Posts Tagged ‘IoT’

Is the Internet of Things Waiting for a Hero?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

We live in a world where smart technology abounds. Every day more and more physical objects are embedded with sensors that link wirelessly to one another and devices communicate to make our lives simpler – the Internet of Things is becoming a reality! Every brave new world needs a hero and today’s digital world is no exception.

The question is who will become the hero of the Internet of the Things? Who will be the new Vince Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee or Steve Jobs? Who will be the father of something that virally transforms the intangible into something concrete, powerful and awe inspiring? These thoughts occurred to me during a recent roundtable about the Internet of Things organized by the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET), for which I am an advisor.

At this roundtable we discussed this year’s “Internet of Things Conference” in Brussels, where the vision of 50 billion enabled devices being connected by the year 2020 caused much excitement. Concern was expressed, however, about the diverse cultural differences affecting European and the US approaches to the regulation and standardization of this new technology.

The European Union has established an Internet of Things expert group, with six subgroups that focus on identity, privacy, security, ethics, architecture and standards. Their goal is to issue a report by the end of the year that will be used for public consultation during 2012, with an impact assessment delivered by July and regulations determined by the end of 2012.

Concern was expressed about the European human right’s requirement for the “right to be forgotten” and the ability to “silence the chips”, which means that people can effectively go “off the grid” and manage their own “digital footprint”. In other words, individuals should be able to control what digital information is collected about them, know where it is stored in the cloud and who has access to it. This is in stark contrast to the US approach to Internet of Things technology which lacks any apparent coordinated activity or consultation.

This technological phenomenon is set to transform the nature of society and business as we know it, and on a global scale. To the average person, the Internet of Things is still an inanimate and intangible possibility in the same way that the Internet was back in the early 90’s. The fundamental difference is that the pace of development, innovation and adoption of this new technology will bring change far faster than regulations can keep pace with.

At the IoT conference in June, reference was made to three different technology cultures – those of West Coast USA, East Coast USA and Europe. The West Coast is about prototyping innovation and believing that the possible is inevitable. The East Coast is about profit and power, where the possible is threatening and lawyers line up to litigate. In Europe a precautionary and philosophical stance is taken to ensure the rights of people are not infringed, and the possibility is considered but its implementation is delayed.

Back in 1995, Nicholas Negroponte wrote in his book “Being Digital”: “we must knowingly create safe digital environments”. Today, however, the pace of technological change makes it very difficult for governments to define regulations that ensure the safety, security and well-being of their citizens, particularly when those technologies are global and worldwide cooperation and collaboration is required.

Why do I believe that a hero is needed for the Internet of Things? It’s the Double Power Principle: all technologies have the power for good as well as ill, and most of the time it’s up to us to knowingly lead the way and harness that power for good use. To enable the power of the Internet of Things, it would require someone with vision to capture people’s imaginations and inspire innovation and new ideas, to dispel their fear of this new technology and to take advantage of the abundance of efficiencies that this revolution can enable.

The probability is that it will not be one single hero in one particular country. Most likely it will be a collection of open innovators who are connected globally and share their ideas across communities. The concept of 6 billion people leveraging 50 billion devices for the purpose of solving global issues and enhancing the well-being of mankind is the kind of thing that myths are made of. Every myth has a hero – and the hero here would be one who could traverse cultural boundaries to ensure that the Internet of Things becomes seamlessly incorporated into our digital lives.

To obtain a copy of our white paper on “The Internet of Things” contact us at or call us at +1-847-478-1633.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

How smart perspectives can reveal untapped opportunities

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the development of smart cities around the world that are taking advantage of emerging technologies to better manage scare resources. In a recent Fast Company article on water, this exact same trend was highlighted but it also reinforced another major theme that we at KeySo Global are passionate about, namely reframing perspectives.

Water is a resource that, in the developed world, is in plentiful supply and therefore tends to be taken for granted. We get up in the morning, head to the bathroom, run the shower, flush the toilet, make tea, brush our teeth, grab a bottle of water on our way out of the door and think nothing of it.

Those businesses that rely on water for their manufacturing processes, however, and take the economic value of water more seriously, are starting to think about and use it differently. One example given in this article is of a wool washing company in one of the driest areas of Australia. It became so concerned about the volume and cost of the expensive mains water it was using for its processes, that it came across the idea of using storm water that the town had been siphoning away instead, and for 2/3 of the price. Necessity spurred this company to look outside its traditional supply chain boundaries and, as a result, a new type of water utility was developed that benefitted both business and local government.

