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.
I believe this aspect of IoE has important implications for nearly everyone. One key to making all the technology truly valuable will be simple and readily available programmability, to make all of those things do what you want them to do while reporting back only the insights that you truly need. (Life is complicated enough without extraneous Tweets from your refrigerator!)
But the Programmable World also has deep implications for CxO-level business leaders. They will need to fully embrace a new dimension of connectivity in the corporate culture to enable a much more inclusive, inventive, and agile environment.
Here are three key trends that I see converging to drive the evolution of the Programmable World and transform the competitive marketplace:
1. Devices Get Smarter. Not to mention easier to connect, more interoperable, and numerous. Standardization is one key to the success of this trend, enabling myriad varieties of devices to “speak” with one another. Meanwhile, processors are taking micro to new extremes. A new ARM processor (actually, a full-fledged computer that costs 75 cents) is the size of a grain of sand and can be swallowed in a pill, promising even more spectacular innovations to come. Here are just a few devices that are already spreading connectivity in our daily lives:
- Lockitron enables users to lock or unlock their homes from anywhere in the world.
- iDevices iGrill is a thermometer that allows a user to monitor what’s cooking via sensors within the food.
- iSwimband ensures children’s safety in the water.
All of these will interact with smartphones and multiple additional devices.
2. Programming Joins the Mainstream. Once strictly the domain of technologists with computer science degrees, programming will soon be for everyone. Just as the Mac, with its graphical user interface (GUI), once drove basic computing into the mainstream, equivalent visual interfaces may revolutionize programming. IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a simple method for connecting multiple web apps by simply dragging and dropping visual icons. Google Blockly is an easy-to-use visual programming editor. And Baxter is a manufacturing robot that can be “taught” easily by workers through an intuitive GUI and physical movement of its arms. “Programming” may become so easy, in fact, that it may no longer be called programming — but by any name, it will be crucially important for our future world.
3. Creativity Goes Viral. Social media has already exploded in popularity, but I see an important offshoot of this phenomenon — creative communities. Such online groups already cover all sorts of industries and disciplines, and as they spring up, seemingly impossible pipedreams become reality fast. One of my favorites is Open Source Ecology, a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters dedicated to building the “Global Village Construction Set” — a method of sharing ideas and parts for creating cheaper, more sustainable do-it-yourself versions of the most-used machines of our age. Other cutting-edge creative communities include Raspberry Pi, Xively, and Kaggle.
I believe it is imperative for business leaders to incorporate the Programmable World into their organizations. By incubating creative communities and making programming and IoE technologies readily available, they will support a new dimension of inclusion, cross-pollination, and innovation. In the IoE economy, after all, talent and ideas cannot be siloed. We will need to tap all employees for their creative input. Anyone from the proverbial “mailroom” on up will be able to create applications that can transform the organization. And great product ideas may arise from beyond product development teams. Or even from outside the enterprise. Creative communities, academia, partners, and customers can all spur innovation.
To maximize the benefits of the Programmable World, business leaders should assign an Enterprise Architecture track to promote standards and policies that make this new way of programming easier and more accessible to all. And, of course, creating a secure network that can safely connect and protect all devices is paramount. Privacy policies should also be established to ensure that employees, partners, and customers participating in Programmable World initiatives remain in control of their personal information.
I believe that the Programmable World will go a long way toward enabling IoE transformation. In the corporate culture, it promises a more inclusive and open environment, while accelerating innovation both internally and externally.
Organizations cannot afford to remain stuck in traditional models of IT and product development. In the burgeoning IoE economy, those who embrace the Programmable World will thrive.
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