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Rule #1 for your Digital Transformation is to Fail, and Fail Fast!

Christopher Harrold

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IoT for the Rest of Us - The IoT Paradox | @ThingsExpo #IoT #M2M #API

Part 1: GottaConnectEmAll... or do we?

Welcome to part one on my new blog series of IoT-focused postings. The IoT has been picking up a lot of steam recently and as someone who works with numerous companies building networked devices, I am fortunate to see the evolution of the modern IoT firsthand. This series will focus not just on the IoT and what it is and where it works, but we are going to be building along at home as I undertake my own IoT journey. From start to finish I will document my project and the results, and share what I learn. To get started though, the post that I wrote that really spurred me on into the IoT journey for myself:

The IoT Paradox - #GottaConnectEmAll... or do we?
Recently, I was fortunate enough to find myself in Munich, Germany, during a trip to visit with family and discovered that just north of town is the city of Ingolstadt, which is home to the Audi factory. Being somewhat of a gear-head and very much an Audi fan, I decided to take the factory tour and check out the museum (I essentially got a private tour as I took the English version and it was only my wife and I on it - HIGHLY recommend it!).

The factory is awe-inspiring. The precision, engineering skill, and capability, and just the sheer magnitude of what happens there is difficult to convey in words (and they won't allow you to take pictures or I would have). As we walked among the fully automated parts delivery, welding and assembly robots, and the amazing tooling and stamping lines, I was struck, as was my wife, by the sheer digital power on display. The interconnection of CPU "brains" in these devices that is required to achieve such incredible efficiency and deliver a completed car from blank steel within 34 hours is staggering. I said, as we passed between buildings, that we were witnessing a great example of the Internet of Things (IoT) in action, but I think actually that IoUT would have been a more appropriate term to use.

The IoUT vs. The IoST
The IoUT is the Internet of Useful Things - a term I have begun using to describe things that are using the collection, sharing, and analysis of data and networking to enable something really good and beneficial. The IoST is its evil twin and is occupied by things like toothbrushes, networked light bulbs, and tampons (seriously, just when I think we are at peak stupid, we outdo ourselves again...). I call it The Internet of Stupid Things and it is the prime example of the saying, "just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should." There is obviously an inherent value judgment that I am making with this statement and, in some respects, it is designed to be inciting. I want people to think about data: the way it's used, the way it's managed, and most importantly the way it gets created. As I have said before, data for the sake of data is not necessarily "good" data.The "Big" Data Fallacy is that we have to have lots of data of every possible type in order to create real value, and the IoST is the byproduct of that fallacy.

The fact is that the IoT is here to stay, and as our capability to incorporate digital mechanisms and interfaces into the common and everyday objects of our lives increases, the IoT will increase along with it. However, this is the heart of the issue with the IoT, and indeed "Big" Data, and many other things that happen: should we really network "all the things" just because we can?

I believe that the resounding answer is NO. There is no conceivable reason that my toaster needs an app. I do not want one app for my light bulbs, one for my switches, and one for my home-awareness system. Unfortunately, in the absence of standards and a common focus, that's exactly what is occurring, and it is the genesis of the IoST. The types of things that could really benefit from being digitized and connected, like cars, traffic sensors and cameras, airplanes, and mass transit systems, take a backseat to toothbrushes and thermostats (although I want my fridge to count calories and order groceries for me, and my stove to alert me when something is done cooking - seriously, I do).

How the IoT Will Continue to Shape the World
The IoUT is slower to build and develop and the way it impacts us is not as "gee whiz" as the connected hair-dryer that has a marketable, shiny, and most important, consumer-driven "use." It impacts us in subtle ways that may not feel measurable - like changes in traffic patterns and the measure of rainfall and the reduction of flight delays. The most obvious example of IoT technology that is useful and who's time is long-since been needed to come is the connected, self-driving automobile. Audi, BMW, Tesla, the "Big 3" and many others are all working on some form of self-drive and frankly, it is about damn time. Unfortunately, we are the weak link in the chain because humans have a real problem with control and more importantly with letting go of it. Until we as a collective species get over this irrational fear of something doing things better than we can, the types of advancement we need will continue to lag behind the kinds we definitely don't.

IoT is a critical technology that will continue to shape and drive the world around us for decades to come. I for one hope that shape is built around the IoUT and not the IoST. Now I need to find my phone so I can turn on the power strip and watch TV. Agree? Disagree? Want more? Just want to talk about #IoT, #BigData, or anything #Analytics related? Feel free to comment or to tweet @charrold303 and watch for my next post coming soon here.

More Stories By Christopher Harrold

As an Agent of IT Transformation, I have over 20 years experience in the field. Started off as the IT Ops guy and followed the trends of the DevOps movement wherever I went. I want to shake up accepted ways of thinking and develop new models and designs that push the boundaries of technology and of the accepted status quo. There is no greater reward for me than seeing something that was once dismissed as "impossible" become the new normal, and I have been richly rewarded throughout my career with this result. In my last role as CTO at EMC Corporation, I was working tirelessly with a small group of engineers and product managers to build a market leading, innovative platform for data analytics. Combining best of breed storage, analytics and visualization solutions that enables the Data as a Service model for enterprise and mid sized companies globally.