IBM not only talks about designing and building the smart planet, it has gone one step further and has seized Digital World opportunities with both hands! By changing the way it perceived itself – as not just a computing company – and adopting a more flexible and innovative business model, IBM has been able to create a new lucrative business – around water.

At its microchip plant in Burlington, IBM uses ultrapure water to produce semiconductors. Its monthly water bill for this amounts to $100,000. Wanting to find a way to use less water and use it more smartly, IBM took a step back and looked at the water cycle as a whole. It refined its processes and made them more efficient, so that between 2000 and 2009 the Burlington plant managed to cut its water usage by 29%.

Recognizing that water isn’t “smart” (most meters are still read manually) and that it’s crucial that it be better managed, IBM plans to take innovation to the next level – into Digital Life – by introducing a new age of “smart water”. Water sensors connected to computers that can analyze an individual household’s water consumption will mean that, in future, consumers will have a better understanding and appreciation of this valuable resource.

These examples of both a global multinational and a small backwoods company rethinking their existing processes, assumptions and methods are indicative of the necessity in these rapidly changing times to look beyond the confines of your traditional business models. Sometimes, if an urgent need doesn’t prompt this change of thinking, then an external perspective based on new insights can act as the trigger. It’s then that you can discover untapped opportunities afforded by Digital World technologies that are very often right there for the taking – you may just need help identifying them. We would be delighted to assist you with this nudge into the digital world. Just give us a call at +1 847-478-1633 or visit our website at Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC

Smart city architects – would Aristotle and Steve Jobs make a good team?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Smart City InforgraphAristotle and Steve Jobs would, I believe, have worked well side by side.

While researching for his book the “Politics”, Aristotle studied the Greek city/state of Polis and questioned why people live together? He concluded that “the city… is a partnership for living well”.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, not subordinate to them”. The design philosophy of the iPhone, iPad, iPod and iTunes reflects this, enabling simple usage that adapts seamlessly into a person’s lifestyle. Business at Apple has become the “art of life”.

What has this to do with smart cities? About three months ago I wrote a paper about the Internet of Things (IoT) based on an all-day discussion at the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET), a Washington based think tank. This paper addresses the challenges associated with this emerging technology, and examines some of the considerations from a government and regulatory perspective.

The paper covers topics such as the state of global collaboration, innovation, government and industry partnerships, infrastructure development, cost and motivational factors that prompt government and industry to pursue and develop these technologies on a global basis. It also touches upon four main areas of concern for society: privacy, control, security and elitism. At the heart of these issues is the principle of double power; that although this technology has the power to greatly enhance the way we live, it also has the opportunity to do significant harm to things we hold dear.

The Internet of Things, along with other Information Communication Technologies (ICT), are key enablers in the future world of smart grids, smart buildings and smart cities. The concept of smart cities has been emerging around the globe; in China it addresses the anticipated 350m people likely to move to urban living in the next 10 years; in other countries smart cities are being developed to take advantage of emerging technologies and to combine new concepts of urban living with better management of scarce resources.

Convergence of technologies has resulted in the creation of vast and ever more complex networks or systems. Within the systems, most attention tends to be paid to the components (IoT, ICT) making them up but really the true value of a complex system lies in the interaction between all the components. Smart cities are an extension of these complex systems and they will languish or flourish based, not on the technology used, but on the interaction facilitated between machine to machine, machine to humans, and humans to humans.

The principles of business as the “art of life” and the city as a “partnership for living well” should guide the holistic systems architecture and integration of IoT and ICT technologies into smart cities of the future. This should ensure that smart cities do not fall prey to the double power issue. More significantly, smart cities should be designed to foster communities of people, linked together through smart networks, which enable partnerships to grow and flourish. As a global community, we should listen to philosophers of the past and embrace practitioners of the present, to encourage the creation of smart cities in which we can live our smart lives to the fullest.

To obtain a copy of our comprehensive report on the “Internet of Things” or to find out how KeySo Global can assist you in taking advantage of Digital Life opportunities, contact us at +1 847-478-1633 or visit our website at