The Internet of Things

Sensor and connector super forces converge to revolutionize the way we work

Internet of ThingsSensors are proliferating in every area of our lives, from the biometric fingerprint used to unlock our mobile devices today to visions of automatic ordering of household supplies based on real time inventory in the future.  Next generation interfaces will move beyond screens and keyboards as sensors enabling Internet connectivity and decision making capability become embedded in more devices.   “Smart” objects belonging to the Internet of Things will use a new breed of interfaces, based on natural human movements such as voice commands, gesture controls, or automated responses to sensor data.

Next Generation Interfaces:

  1. Ambient Notifications. Devices such as those sold today by Advanced Lumonics LLC, continuously track data streams and change color to notify the user of important events/actions.   For example, the cube could glow green when you receive an important email or a large product order.
  2.  Gesture Controls.   These types of sensors and interfaces are used in gaming systems today.   Major technological universities, medical centers and companies such as IBM are teaming up to discover new applications and sensors that change how we treat patients. As we envision the future, think about a doctor manipulating a 3-D scan of a patient’s heart by gesturing as if they were in the operating room.
  3.  Wearables.   As sensors and computing hardware shrink, they can be embedded in everyday objects.   Smart wristwatches/bands are already gaining popularity to monitor our heart rate, level of physical activity, sleep, and other bodily functions.   Envision clothing with sensors that anticipate when a seizure is about to occur in patients.
  4. Automated Responses.   As sensors proliferate in our environment, they monitor outputs and automate functions. Thanks to machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence, we can now make sense of all this data and design systems that act according to the inputs gathered. Personalized medicine will be facilitated as samples are taken from a patient and treatment is designed that is specific for that patient.   This will require big data analytics moving into predictive analytics. Disease progressions will be simulated and individualized protocols developed.

One glaring complication with the Internet of Things (IoT) is safeguarding the massive volumes of data and derived business insights.   The IoT is comprised of objects that are not merely smart (equipped with sensors and processing power), but also connected and able to share the information generated.   This poses a security challenge as the data from sensors based on older technology with minimal security protocols may be compromised since they were not designed to be connected to “everything”.  In particular, sensor-related risk may escalate as IoT devices are susceptible to counterfeiting, data exfiltration, identity spoofing, and malicious modification.   The complex nature of IoT ecosystems leaves each player responsible to consider secure, vigilant, and resilient strategies for maintaining data and system integrity.

Right now the IoT is in its infancy.  Within a decade things will change dramatically.   The expected economic impact of the Internet of Things will expand to between $4 trillion and $11 trillion per year according to a recent economic forecast by consulting firm McKinsey & Company.   The upper figure with associated consumer surplus could account for as much as 11 percent of the world economy, the report states.

Challenges include software connectivity and managing all of the push notifications and alerts.   We can already recognize this situation with our mobile devices.   Clearly, this will get worse before it gets better.   I was recently awakened by an Amber Alert at 3 AM while out of town in a hotel room.   Facebook notifications via text and email plague me every day.   Severe Weather alerts would be nice if occasional, but their frequency becomes an annoyance.   We will be notified non-stop until we turn off these notifications manually.

“We need to start thinking about our world as wired everywhere,” said Jocelyn Riseberg Scheirer, the CEO and founder of Bionolux, a company specializing in social wearable technology.   We also need to shift our mindset.   As counterintuitive as it may seem, IoT proponents envision a world where we spend less time glued to our devices.  Open software connects and controls multiple devices from one platform.  The Internet will be akin to a fabric on top of everyday life and will open up new opportunities to reestablish group social experiences.

Those companies positioned to utilize sensors and connectors and become players in the IoT will benefit from this period of explosive growth.  Sony Corp. recently acquired Softkinetic Systems SA, a Belgian sensor technology firm to strengthen its image sensor and related services.   Toyota Motor Corp. and other automotive firms aim to make self-driving cars within five years.  Amazon.com introduced a new service for its Web Services division aimed at linking hardware devices and applications, taking aim at the Internet of Things.

If you seek additional information, please feel free to comment here or ask the person who directed you to this blog post how to position yourself to take advantage of these emerging opportunities.

Rebecca Carfi

The Financial Sage

Join Rebecca Carfi, The Financial Sage as she shares relevant financial information and wisdom garnered from her deep and broad career in Financial Services and Management.

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