What ever happened to the Internet as a social phenomenon? You know the Internet where people are connecting, investigating, collaborating, envisioning and creating? Oh, that’s so yesterday. Now what’s trending is the Internet of Things (IoT), with machines talking to machines.
Here is my take on the IoT and how it will impact the world of enterprise information management. In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, we’ll look at "what a CIO should do if a CIO only knew" to get things under control.
Our World is Becoming an Information System
The Internet of Things is very much in the news these days and seems to have captured the imagination of academics, consultants, business leaders, technologists and investors alike. I too am intrigued by the IoT and, it won’t surprise readers of my CMSWire article series, am particularly interested in what it might mean to CIOs and information management professionals.
To fully appreciate what the IoT is all about, it’s important to consider both its history and its context in today’s technology ecosystem.
The term itself was coined in 1999 and there is a fascinating IoT timeline that runs all the way from the era of the Victorian Internet (telegraph) to the recent creation of the IoT-GSI (Global Standards Initiative). Gartner describes IoT as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.” A more aspirational view comes from McKinsey who tell us that with the IoT, “the world becomes a type of information system through sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects and linked through wired and wireless networks via the Internet Protocol.”
Gartner sees the IoT approaching the peak in their hype cycle for emerging technologies, but according to market watchers like Matt Turck, the IoT is quite real and not just an over-hyped concept destined to fade with time.
In fact, the IoT is already being applied; examples range from whimsical to global impact. There are creative applications from Makey Makey like “Cloud Server BLT” (not a typo — check out the video) that have the serious purpose of making everyone experience what it means to be an engineer. At the other end of the spectrum, GE envisions the IoT as the next industrial revolution, a new Industrial Internet where the major industries save more than US$ 270 billion over the next 15 years by improving their efficiency by just one percent: “By connecting intelligent machines to each other and ultimately to people to change the way the world works.”
I like to think of the IoT as “serious fun,” the kind that promises exciting possibilities if we know how to get it under control. From Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat we learn, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” So with a nod to two of my favorite Dr. Seuss characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, who are “released from the box” to wreak havoc until brought back under control, here are my “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.” That is, two things I think will be important for CIOs to get under control if they plan to effectively deal with the IoT in the future.
THING 1: With the IoT, information and physical flows will be inextricably tied together
With the Internet of Things, physical devices and flows are inextricably united with their information. As Dr. Seuss would say, “This may not seem very important, I know, but it is, so I'm bothering telling you so.” It turns out that this tight coupling, along with a concomitant convergence of operational and business systems, raises some very big governance and risk challenges for those in the enterprise concerned with information management.
We have certainly had to learn to deal with and orchestrate multiple flows (materials, financials and information) over our supply chains for some time. With the IoT or “fourth industrial revolution,” there will be a new sets of information generated in new ways that must become a part of the enterprise governance plan. Imagine the somewhat futuristic scenario that is shared in McKinsey’s “Internet of Things and the future of manufacturing”:
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