Path to the Future or Predecessor of SkyNet & the War Against Machines?

I will be honest right up front, when this topic was suggested to me as a subject to research and write about, I knew nothing about the Internet of Things (IoT).  For some reason, I had always just assumed someone had coined a fancy new name for the internet that we all access each day for work and play.

When I started researching it, I was fascinated and excited by the endless possibilities of how this concept could elevate all aspects of business and life in general. Right then I experienced déjà vu, realizing that what they are proposing could very well be the gateway for John Connor to organize the war against machines and Skynet.  In my head I distinctly heard “I’ll be back!” ringing thru the grey matter.

What caused me to get excited in the first place was imagining the possibilities that if we linked measuring and control sensors on machines to cloud based applications, there is no end to what we could accomplish. We’re talking real time control of manufacturing plants, power grids, inventory levels, traffic flow, transportation fleets, healthcare systems, security, and petroleum fields. There is virtually no industry or facet of life that is immune to being revolutionized by the coming IoT.

How Does It Work?

A simple example of how IoT can help keep manufacturing running smoothly would be to place sensing devices in the warehouse that sense when parts are getting low and automatically generates an invoice that is emailed to the supplier with the finance department, purchasing and production control copied in.  The sensor is calibrated to allow for the time it takes for a restocking order to arrive plus an extra pre-determined time frame in case of delays.  This is being used presently in the retail world with microchips on packages, giving stores a real time view of stock levels available.

Daniel Burrus, considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, depicted in his white paper. “The Internet of Things is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes Part One”, and “Part Two” an example of a catastrophic bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007 could have been avoided by using smart cement.

By using cement with sensors embedded in it, would have monitored stress levels cracks and warpages that could have forecast the collapse of steel plates long before the accident occurred.  The sensors could also detect if there is ice on the bridge and send a wireless communication to your car, letting drivers know to slow down for the hazardous conditions. And what if the driver ignores the warning, smart cars of the future will slow down for him.

Smart Cities, Smart Cars, Smart Trucks

Keeping with the smart vehicle theme, right now there are initiatives underway to make our cities easier to navigate. By placing sensors on every street, public transportation departments can assess the amount of traffic and the average speed of traffic, and make recommendations of faster alternate routes to smart cars and emergency vehicles. To learn more about this, there is an interesting article on Forbes.com called “The Internet Of Things: Making Cities — And The Way They Use Technology – Smarter”.

In the near future you will not have to sit idling motionless for that accident or stranded vehicle to be cleared. Motorists will no longer have to be bogged down by construction. This will not only save motorists both time and money, but will also allow them to spend less time commuting to and from work.  This means more quality time spent with their families and friends.

On the commercial side of the coin, this futuristic approach will allow delivery vehicles to reach their destinations faster for pickups and deliveries, saving fuel costs, improving customer service, being able to make more trips and possibly carry more freight each a day. Over the course of a year, these saved expenses add up and go straight to the company’s bottom line, allowing them to be more profitable and successful.

So, What Now?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not just about generating cost savings within business models. It’s about upending the old models entirely. It will create new services and products in all industries across the board. There is no one vertical where the Internet of Things is going to drastically alter more than another. It is going to impact every industry imaginable, including healthcare, farming, manufacturing, construction, retail, security, and energy, just to name a few.

We already have sensors that measure force, load, torque, and pressure; sensors that can read temperatures; recognize different acoustics and vibrations; detect gas and chemicals; detect motion, velocity, and displacement; identify position, presence, and proximity. I am sure this isn’t all of them, but we already have the ability to gather virtually unlimited intelligence in real time.

We are seeing the first smart products being offered already. Currently my cable TV/ISP is offering a home security package that allows you to remotely check to see if your garage door is open, adjust the temperature in your home, read and adjust the temperature there, turn your lights on or off, view your pets or intruders via inside security cameras, and of course, make sure your home’s doors and windows are locked and secure.

So, now that you see what it can do for your home, just imagine what it can do for your business, any business at all. These are exciting times ahead of us, akin to world changing events such as the creation of the wheel, the printing press, harnessing electricity and the invention of the telephone.  Each of these discoveries put mankind light years into the future. The Internet of Things is going to do the same exact thing for industries across the board.

So, what if you have a business and you want to start planning now to leverage these advancements?  I suggest the first thing that you read is Gartner’s “How to Put an Implementable IoT Strategy in Place”.  It will walk you thru the basics of:

  • determining your vision for the IoT
  • planning your end goals
  • determining where your IoT starting point is currently, based on your digital experiences
  • determining how your IoT goas fit into your company’s digital business strategy

I would also suggest viewing a Gartner on demand webinar entitled “The Internet of Things”, which explores ways that IoT technology can benefit your bottom line, improve your products and help create new services or niches.

Conclusion

Definitely exciting stuff that our world will soon be embracing, whether we are ready for it or not. The advantages are obvious enough to identify, but in our haste to make more money, be more profitable, and grow our power bases, we need to caution ourselves to proceed with caution and think responsibly about our where our decisions will lead us.

The Terminator movie series were only movies, but they also served up a view of how easy it was for a futuristic Internet of Things type world to choose the wrong fork in the road, allowing for artificial intelligence (AI) to play God with our future. We want our machines to be intelligent and learn, but there needs to be a limit to their freedom to upgrade themselves.

We may be at the beginning of embarking on this journey into the future, but we must  remember that in 1997 an IBM computer, Deep Blue, was able to defeat grandmaster chess champion Garry Kasperov. This first showing of the superiority of AI over humans should serve as an ominous warning that AI should not be underestimated.  Especially since computing power has increased incredibly over the last two decades, and will continue to advance as we progress further into the future.

Hasta La Vista, Baby!

 

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