By Thornton May
Futurist, Senior Advisor with GP, Executive Director & Dean - IT Leadership Academy
A recurring leitmotif in science fiction is the evolving relationship between humans and machines. In the Terminator franchise, machines [Skynet] become self-aware [i.e., wake up] and seek the extinction of all humanity. In the real world, Cisco believes that only 1% of the machines in the world are currently “awake” [i.e., situationally aware, connected, capable of communication and agency]. The Internet of Things [IoT] is going to change this. In 2020 most of our devices [~50 to 75 billion] will be awake. What are the implications of this? A good place to begin your preparation for the IoT disrupted future is to inventory your assumptions about the future.
Assumption #1: Everything has Digital Presence
In seven years it is probably safe to project that just about every product will have some kind of digital presence/identity [i.e., unique identifier representing product name, expiration date and other information]. To help you form a mental picture – envision the long awaited arrival of the “smart” refrigerator. It [and hence you] will know what food is in the house, when it was purchased and when it is no longer consumable.
Assumption #2: Everything will be Situationally Aware
Another reasonable assumption is that “things” will be situationally aware [i.e., they will respond to events]. In one scenario as a working mom approaches the end of her commute from work and turns into the driveway, the garage door opens, the lights turn on, a status update is sent to the children (“Mom’s home!”), and the stove has been preemptively pre-heated. Implicit to this vision is the cooperation of all these awoken things. Systems integration is going to be a big deal in the future.
In the world of the future will there be an app for every product in the house? Every product might have a digital presence that points the consumer to an interactive support infrastructure [i.e., Black & Decker products pointing to instructional videos].
Assumption #3: Most things will be Remotely Controllable
Things will be remotely controllable. Brands like Nest, Hue, Kwikset, Sonos, Korus, Dropcam, Honeywell, Yale, Iris, Insteon and Belkin now allow homeowners to digitally control A/C, lights, locks, cameras, home audio, garage door, window shades, and anything with a plug.
Assumption #4: The Self will be Quantified
Microsensors in your shoes compile data on personal traffic patterns [where you go and whether you walk or run]. Your workout clothes track exercise routines. The pills we swallow will shortly report back on the state of our digestion, vital signs, and overall well-being. As we sleep, sensors will monitor our REM patterns. All these sensors will deliver unprecedented real-time insights and awareness about our environments, our workplaces, and ourselves.
These assumptions manifest themselves in commercial use cases. Vishakha Radia, director of the Customer Business Transformation team in Cisco's Consulting Services group said that the sharp-penciled wizards at her company estimate the opportunity to be worth $14.4 trillion.
Because we will shortly be able to embed connectivity into "things" we use in our day-to-day lives a host of new business intelligence (BI), operational efficiencies, and revenue-generating opportunities present themselves.
In the transport and logistics sector, pallets and packages will be able to communicate their location, allowing for real-time parcel tracking [e.g., UPS’ MyChoice service offering].
Uncertainties associated with public transit will be eliminated as commuters will now have real-time updates on how far away their train, ferry, or bus is.
In the healthcare sector, awake things/devices worn by patients enable real-time monitoring of vital statistics or the dispensing of medication. In retail, now-awake things will provide better point-of-sale data, as well as better shopping experiences through personalized digital signage.
The Internet of Things is going to make our world a very interesting place. What are you doing to prepare?