Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth."

Just recently I had the opportunity to attend the event Iot:: Empowering the Enterprise. The event was opened by a welcome note by Padmasree Warrior, CTO of CISCO, who predicted IoT as the next revolution of technology wave.
Then Wim Elfrink stepped onto the stage and started off that his kids would only have two statuses in life, asleep or alive. He questioned IoT being a hype and emphasized the fact that IoT could only be built in a joined effort. Furthermore he presented evidence that the selling of sensors would be exploding and sensors are being deployed everywhere. Only 1% is of our world today would be connected so far. He mentioned it would be less about the data more about how to transfer data to knowledge and wisdom. (Which reminded me after the famous Frank Zappa quote;) Surprising to me, Wim mentioned the public sector as the largest opportunity for sensors, he was calling for new governmental regulations to drive new opportunities. Finally, opened the stage for startup called that provides connectivity to sensors bundled with an analytics platform.
Next on the agenda was panel discussion on the IoT eco-system. Debjit Mukerji from Siemens presented the notion of Web of Systems as an approach for moving from sensor-cloud analytics systems to decentralized, local information processing systems. Thus, IoT systems would not solely depend on connectivity to a cloud but could operate and reason locally in real time closer to the phenomenon. Debjit mentioned the importance of enterprises for startups to learn about industrial business cases, receive real-world feedback, access to testing resources and customers.
Amit Chaturvedy from Cisco Investments said the IoT would a global phenomenon wherof silicon valley startups would be mostly focusing on consumer applications, Germany would be leading in industrial developments, Asia about smart cities...different geographies would have different drivers.

From the startup pitches I recall pubnub allowing to connect devices in a secure manner, helium building networks on top of commercial wireless networks, edyn for monitoring plants (I can't help but hasn't Koubachi done than some time ago?), skyspecs making drones saving for industrial use, Ayla offering a network layer for remote monitoring, and placemeter quantifying the real world in real time using computer vision and video sensors.

VR Ferose from SAP sent out the message that connecting would be only the first step, the real value would be to learn from the data and most importantly provide enhanced customer experience. As an example he joked about settling down in the Bay area could be based on three apps google express, amazon prime and uber. IoT instead could go far beyond this experience provide new insights into predicitive maintenance and connected insurance. VR underlined his arguments by a remote control car demo where the premium rate has been adjusted to the driver's driving behavior. Personally, I was happy to see how earlier research [1] finally found its way into practice.
The last keynote on the program was delivered by Helmuth Ludwig who described integration of data during industrial manufacturing could be used the optimize performance and time to market. He mentioned the example of Omneo allowing to analyze events at real time. As you can't do physical prototypes for testing mars rover, simulation software can be used to eliminate prototypes, save resources, and increase efficiency. The future would rely on tools helping companies to produce in new ways, more efficiently and faster. For that reason, Siemens has opened its research lab in Berkeley to build bridges from the knowledge pool of universities and startups to the corporate world. As an example of this bridge he presented the video The Missing Link.

Overall, I enjoyed very much being at this event feeling the great passion for Internet of Things both in the corporate and the startup world. While I found a lot of belief that IoT will happen (e.g. presented by cisco), I still see more thoughts to be spend on innovative ideas about how IoT can really provide value across domains. Connecting millions, billions, trillions - whatever the large number should be - is just the first step. Just having access to more data does not really provide value in itself. 

How can we leverage these investments across completely different domains? How can a temperature sensors describe itself as a temperature sensor and team up with an air pressure close by to provide a more comprehensive picture and simultaneously calibrate itself using the data of another temperature sensor close by? Why would the owner of the temperature sensor allow access to his sensor, what could be an appropriate business model look like? How can we keep track of this connected layer, upgrade it and maintain it over time? How much can we achieve in the cloud, what do have to do locally, how can we transition effectively between cloud and edge?

To make IoT a reality in the enterprise there has to be more than collecting data, as Frank Zappa already recognized: "Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth..." ;)

[1] Johannes Paefgen, Flavius Kehr, Yudan Zhai, Florian Michahelles: Driving Behavior Analysis with Smartphones: Insights from a Controlled Field Study, Proceedings of the 10th ACM SIGMOBILE Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM'12), Ulm, Germany, December 2012 [PDF].

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Summaries and Impressions: Internet of Things 2014 Conference, MIT, Oct 6-8, 2014

www.iot2014.orgIoT2014 is the continuation of IoT2008 (Zurich), IoT2010 (Tokyo), IoT2012 (Wuxi). This conference focuses on both academia and industry, it applies a rigorous review process to research papers (according to IEEE guidelines), features focused workshops on IoT subtopics as well as demo and poster session presenting early ideas.

