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So what is the Internet of Things #IoT?

Calendar August 11, 2014 | User Michael Denis

internet-of-things-1-300x214The following article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of the AircraftIT MRO eJournal.

Internet of Things or #IoT for those into @Twitter, seems all the rage – the latest #TLA (Three Letter Acronym) dominating discussions, predictions and most likely your management consultants’ and systems integrators’ sales pitches. Are you ready?

A quick bing or goggle search will deliver 112M to 552M page returns – wow!

So what is IoT?

Is it an independent transactional capability joining machine device gathered data transmitted to other machines (M2M) over IPv6 networks or is it part of a larger integrated strategic capability combining #CloudComputing, #BigData and #IntelligentPlatforms?

Let’s begin with some facts:

  1. Neither the term “Internet of Things” nor the underlying concepts are new. The term is credited to Kevin Ashton, a British technology entrepreneur and co-founder of the Auto-ID center at MIT, in a 1999 article and to Bill Joy, another Brit who cofounded Sun Microsystems, in a 1999 presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos [1]. But in reality, the core concepts of autonomic computing were being developed a decade before this.
  2. The Internet of Things is NOT about the Internet NOR about Things – it is about adapting event driven stochastic activities gathered without human origination to create value from autonomic agents that move data up the DIKW hierarchy thus accelerating granular knowledge creation in order to provide value to a customer of one. Wow – that’s a mouth full of consultantese!
  3. And like many innovations over history, much of the capabilities of the Internet of Things find their roots in military research and development – not just of the technologies but, arguably more importantly, in the organizational design and operating model required to realize value.

So how about a simple example?

No problem, how about Vehicle Relationship Management (VRM)? An on board sensor (leveraging the already installed OBDII) detects you’re running low on fuel, sends a message via OnStar or Verizon Telematics to your designated site or a group of public gas station vendors, one of which transmits back that you are a member of the Kroger / Shell affinity group and that you have 44 gallon points in your account (for 10¢ off per gal) and then the on board map system identifies the directions to the closest station in the direction of your current travel – and – if you pass this station, as the next closest comes closer, it autonomously sends you a coupon for three commodity items you should have run out of since your last visit to your local Kroger grocery.

Right, so all of the Orwellian conspiracy theorist and privacy advocates see “Big Brother” written all over IoT and the computing security consultants and vendors are all salivating with dollar signs in their eyes ready to scare your CIO into cyber space!

internet-of-things-2-300x168But what I just described above isn’t the future – it’s now. And yes – I currently have $314.98 “softcoin” dollars in my Kroger Shell account. Anyone got a map to the closest Shell station?

Retail IoT is relatively new. Gartner added “The Internet of Things” to their Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle in 2011 and gave it a 5-10 year maturation time to reach the plateau of productivity [2]. By 2013 Gartner had IoT climbing closer to the peak of inflated expectations but also increased its maturation to a full 10 years [3].

As with all TLAs, “context” makes a difference.

Gartner was, arguably, late to identify IoT as a burgeoning technology and has moved its value realization out not in. My only defense for Gartner, although they didn’t ask, is that the “context” of their view and their definition is focused on “retail” (P2P, F2F and B2C initiated by M2M) IoT versus “industrial” IoT which has been around for well over a decade.

For those unfamiliar with Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” it is based on Everett M. Rogers, “Diffusion of Innovations” [within societies] which spawned many other theories and books, such as Geoffrey Moore’s, “Crossing the Chasm” and Malcolm Gladwell’s, “Tipping Point” which equate business or social trends to the patterns of epidemics.

Speaking of points – let’s get back on topic.

Well if “retail IoT” is relatively new, what IoT is “old”?

Don’t quote me on the dates, but here are some example capabilities:

  • Autonomic computing circa 1995
  • Remote aircraft engine condition monitoring circa 1999
  • Remote airplane condition monitoring circa 2001
  • Net Centric Warefare / Nätverksbaserade Försvaret circa 1999
  • Effects Based Operations / Network Centric Operations circa 1998
  • Sense & Respond Logistics circa 2003
  • Aircraft Health Management circa 2010

And like Gartner, my context is shaded by my experience and perspective of 26 years in aviation, aerospace, and defense.

internet-of-things-3-300x166So over the next several weeks, as time permits, I intend to discuss a bit more on:

  • what IoT is and isn’t;
  • what does that “consultantese” definition item 2 above mean;
  • how IoT and #CloudComputing, #BigData, #IntelligentPlatforms, #Autonomics and other capabilities fit together;
  • how IoT is a Service Lifecycle Management capability that has implications and value to Product Lifecycle Management;
  • how IoT is a disruptive technology that is breaking traditional business models and organizational design;
  • and maybe some macro #wikinomics [4] predictions.

And as always, I invite readers to collaboratively add to what should be a lively discussion.


[1]Anonymous, Wikipedia “Internet of Things”

[2]Hung LeHong, Gartner Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies, July 2011

[3]Hung LeHong, Gartner Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies, July 2013

[4]Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics, 2006 and Macro Wikinomics, 2010

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