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Internet of Everything: A Pivot Point in Technology — and Thinking

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” So said Dave Evans, Cisco’s chief futurist, in his keynote address at Cisco Live 2013.  I couldn’t agree more! As we usher in a new era of hyperconnectivity, we will see our environment in unprecedented ways, and then manage it like never before.

The trick is getting the relevant data to the right people at the correct time.

Cisco calls this transformation the Internet of Everything (IoE). With its explosion in connectivity from 10 billion things today to 50 billion in 2020, IoE promises a profound transformation that will enhance nearly all aspects of our lives.

But only if we do it right. And that requires changing the ways in which we think.

For IoE to be a true game changer, it will take much more than infusing every road, refrigerator, tire, and supermarket shelf with data-generating sensors. IoE could, for example, have a deep impact on water management. Today, 30 percent of fresh water is lost to leaking pipes. But a sensor in a pipe can only tell you that it’s losing water (and you may already have known that). The key is managing the information, tying it into control systems, and creating far-reaching, highly efficient processes for rerouting water or mobilizing maintenance resources.

Such concerns were a key area of discussion this week at a presentation I gave at Cisco Live in Orlando. In short, innovation is the product of Invention + Execution—and it’s the execution that must be followed. We define IoE as the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. Another way to break it down is as a merger of the Internet of Things (things, data) with the Internet of People (people, processes).

Given the accelerated pace of change that IoE will demand, outdated mind-sets will be a drag on progress. Which brings us to one of my main presentations at Cisco Live:

Top Ten IoE Pivot Points in Thinking

10. Technology is the easy part. Lighting up all of those “dark assets” (connecting unconnected things) is much simpler than tying them to people and processes.

9.   Move from business intelligence to event-based intelligence. With reams of data accessed in real time, many companies are seeking to be more predictive. This is driving them toward event-driven, role-based business intelligence (also known as operations intelligence).

8.   Big Data is less important than best judgment. It is imperative for Big Data to be distilled down to highly relevant nuggets of small data that will drive real-time decision making and rapid, highly informed responses. (A survey by Corporate Executive Board found that only 38 percent of employees and 50 percent of senior managers are “informed skeptics” who effectively balance judgment and analysis.)

7.   Move from providing access to information to delivering expertise everywhere. This was a key area of discussion in Orlando. The true force of IoE is not to enable one high-level decision maker, but to empower thousands of people whose daily decisions are closest to the work.

6.   Relentless Innovation. IoE’s virtual assets, such as relevant data, informed decision making, business agility, and enhanced collaboration, enable one of the core drivers of 21st century success: innovation. (In a 2012 study of 222 fortune 500 companies, Cisco found that the 64 most successful stood out in startling ways. Those 64 created $780 billion in shareholder value the previous six years; the other 158 lost $547 billion. The leaders boasted new product development times 30 percent faster than the average.)

5.  More “Kodak Moments.” Despite Kodak’s grand tradition and extensive legacy assets, it was overtaken by nimble, more innovative upstarts. With IoE leveling the playing field, expect more of the same across many industries.

4.   Privacy is directly related to benefits received. Privacy is contextual. An individual’s willingness to sacrifice personal privacy is directly related to the benefits received in that moment. Because an individual’s view on privacy is dynamic, the cure for privacy issues will be solved in the marketplace. Once individuals are exposed to the value of their own data, they will weigh the incentives and make their own decisions about how they want to share their data, and when. I call it the Marketplace of Me. This will create opportunities for companies that help people manage their digital personas.

3.   Focus on connectedness, not connectivity.  All of those newly connected things will need to do more than generate ones and zeros. They will have to be part of complex yet carefully managed networks of connectivity. In other words — intelligent connectivity!

2.   Ecosystem is the new organization. The days of the self-contained organization are over. As more people get connected, organizations will need to navigate a complex and constantly shifting ecosystem of partners, outside vendors, cloud services, and more. (Apple tapped into a vast ecosystem of outside vendors creating apps. Nokia didn’t. Apple won.)

1.   In the Internet of Everything, “individuals” are most important. Despite the focus on connecting “things,” the whole point of IoE is creating a better world for people.

All of these pivot points relate to IoE’s human dimension. Just think of how frustrating your perpetually full email inbox can be. Now imagine it with machine-to-people connections adding messages from your refrigerator, your car, your apartment.

As Cisco President of Development and Sales Rob Lloyd stressed in Orlando, the main IoE control point for consumers will be the smart mobile device. With so much data from sensors and machines converging on our phones, it will have to be filtered for key insights. The place to do that is the network (i.e. before it reaches the device).

In a world of 50 billion connected devices, managing information and communications will be crucial. Without processes that “know” what you need to be thinking about—while helping you to manage your precious time and mental bandwidth—the value of all of those connections will come to naught.

Right processes—and the right thinking behind them—will be the keys to unlocking the transformational value of IoE. The only restriction? The scope of our imaginations!

What are you thinking? Share your thoughts with me @JosephMBradley.

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3 Comments.


  1. This is really a good thought.
    “Privacy is directly related to benefits received”

    Operator and CSPs need to think ways to deliver ‘benefit’ to individuals privacy.

       0 likes

  2. Having the worlds biggest filing cabinet is no guarantee that you can get the worlds best information, searching sorting and relevancy are the real tricky bits

       0 likes

  3. Where Business Intelligence provides analytics for decision support, Operations Intelligence provides options for optimised outcomes

       1 like