By Julie Baumkel
Think the world is moving too fast now? Just wait.
The next stellar leap is about to rock this brave new world.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will lead to the Internet of Everything (IoE), which will change the way our things interact with us — for virtually everything we own, create and use.
The Internet of Things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.
There are already sensors in our cars (collision detection), our bodies (heart monitoring implants) and our homes (thermometers) — even on the basketball court (a smart basketball that gives players real-time feedback on shooting arc, dribble intensity and more).
By 2020, Gartner, Inc. — an information technology research and advisory company — estimates there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the IoT.
According to global technology giant Cisco, 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years with about 1.1 billion data points available by sensor.
It all started with Coke
The concept of an Internet-connected device first arose in 1982, when a Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University was calibrated to report its inventory and indicate whether newly loaded drinks were cold.
By 1991, Mark Weiser wrote a paper on the ubiquitous computer. And by 1999, two men — Bill Joy and Kevin Ashton — were espousing the Internet of Everything separately at major conferences on economics and innovation. What they described was defined as “the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.”
Critics say the Internet of Things will erode human control and privacy. A recent controversy over interactive smart TVs that can also act as a two-way channel to view people in the privacy of their own homes indicates some concerns may be in order.
Environmentalists object to the waste possibly generated from more sensitive gadgets that may need more frequent replacement and will replace the common mechanical goods we maintained for years in our homes.
Others note that the integration of smart devices with the Internet requires an IP address as a unique identifier, so new demands like these will require a larger Internet. Currently, the address space of the existing Internet protocol version 4 (IPv4) allows for 4.3 billion unique addresses.
A new, larger Internet of Everything will require an upgrade to IPv6. Global adoption of IPv6 means 50 to 100 trillion objects could be encoded and followed.
But not to worry, says Alison Gleeson, senior vice president of Americas Sales at Cisco Systems, “We have no doubt IPv6 will be in place to support the Internet of Everything.”
Technology at every turn
Gleeson believes that every company is a technology company. “It doesn’t matter what industry or what country you are in,” she says. “Technology is affecting both public and private sectors. Be it laptops, phones or human interaction or whether it is consumer technology or enterprise and operation technologies, we are seeing increased connectivity.”
And it comes at a price. Gleeson says technology often accounts for half of a company’s budget.
“The connectivity also has an impact on the ecosystem. One of the most connected cities is Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona looks at maximizing the IoE to create value and it determines how the city is organized. Connectivity tells them where in the city the garbage cans are full and that they require a pick up.”
Smart meters are monitoring water, gas and electric usage to help cities analyze data and create efficiencies.
In addition to smart cities like Barcelona, certain industries have capitalized on connectivity.
“Mining is a good example of an industry that has capitalized on connectivity, whether it is unmanned vehicles, people under the ground or people above the ground,” Gleeson says. “Healthcare is another. People are already monitoring their health at home with the help of technology.”
Connectivity is trending on the consumer front, as well.
“Here in North America, we have gone from two to three connected devices per person to six or more per person,” Gleeson says. “Just look at your smartphone alone. If you count all the things your smartphone can do, you’ll see what I mean: it’s a mobile phone, it’s a camera, it’s a smart device, it’s a hotel key at the Hilton, it’s a GPS, it calls me a cab from Uber, it’s a chalkboard, it’s a marketplace, it’s a boarding pass, it’s a health monitor, it’s a TV.”
Gleeson recalls a speaker at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas who commented that he has never before seen the influence of so many consumer devices impacting enterprise and operational technologies. “Such devices are creating a new consumer environment,” Gleeson says.
Consider the growing popularity of wearable devices: fitness bands, smart watches, smart glasses and action cameras, to name just a few. And at home, our household appliances are connecting to enable security capabilities and remote management of temperature, lights, ovens and more.
Transition in the auto industry
The IoT is also quickly driving innovations in our vehicles.
According to Gartner research director James Hines, cars will be a major element of the Internet of Things, with one in five vehicles having some sort of wireless network connection by 2020, accounting for more than a quarter of a billion cars on global roads. In-vehicle wireless connectivity is rapidly expanding from luxury models and premium brands to high-volume mid-market models, he says.
While the majority of connected cars, at least in the early stages, will be a car-to-mobile connection, Gartner expects this network to expand eventually to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connections.
Mamatha Chamarthi, vice president and CIO of TRW Automotive Holdings Corporation, in Livonia, MI, acknowledges the movement of the automotive industry toward the automated car and emphasizes her company’s focus on safety.
“As brake suppliers to auto companies, we are developing technologies that enable the car to stop itself with an eye toward passenger safety. This involves cameras, radar and sensors that identify what’s going on around the vehicle and that send a signal to the brakes to stop the car when necessary,” she says.
