I just returned from the Internet of Things (IoT) Global Summit in Washington DC, where I was privileged to speak on accelerating Smart City growth worldwide through the Internet of Everything (IoE). At Cisco, we’ve pioneered the idea that the next wave of the Internet is not just about devices and things, but about the interconnections among people, process, data, and things—what we call the Internet of Everything. So it was gratifying that even at an event built around the Internet of Things, much of the conversation centered on people and process in connection with technology.
The IoT Global Summit brought together about 200 business leaders, policy makers, and regulators to talk about the impact of IoT on the ways we conduct business, provide services, and interact with people, as well as on the fundamental issues of security and privacy.
One of the interesting things about how IoT is playing out in Smart and Connected Cities around the world is that the public sector, rather than the enterprise, is leading the way in addressing some fundamental issues around deployment. For example, applications such as smart parking may collect data about people’s movements around a city, so the policies cities develop around the collection and use of that data must advance the conversation about privacy, and extend that conversation into the enterprise space. How a city uses information to interact with citizens will change our expectations around privacy, and will in turn affect how companies interact with employees and customers.
It’s not surprising, then, that a related topic of discussion at the Summit was the need to ask not what can we do with technology, but rather, what should we do? How can we enable technology in a way that benefits people, making life more convenient, comfortable, productive, and secure? Two guiding principles stand out for me. The first is transparency, and the second is the need to align costs and benefits in a sustainable way.
First, as more and more cities and businesses go digital, we need to be fully transparent about what data is being collected and how we intend to use it. It is this transparency that will drive stakeholder engagement and build trust. If people understand that they are sharing personal information in order to get a defined benefit, they may be more willing to share. For example, drivers may be willing to allow their location to be shared in a smart parking app in order to see available parking spots nearby. But if city officials want to use this location data for other purposes, they need to be open and transparent about how and when it will be used.
Second, some services, such as free public Wi-Fi, have had a hard time gaining traction because costs and benefits are misaligned. Typically, cities or service providers pay for the service but do not receive the direct benefits, so it’s a difficult model to sustain. But now, with IoE, we can deploy ubiquitous Wi-Fi in a way that everybody wins—through smart lighting. When cities invest in smart lighting they save on operational costs and improve public safety. The same Wi-Fi infrastructure that connects the streetlights can also be used by residents and visitors. Nearby businesses can use it for advertising and location-based services, which brings more people into the area. The result is an energized city center, more productive citizens, growing businesses, and increased tax revenue—a win for everybody.
So when we talk about the Internet of Things, it’s no longer just about the things. It’s about the smart and transparent connections among people, process, data, and things that improve services and business outcomes. And, ultimately, change our lives for the better.