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The Digital Renaissance Is Here. Is Your Company’s Culture Ready?

Sooner or later we all feel like throwing up our hands and cursing the complexity of modern life. But while technology may seem the chief culprit in making things unmanageable, it is also the ultimate solution to complexity.

In the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, it is particularly important for business leaders to understand the power of technology to simplify our lives and support JBradleySAPinformed decision making. And this was a core theme at Sapphire Now 2014, an event in Orlando, Fla., that I was privileged to attend last week.

By using network technology to integrate people, process, data, and things, IoE counters complexity in unprecedented ways. In a city, this can involve something as simple as cutting the time it takes to find a (connected) parking space. Or IoE technologies can scale up to reroute traffic lights; for example, to head-off highway backups before, during, and after a large event.

In a brick-and-mortar retail setting (a key area of discussion at Sapphire Now), IoE can alleviate the complexity of managing customers, staffing, and products. With data from multiple sources comes heightened, real-time awareness, empowering managers to react faster than ever. For example, they can then stock shelves and reorganize staff in response to constantly changing levels of demand. With predictive analytics they can even respond before a customer rush begins.

The idea of hyper-aware, real-time decision-making resonated during a Sapphire Now panel discussion titled Thrive in the Digital Networks of the New Economy. I was honored to share the panel with such luminaries as Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT; Michael Chui of McKinsey Global Institute; and Jai Shekhawat, Deepak Krishnamurthy, and Vivek Bapat of SAP. And there was much discussion on the impact of bad decisions on failed organizations. Which is why we all take such an interest in technology that enables good ones.

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A Symphony of Sensors Drives Value, Insight, and Opportunity

To cross a busy intersection safely, it’s best to have all of your senses alert. That way, if you don’t happen to see that oncoming truck ignoring the “Walk” sign, you will probably still hear it. In the case of a heavy cement mixer, you may even feel the low rumble of its powerful engine first.

In the Internet of Everything (IoE), a similar principle applies. We call it “sensor fusion,” and it involves combining two or more sensors — often of different types — to monitor a specific environment and offer actionable insights more intelligently. These could be cameras and Wi-Fi tags or weight-sensing shelves and ultrasonic imaging, to name just two combinations. Moreover, the combined sensor data can itself be fused with other information streams — for example, those relating to weather, operations, news, or social media.

The result? Highly informed, real-time decision making and richer customer experiences.

Until recently, sensor fusion has been mostly exploited in specialized devices such as robots, but it is now driving a revolution in enterprise systems. This will bring new life to entire industries and completely transform stores, manufacturing floors, and transportation corridors. By greatly improving the accuracy of their measurements, organizations will be able to offer rich new experiences and gain substantial competitive advantage.

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The Key to the Connected World? The Programmable World

Your house-cleaning robot connects to your lighting system, which connects to your garage door, which connects to your car. All of these devices in turn connect to your smartphone, which, among many other things, enables YOU to connect to a community of like-minded, creative souls looking for — you guessed it — better ways to connect and program things.

This is just a small glimpse into how the Internet of Everything (IoE) is transforming our lives. With its explosion in connectivity — from 10 billion “things” today to 50 billion in 2020 — IoE is changing the world in complex and challenging ways. But there are also exciting opportunities to manage the complexity, share ideas, and drive ever-higher levels of innovation and collaboration.

One name for this new paradigm is the Programmable World.

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Is Your Company Ready for the IoE Revolution?

Ever felt that you’ve spent half your life searching for a parking space? Well, it’s not that much of an exaggeration. One study estimates that typical drivers spend 2,549 hours of their lives in the aimless, money-wasting, and gas-guzzling quest for a place to park.

Now imagine that through technology — connected cars, roads, and, of course, parking spaces — you could substantially reduce all of that wasted time and money.

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Unfortunately, business and enterprise are rife with their own versions of wild goose chases for parking spaces: supply-chain deficiencies, checkout bottlenecks, quality-control failings, communication breakdowns, and, yes, clogged parking lots. These are but a few of the drags on productivity, efficiency, and innovation.

The solution for all these problems may be the same: connectivity.

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What Do CEOs Care About in a Hyper-Connected World?

If you think we already live in a connected world (and we do!), get ready to fasten your seatbelts.

Today, there are “only” about 10 billion connected “things” on the planet. This includes hundreds of millions of people communicating with one another in myriad ways, and a rapid increase in two-way conversations between people and machines. That is, when the machines aren’t busy “chatting” with other machines.

It may sound complicated (and it is!). But the Internet of Things is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The next phase of the Internet — the Internet of Everything (IoE) — will encompass 50 billion connections involving people, process, data, and things by 2020. This will drive the next wave of dramatic Internet growth and opportunity.

Cisco estimates that the IoE economy promises a staggering $14.4 trillion in Value at Stake for private-sector companies globally over the next 10 years. This value is embedded in five drivers: asset utilization; employee productivity; supply chain and logistics; customer experience; and innovation.

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