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In a world of connected “things,” organizations need thing management and a new kind of internet

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/a-image)

As everything around us becomes a connected device, the challenge of managing all these devices is increasing exponentially. In the old world, most employees would have a computer—and that was it for connected devices. Now, employees have computers, phones, tablets, and MiFis, and everything in the office from the water cooler to the treadmill is now online. This massive increase in connected devices is creating major challenges for organisations of all sizes. It’s especially clear in the area of asset management, a function that will soon undergo massive change.

Organisations have historically thought about asset management, or the practice of managing IT assets like routers, switches, desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and smartphones. Managing enterprise Things is a different matter. Things to manage now have expanded to include gene sequencers, locomotives, sensors on wind turbines and oil rigs, and water chillers—all of which are becoming smarter and more connected.

Today, you may not be sure why your coffee pot should talk to your toaster, but the technology powering an industrial Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to reshape the planet. How does Thing Management go beyond IT asset management? Here are a few examples.

SensiumVitals is making healthcare more efficient and personalised via a wireless system designed to monitor the vital signs of patients in general wards. Physicians can instantly track a patient’s status, wirelessly.

Locomotives, which can often be without cellular or WiFi connectivity, can now use systems for better location accuracy for greater safety and scheduling.

Oil and gas rigs are equipped with numerous Things such as security appliances  that require management to control communications, without manual intervention.

Managing all of these devices need a different kind of Internet—the Internet of Things (IoT), versus the Internet of People (IoP). What does that mean?

Not IoP, but IoT

To successfully manage these Things, enterprises must rethink the Internet, not as the IoP, but the IoT.  Things aren’t people, and there are four fundamental differences.

1. A Lot More Things Than People

Cisco recently declared that the number of connected devices on the Internet will exceed 50 billion by 2020.  By 2022, 1 trillion networked sensors will be embedded in the world around us, with up to 45 trillion in 20 years

2. Things Can Tell You More Than People

One of the main ways people gather information about sensors or machines is to have a technician walking around with a clipboard. However, this practice is not feasible in a world of Things because they have many more sensors and produce far more data. A typical cell phone has nearly 14 sensors, including an accelerometer, GPS, and even a radiation detector. Industrial Things such as wind turbines, gene sequencers, and high-speed inserters can easily have hundreds of sensors.

3. Things Can Talk Constantly

When compared to Things, people don’t enter data very frequently into HR, CRM, or other systems. On the other hand, a utility grid power sensor can send data 60 times per second, a construction forklift once per minute, and a high-speed inserter once every two seconds.

4. Things Can be Programmed

A Thing will never complain about a repetitive task (at least not until there are world-beating AI advances).

Why build a new kind of internet?

Technologists and businesspeople both will need to learn how to collect and put all of this rich data to use and manage every connected Thing. They will have to learn how to build next-generation enterprise software for Things versus people. For example, a tractor with a sensor or small computer doesn’t need an exceptional user interface like a person does.

Building the next generation of software for Things is a worthy goal, with potential results such as continually improving enterprise efficiency and public safety, driving down costs, decreasing environmental impacts, boosting educational outcomes, and more. Companies like GE and Bosch are investing significant amounts of money in the ability to connect, collect data from, and learn from their machines.

The IoT and the next generation of enterprise software will have big economic impacts, too. The cost savings and productivity gains generated through “smart” Thing monitoring and adaptation are projected to create $1.1 trillion to $2.5 trillion (opens in new tab) in value in the health care sector, $2.3 trillion (opens in new tab) to $11.6 trillion (opens in new tab) in global manufacturing, and $500 billion (opens in new tab) to $757 billion (opens in new tab) in municipal energy and service provision over the next decade. The total global impact of IoT technologies could generate anywhere from $2.7 trillion (opens in new tab) to $14.4 trillion (opens in new tab) in value by 2025.

Should people be worried about their jobs? There are growing effects from the IoT across many industries, and there are certainly very compelling reasons to trust predictions that a growing number of jobs will become obsolete in the not-too-distant future. However, before panicking, it’s important to realise that this fact is balanced by the increasing need for people who possess entirely new skills to fill roles that materialise in companies as a result of technological advancements.

For many people today, time is a more scarce commodity than money.  The productivity enhancements that will come from assigning manual tasks to Things will deliver will provide a significant boost to productivity and overall happiness.

How thing management will shape the future and emerging economies

As our population grows and we put more demands on the physical world, we’re going to need to move in new directions. There’s no sense in wasting water, fertiliser, pharmaceuticals, and energy.

Global growth opportunities for the next several decades will likely be in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. These developing economies need infrastructure: power, water, agriculture, transportation, construction, healthcare, and telecommunications. Will this infrastructure be built the 20th century way? Or as we’ve seen in China, will developing economies leapfrog and move immediately to 21st century cellular technology and never use 20th century landlines? Continents like Africa hold the potential of skipping ahead to next-generation farms, water treatment plants, and hospitals, unencumbered by the infrastructure and rules of the past. We all need to co-create the future and redesign infrastructure for better power, water, agriculture, education, and healthcare for the planet.

Arthur Lozinski, co-founder and CEO, Oomnitza (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/a-image

Arthur Lozinski is Co-founder and CEO of Oomnitza.