Choosing a career in technology turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. At one time, however, it seemed counterintuitive to enter such a male-dominated industry. I’m not an engineer. I don’t have a degree in computer science. The only traditional tech skill I possessed was a small knowledge of HTML programming language, which I at one time used to put up static web pages. Today, that skill is useful only for editing blog posts.
What I was trained for was design. I moved into technology because it offered me a fresh way to leverage those talents while having a bigger impact. As a designer, I was taught to understand the context of a problem and to generate insights and creative solutions. I switched from a career in print design because technology was providing exciting new ways to reach people. I found it fascinating and wanted to be a part of it.
Apparently, I’m in the minority. A Forbes article cited research from Maria Klawe, a computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College, in listing some of the main reasons women don’t choose tech careers. Many believe that they won’t find a career in tech interesting, while others fear they won’t be good at it. A third concern is working in such a predominantly male bastion.
I have to say that my experience on all three counts has been just the opposite.
In 1984, John Gage of Sun Microsystems coined the phrase “the network is the computer” as computing functions started to become increasingly distributed across the network. Today, boundaries that once separated individual computers have disappeared and application processing is enabled—and managed—by the network. We are now at the forefront of a new market transition, as eloquently explained by Rick van der Lans in his paper, “The Network Is the Database.”
The network is indeed becoming the database. Big Data and the related approach to database management are moving away from a centralized data warehouse model and literally starting to flow across the network. We are virtualizing data management by leaving data in the network, instead of copying it into a data center. Data stays in motion wherever and whenever it’s needed across the network, instead of being at rest.
What does this mean for business value? A distributed—and virtualized—data management approach solves the three major issues of Big Data: volume, variety, and velocity.
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.
Since Henry Ford, the alchemy of turning raw materials into mass-produced products has been complicated and challenging. At best, it has been a delicate and precarious balancing act; at worst, something akin to herding cats.
The trick has always been to align ever-shifting patterns of customer demand with far-flung ecosystems of miners, designers, suppliers, engineers, factory workers, truck drivers, sellers, and so forth. Yet the process of orchestrating such intricate value chains has often been based on art (hunches) more than science (data).
Today, however, the Internet of Everything (IoE) — the ongoing explosion in networked connectivity among people, process, data, and things — is transforming manufacturing in startling ways, just as it is changing so many other industries.
IoE delivers seamless, intelligent connections to every corner of the manufacturing value chain, optimizing the flow of products, information, and payments in real time.
The Cisco IoE Value Index study found that in 2013, manufacturing had the largest potential share of IoE Value at Stake, at $224 billion. Yet, it was poised to realize only 46 percent of that potential bottom-line value. The key to closing that gap lies in much-improved machine-to-machine and machine-to-people connections, resulting in smart factories, smart grids, and connected supply chains, among many other IoE-related innovations.
Last month, Cisco announced new research that I find particularly exciting in my role of helping customers maximize value from their investments in collaboration, video, and mobility. “Internet of Everything: A $4.6 Trillion Public-Sector Opportunity,” the latest research and economic analysis by Cisco Consulting Services, calculates the value that the Internet of Everything (IoE) will create in the public sector worldwide from 2013 through 2022. According to Cisco, IoE will enable a global total of $19 trillion in Value at Stake over the coming decade — $4.6 trillion in public-sector value combined with the $14.4 trillion in private-sector value identified in related research last year.
IoE brings together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before. The civilian sector will drive $3.1 trillion of IoE’s value in the public sector, through increased revenue, reduced costs, and improvements to employee productivity and citizen experience. The remaining $1.5 trillion of IoE public sector Value at Stake will result from more effective military operations.
What excites me about this report is that 69 percent of the civilian public sector Value at Stake is powered by people-centric connections that can be enhanced by collaboration, video, and mobility technologies.