The Internet of Things (IoT) with IBM’s Anthony Behan

Three Business Blog Team
On: 31 Aug 2015
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In the third in our series on M2M and IoT, we talk to the Digital Transformation Leader for Telecommunications in IBM – Anthony Behan, on how these technologies are changing the way we work and what that means for Irish businesses.

So is IoT really the next big thing or is it Silicon Valley hype?

Oh it’s not just the next big thing, it’s already here! I mean everything is already being connected and instrumented – right now. In 2008, IBM’s then CEO, Sam Palmisano, addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in the US on what he called the `Smarter Planet’. He talked about the three “i’s” and said that things were becoming instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. Today, cars, meters, thermostats, smoke alarms, watches, personal fitness trackers, pet trackers, weapons and more, are all already connected to the internet. But when it comes to the question of hype, I think that although IoT is already here, there still remains a lot of shaping to be done.

In what way?

Well `connected’ everything changes the rules in so many aspects of our lives. There are concerns about security, advertising everywhere, intrusive surveillance, and even subscription fees that all need to be addressed before the benefits of scale can be achieved – especially as we move from hundreds of millions of connected devices to trillions of connected devices. As societies we need to address those concerns, and then we can unlock the benefits of things like self-driving cars, predictive healthcare and personal security.

Do you have some really interesting examples of IoT?

Look how fast the car industry and the whole ecosystem around it is evolving. We can already see aspects of automation in cars that are commercially available today. For example, Toyota has `brake-assist’ technology, Ford has self-parking technology. Cars can recognise speed signs, pedestrians and cyclists, and while those technologies aren’t necessarily connected, they are part of the emerging ecosystem of functions that need to evolve for self-driving cars to become a reality. You see, the real extraordinary potential for IoT isn’t in connecting things to the internet, it’s in connecting things to each other, i.e. machine to machine (M2M).

And what happens then?

When cars talk to each other, rather than simply leveraging proximity sensors to determine how and when to move, they become much faster and safer. When fitness trackers talk to your doctor directly, rather than simply giving you exercise tips, healthcare becomes more efficient. When security cameras connect directly with the emergency services (and preferably the closest, most appropriate services) rather than simply sending a text to the building manager, security becomes much tighter and more efficient.

So what does this mean for Ireland and for Irish companies looking at these developments?

I think there are a number of areas everyone should be interested in. First of all however, mobile strategies for employees need to be considered. With everything connected – cash registers, the fleet, assets, monitors, trolleys – the volume of data available about business performance will be enormous. The productivity of the employee – and the enterprise – becomes tied to its ability to tap into and use that data. As such the mobile device becomes a portal into the business and becomes hugely important in terms of monitoring and security.

What advice would you give to businesses considering IoT?

Well the secret is in the data, at least at first. IoT allows you to know more about your business than you’ve ever known before. There are lots of use cases, but think time-in-motion studies and then apply it to every moving part of your business. All of that becomes knowable, permanently. The question is how ready are you to ingest all of that data, analyse it and adapt your business processes to take advantage of the new knowledge? Plus there’s security to consider. `Things’ now become portals into your business. You need to make sure they are secured in case one of those things is compromised and becomes a threat.