The Internet of Everything (IoE) is a juggernaut of change, transforming organizations in profound ways. It sows disruption, and it grants enormous opportunities. But this sweeping wave of change is not reserved for what we normally think of as “technology companies.” In the IoE economy, even seemingly “analog” endeavors must be bestowed with network connectivity, no matter how venerable a company’s roots or old its traditions.
In a world where Everyone Is a Tech Company, there are some great examples of older companies that are heeding this new reality. Retail, manufacturing, transportation, and education are just a few of the places where people, process, data, and things are being connected in startling new ways. Companies that are ahead of the IoE transformation curve will ensure their competiveness in marketplaces that are ever more vulnerable to disruption.
Dundee Precious Metalsprovides a great example of a company that is embracing change. A far-flung global organization, the company, for example, runs Europe’s largest mine in Chelopech, Bulgaria, from which it ships gold-rich copper ore to a smelter in Namibia. Yet through IoE-related technologies, executives at the company’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada, have gained unprecedented visibility into all aspects of their operations.
The end result? A boon in safety, efficiency, and productivity.
One way to do this is through the millions of cheap, tiny digital sensors generating data from shoes, tires, shopping carts, jet-engine parts, medical equipment, and just about anything else you can imagine.
But another type of sensor promises even deeper visibility and insight: video. Connected video — when deployed in the right situations and combined with other IoE components, such as analytics and mobility — can truly transform the ways in which we sense the world. And for organizations, video will provide rich, real-time insights that will drive hyper-aware decision-making and predictive strategies.
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.
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.