“In the past our systems were mechanical. Today, we’re moving toward integrated systems that involve brakes, steering and air bags — these represent global electronics that connect all of our products.” This integration of products is transitioning TRW from purely mechanical operations to mechatronics — the integration of mechanics, electronics, informatics, automation and robotics.
Judy Asher, manager of Enterprise Technology Research & Innovation at Ford Motor Co., says the IoT and the digitization of the automotive industry are exciting on many levels — including those that extend beyond the automobile.
She points to Ford’s involvement in the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the company introduced a new experiment — Handle on Mobility and Info Cycle — as part of its global Ford Smart Mobility plan.
Handle on Mobility challenged Ford employees to design an e-bike. The two selected designs — MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro — feature technology inspired by the automotive industry, including a rear-facing sensor that vibrates the handlebars and illuminates the lights of the bike to warn of a vehicle approaching from behind. Both e-bikes are designed for city life — the MoDe:Me for commuters and the MoDe:Pro for commercial use — and fold for easy transport.
The prototype MoDe:Link app, available for iPhone 6, gives riders real-time information about nearby vehicles, bike-friendly roads and potential hazards — all with an eye toward getting a rider to his or her destination safely.
Asher says the IoT is the reason for this shift in the auto industry. “Here we are a transportation company, but we’re thinking beyond the vehicle and how we can use technology to help you manage your trip in all the different ways you might need to connect to get to where you’re going. If you think about managing your trip, number one, you might not be in a personal vehicle. You may be taking any number of types of transportation, including a bike. This digitization becomes an extension of our industry.”
Info Cycle experiment at Mobile World Congress involved gathering information about e-bikes and traditional bikes and how they are used in different urban environments. A sensor box attached to the bike collects data — wheel speed, acceleration, weather and altitude — that the company hopes will help improve communication between bicycles and vehicles for better safety and improved route planning for riders.
How does Asher get employees prepared to think outside the box and to embrace the Internet of Things? “In the research world we do it through applied research projects. We think about interesting things to try, partner with other companies, try things out in the lab and look at emerging patterns.”
Asher says the company also runs “innovation” challenges and contests (known as hackathons). “In October, we ran a hackathon on smart watches and how we might be able to use smart watches in vehicles. So we gave employees two days to work in small teams to come up with ideas about usages for smart watches in relation to vehicles.
“Our goal is to develop insights as to what can be done with connected devices. Could a smart watch somehow help drivers be less distracted? Maybe adding a microphone to the watch would allow the driver to give commands. Whether you’re in a vehicle, on a bike or walking, your watch is there throughout the entire trip, so if I move from driving to biking to walking, how might I be able to manage my entire trip with applications on my smart watch?
“We want to expose employees to new tools and new concepts and to think about new ideas. We’re trained IT professionals, so we’re used to the barriers that have existed. How do I not become fearful that this will change my whole world as an IT pro?”
Gregg Garrett, founder and managing director of Corporate Growth Strategy (CGS) Advisors, LLC, is addressing the educational element of the IoT and believes the time is now for teaching students at all levels how to work in a connected world. His focus as part of an advisory committee at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, is to address the question: How are we preparing students to compete in an ever-connected world?
According to Garrett, “We need to develop a ‘systems thinking’ approach that allows us to transform standalone products into connected experiences.” This, he believes, will be the future business model that students must understand.
“The IoT is bringing together traditionally separate business functions — finance, product development, IT, strategy and service — and these will be connected and viewed as a system.” Garrett says getting students to embrace the IoT requires a two-pronged approach involving:
• Perspective: Students must realize that connectivity is not just technology, but the steam engine that is impacting most industries.
• Integration: Students must understand how to bring together previously disparate sets of information as well as build intra-industry alliances with players never before in their value chain.
Garrett uses the automotive and insurance industries as an example of the impact of connectivity. These industries, although aligned, have operated separately until now, he says. “Today, no longer are insurance rates determined by age, family size, etc. We now have devices that can measure how you drive: Do you break hard? Do you speed? These can be measured and used to determine your insurance rates.”
As part of an ongoing effort to help innovators capitalize on emerging technologies, Oakland University’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering has developed the course, “Competing in a Connected World.”
This advanced course introduces students of information technology, engineering and business to the connected world and challenges them to develop and analyze business models in this space.
“The world in which we all live and work is connecting, transforming into a major trillion-node system that connects everyone everywhere, and now, everything,” says Garrett. “This emerging connected trend is really a disruption on the same level of the steam engine or electricity. It is reshaping industries and across industries.” Garrett believes the Competing in a Connected World course he launched at OU “allows students and professionals to prepare to harness opportunity in this connected environment.
“Over time,” he predicts, “connected educational programs will be the norm.”