The audience comprises a rather unique set of researchers, consultants, end-users, funding agency representatives and entrepreneurs.

Siemens’ Web of things research team has been the this year’s gold sponsor. This yielded an honorary mention of Siemens in the opening of the conference, a keynote speech (presented by K. Bettenhausen), sponsor booth and appearance on print material. Additionally, team members of WoT were visible beyond by organizing the web of things workshop and various talks.

The keynote of Kurt Bettenhausen (Siemens) highlighted the economic importance of manufacturing industry across the world. He expressed the need for innovation in order to keep up with the pace of innovation coming from China. Thus, in Germany the vision of Industrie 4.0 has been created which suggests products carrying all the data throughout the production process describing the steps for the product necessary to get produced. The driver for this vision are individual customer needs, dynamic design of engineer, new services, increased efficiency, and the importance of work-life balance of workers. After the lost battle in internet technologies, software and mobile services, it's the European industries' chance to make Industrie 4.0 a reality. This should allow companies to gain more flexibility in manufacturing control, reduction of energy and shorter time to market. In addition to the efforts and opportunities of big data analytics, there is much more knowledge available locally during the production process already which should be leveraged: why re-learning constraints from data analytics as they were already know during the design process. Questions from the audience focused on the performance of the Industrie 4.0 project progress in Germany and explicit examples of I4.0. The keynote speaker mentioned successful collaboration between research, industry and government but was not willing to disclose specific examples of I4.0.
David Clark (MIT) explained why the Internet has been so successful despite and because of the many design flaws and compromises. He started out with reflecting on the initial goals of the Internet back in 1975: development of a generic, global reaching, layered approach following network. In retrospect he admitted various flaws. Configuring wifi routers in today's home can be challenging as the design of the IP protocol would not care about configuration. Also the systems would neither know nor care what the user was doing and could not never tell if there was going something wrong. Furthermore, the Internet was never designed for mobility. Instead, the IP protocol was designed as a stupid network. As key learnings David derived,

If you build an ugly system, everybody says how ugly it is, if you build a well-defined system, nobody will ever look at it.
Thus, the consequences for today are that connectivity is not a cost issue anymore but configuration is. Initially the Internet has been designed to route packets, the rest was left up to the application, today the Internet is more about routing money, package routing is just a side-effect;)
An IoT panel discussion has been lead by Alex Ilic from the Auto-ID Labs. The keypoints raised by the panelists Sanjay Sarma (MIT), Elgar Fleisch (ETH Zurich/HSG) and Scott Jenson (Google) were interesting and diverse. The Internet of Things should develop successfully in specific verticals first and then only derive generic principles for cross domain platforms. This would counter the "European" approach of EU-funded projects which have spend time and money on developing bullet proof and shiny solutions which have a hard time of adoption in any domain. There was, however, no consensus which approach would succeed, at least the Internet has followed build-it/fix-it approach;). History of industry has shown that whenever a dominant design [1] has evolved, the industry became successful. For the IoT we are still missing this dominant design, who could lead this effort, IT players, or verticals? Finally, healthcare was mentioned to bear the greatest potential for IoT, as here it is not just about money but about a huge societal problem. Healthcare is so expensive today and differences between developed and developing world are tremendous. IoT would have the potential to link information and devices, provide access, empower people, drive costs, and challenge expensive equipment, e.g. MRI's, with simpler sensors embedded in connected billions of phones.
Shouman Datta (MIT) built upon the argument of the previous panel discussion that IoT should not be just about money but even more about societal challenges. The grand challenge would be to build a platform that creates an ecosystem for other to follow. The vision of the IoT would be rather old anyway. Shouman mentioned projects like 'pay per pee', monitoring at the toilet, odd projects like 'print your face' and others. The ultimate potential for IoT in healthcare will be to connect a plethora of dumb disconnected device of today, increase patient safety and increase building a more comprehensive understanding what's going in the human body for longer periods of time.
Overall, the IoT conference has been a very exciting event. It has provided the unique mixing researchers and practitioners which is hard to find. I'm very much looking forward to the 2015 edition in Korea:
[1] Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation, Utterback (1994) Harvard Business School Press ISBN 0-87584-342-5 Library call numbers HD58.8.U87 1994 658.4'06—dc20, p 24.