that it reflects well on the wall and creates a conversation. True, a connected and learning thermostat impresses a lot of people. It shouldn't, because we can do - and are already doing - so much more with a connected world.