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Why Stop at Things? Five Ways to Move Your Network toward the Internet of Everything

Shaun Kirby, CTO, Consulting Services, Cisco
Shaun Kirby, CTO, Consulting Services, Cisco

Shaun Kirby, CTO, Consulting Services, Cisco

With 13 billion connected things and counting, the Internet of Things promises enormous economic gains. But while linking everyday things catapults us into a new era of technology-driven improvement, three additional ingredients are necessary to realize the full potential: data, process, and people. Together with things, this is the Internet of Everything (IoE), which will generate an estimated $19 trillion in value at stake globally over the coming decade.

“IoE points to new experiences for customers, employees, partners and organizations across industries and offers hope for finally achieving the dream of “frictionless” business.”

Smart parking can illustrate the value of IoE. The average Parisian spends four years over a lifetime looking for parking. Connecting parking spaces, meters, and mobile devices make it easier to find parking. But there’s a lot more. New data analytics are required to predict when a space will become available. New processes are needed for pricing based on demand and accepting payment from mobile devices or via biometric authentication. Finally, the needs of different groups of people must be met, from drivers to parking wardens to city officials who can improve planning with a wealth of new traffic data.

IoE points to new experiences for customers, employees, partners and organizations across industries and offers hope for finally achieving the dream of “frictionless” business. While previous waves of innovation such as the Industrial Revolution and e-commerce provided leaps in efficiency, stubborn barriers to optimization remain, from having to insert a credit card into a gas pump to checking into a hotel room at the front desk. By extending technology directly into the physical domain, the IoE attacks these barriers.

In spite of the promise, launching a successful IoE initiative can be daunting. Here are five areas where opportunity is imminent for CXOs to capture an outsized portion of the value at stake.

Video – The Super sensor

Of all the sensors in IoE, video may be the most versatile. Cameras can be mounted unobtrusively and are easy to maintain. Their range of sensing is staggering, from equipment monitoring to mood recognition and shelfinventory assessment. Today, computer vision is advancing exponentially. Hardware is on the cusp of breakthroughs as well, from pervasive 4K sensors to high quality miniature lenses and tiny lens less cameras that can be built into infrastructure and everyday objects. Adding new functionality to a video sensor is as simple as uploading new software.

Consider how your organization can use video to gain new insights or power new experiences cost effectively.

Precision Location

Location services are also on the brink of a revolution. Indoor location precision is transitioning quickly from seven to 10 meters down to one to two meters with Wi-Fi for wide area coverage and down to a few centimeters in selected zones with other wireless technologies like beacons and near-field communications. Being able to pinpoint people and things creates a myriad of new capabilities, from capturing detailed shopping behavior and automating cashless vending to improving manufacturing safety.
Plan to adopt the next generation of wireless location services to gain an early advantage and lay the foundation for multiple IoE initiatives.

Programmable World

The convergence of three trends means that soon everyone will code: the variety of programmable devices is exploding, they are becoming much easier to connect, and intuitive visual programming makes it possible for people without a technical background to create IoE applications. The IT organization will no longer be the main engine for application development; instead, business experts, students, customers, and partners from all walks of life will build IoE capabilities.

Widen the net to tap the ocean of non-technical talent and foster a culture of open innovation where reusable IoE building blocks are captured, shared, and easy to find.

Symbiosis, Not Espionage

With all the new sources of information the IoE era offers, it’s easy to imagine a dystopian future when organizations and their customers and employees are at war over privacy. Recent actions to randomize the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of mobile devices and to provide unbreakable encryption underscore the enduring importance of privacy. At the same time, organizations increasingly are focusing on using the IoE to serve their stakeholders and entice them to opt in. This creates symbiosis: customers, employees, and partners will be willing to reveal information to the extent it will bring value to them, and this in turn, benefits the organization. For example, if the value proposition is strong enough, shoppers will join the store Wi- Fi, and their location and browsing can then be tracked, in turn enabling a better shopping experience and more profits for the retailer.

Focus data capture and analytics on initiatives that bring the most value to the people involved, such as providing navigation and personalized offers in a store, the location of a missing tool in a factory or recommendations on improving energy efficiency at home.

Security without Borders

IoE shatters traditional models of security. The value of connecting things everywhere is simply too great to impose a security perimeter beyond which, it is difficult to connect new devices. IoE therefore presents a rapidly expanding attack surface that calls for more sophisticated security, throughout the network and algorithms that can learn and adapt quickly and autonomously to mitigate threats.

Adopt a platform-based model for security where the network can detect and quarantine attacks across domains using automated threat detection, providing greater agility without adding too much risk.

As IoE takes root and business value is unleashed, we have much to look forward to. Imagine a future without the annoyances and inconveniences of friction in business processes and everyday life – a world with fewer product defects, reduced safety hazards, faster checkout lanes, and where finding a parking space doesn’t take what seems like an eternity. The future is very bright, indeed!

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