The Internet of Everything from the Ground Up
The Internet of Everything is changing life. It is changing life for individuals – employees and customers – and in so doing, it changes everything about the future of IT and the future of companies. Let’s have a look at how ground-level implementation of IoE on the city landscape, for example, ripples upwards towards the corner offices of the businesses that drive our economy:
Large cities around the world battle with gridlock. On the roads, and under the roads, commuters struggle with an infrastructure that was built decades ago to manage the car-traffic of the time, and which is now failing miserably. More and more people compete for access to crowded streets and transitways. Politicians, always wary of costs, tend to look to old-school solutions first: adding more buses for example, which is akin to whipping a tired horse in the hopes it will go faster.
Traffic chaos in crowded city streets is largely the result of several thousand independent beings (i.e. vehicles and their drivers) all seeking a direct route to their own particular destinations in competition with each other. Every time they stop at a traffic light, to pay at a parking lot, to find a space or to merge into already congested traffic, the ripple effect travels backwards, holding up hundreds more. There is a direct similarity here to the time and productivity gridlock that occurred in business in the pre-IoE era: employees working in silos, on workstations with seat-license software, connected only by the still woefully inadequate and obstructionist technology called email, and meeting occasionally in boardrooms.
The magic of IoE for smart cities is the development of a larger-scale city-wide awareness in which IoE technologies transform the commuting individual into a component of a larger entity – one in which a car and a phone merge into an intelligent life-device and the city itself functions more as an organic being. Small cities such as San Carlos, California, and larger cities such as Barcelona and Amsterdam have started to roll out integrated traffic management systems as part of a city-wide embrace of IoE as an economic solution to high-density life. This ushers in a proactive solution to transit woes: an inoculation against the problem, rather than a Band-Aid upon it.
Elsewhere in the city, RFID tags on garbage bins allow waste collectors to alter their routes according to demand, reducing operating costs as well as the number of routes and trucks required. City-wide free wifi, as Barcelona has demonstrated, encourages more people to use public transit, while allowing them to manage their time and tasks better, and transit apps such as NextBus lets commuters spend less time waiting at the stop. Smart roads are reporting road damage, weather conditions and traffic patterns, and these are being complemented by smart pipes in water and plumbing systems that alert teams to the location and severity of leaks.
For the individual commuter, the Internet of Everything allows a person’s car, briefcase or phone to alert the house a few minutes prior to arrival, to turn up the heat or the AC just in time. The recent acquisition of Nest, maker of intelligent and blissfully civilized smoke detectors (no more waving of dish-towels or whacking it with a broom –no more 2:30 a.m. low-battery chirps) by Google, demonstrates that bit by bit, peoples’ homes, cars and lives are becoming collectively more intelligent and capable of better serving our personal needs in real time and across many platforms through wider access to information and communication.
Naturally these developments have started to permeate the B2B and B2C worlds. They have to. The old sales adage that every customer should be treated as “the” customer is now becoming truer than ever. Gamification allows for the personalization of customer experience on a retail level. Close attention to social media allows for direct and targeted conversation with customers in real time, and BYOD means that a workforce is now judged more on its ability to work, rather than the location of the work.
Free. Customers expect free. Or at least freemium. Software as a service (SaaS) must prove its worth instantly if it is to attract subscribers. Corporate customers are free to choose, thus software must be free to try. Further, employees expect freedom of movement, using their own devices to access company data stored in the cloud, and expect collaboration in virtualized workspaces to replace cc’d emails and hard-to-schedule meetings. They are expecting to be free to use their BYOD devices during meetings, taking notes, putting out fires, and handling their day while simultaneously engaging in the boardroom conversation.
Some people find these developments rude, intrusive or impersonal. But similar reactions have happened all through history, as new technologies move in to replace old-school thinking.
The Internet of Everything touches the four pillars: people, process, data, and things, and Moore’s law prevails: life becomes significantly easier, more productive and more exciting with every new connection. What do you think? Have you seen examples of how IoE is changing business? Tell us at: http://innovatethink.com.
By Steve Prentice