The Internet of Thinking
For more than a decade, people have been talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). But many “use cases” have been a victim of limited imaginations, perhaps because so many possibilities are way beyond our experiences … until now.
By connecting people and devices and everything else, we open up tremendous new possibilities for human thought. The primary opportunity for the IoT is not to tell you when your laundry is done, but rather to unleash your best thinking.
Thanks to these new interconnections, we will increasingly understand reality, instead of a crude approximation of reality.
Wild new applications are taking flight (think drones) because of a few fundamental breakthrough capabilities that are being knitted together in elegant ways.
There are five core requirements that must be addressed to bring any IoT application to reality:
1. Data from Sensors and Controls: IoT is all about enabling remote collection and activation of otherwise “dumb” devices. We must specify what those devices are, and how we want to interact with them. Yes, we want those devices to provide us with data. But we also need to decide what data we really want. We risk being overloaded if we aren’t purposeful in knowing what we want, and why.
2. The Access Network: You must position properly the pathways that control devices and retrieve the data they generate. An IoT application requires that information be collected for post-process interpretation and analysis. Collection requires movement, and that’s the need for a network strategy.
3. Data Storage: Once moved, IoT application data has to be organized and deposited in a logical repository. The sheer volume of this data stream presents an immense challenge to the orderly indexing, storage, and retrieval of information. We can store all of this data on high-cost spinning disks, or in memory, so … we need a tiered storage strategy.
4. Correlation: The most clever IoT applications will be those that combine data from one system (e.g., farmland equipment) with data from various other sources (e.g., weather monitoring). Call this “Big Data” if you must, but some innovative companies will create immense value by combining one system’s data exhaust with others.
This will give rise to a new discipline around protecting data rights in systems that combine data to draw conclusions. Data will be a monetized asset. What data does your company generate that might be of value to someone else in the IoT ecosystem? This is the domain of innovative thinking! IoT brings access to new sources of information that can be used in new and exciting fashions.
5. Business Model: Finally, all of this technology must come together in business models that work in the real world. That means that they must create value for consumers and businesses as a result of the combinations of devices and services. Monetizing IoT can take many different forms, but it’s important that the economic outcome be part of the design.
A recent client dabbled in IoT for a commodity product … automating the process of monitoring supply levels for a consumable consumer item. The CEO was unimpressed. The business case was shallow. Technologists, left alone, can deploy clever sensors but lose sight of the bigger picture of value creation. There was data to be harvested … and monetized!
The Internet of Things is the fulcrum for the Internet of Thinking (IoTh). We can reach beyond our historical limitations by embracing new ways to control devices and to collect information.
IoTh is about thinking differently, but not just to create some cool new app. It’s about enabling people to think differently about the world around us, and in doing so to better understand it. There’s gold in the hills of IoT, but not without IoTh.
Peter Allen has many years of operating experience as a top executive and strategic advisor for companies of all shapes and sizes, with focus on technology-enabled business services. He is now a Boston-based Managing Director at Alvarez & Marsal.
Image: karola riegler photography/Flickr