The interconnectedness of things

Product Strategist, IBM Business Intelligence, IBM

My observation is that the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is better represented as the Interconnectedness of Things. Let’s consider the definition of Interconnectedness:

  • 16 IBM Interconnctedness image.pngWikipedia: Interconnectedness is part of the terminology of a worldview which sees a oneness in all things.
  • Merriam-Webster: having internal connections between the parts or elements

To me, these definitions capture the future of device-to-device interaction and how we, as users of these devices, expect an interconnected, always-on world to respond to our needs and desires.

Conceptual perspective

The Interconnectedness of Things is the idea of devices detecting and responding to actions and changes in context without human intervention. This concept is more than the lights turning off when no one is in the room—that’s a single device operating in a single context. Think many devices with many contexts instead. 

Technical perspective

Technically, I admit my perspective is somewhat jaded. When I shared with a colleague that IoT was the latest marketing buzzword for a flavor of complex event processing (CEP), fuelled by fast internet and mobile technology, my colleague just rolled his eyes and told me that CEP was “just so nineties.” 

When I asked a few people at Impact, most people just mumbled and looked uncomfortable at not having a nice, concise definition. One attendee thought that The Internet of Things was a "complex event processing with a Facebook-style interface.” Somehow, a REST API was linked to this concept.

The collective technologies of event processing, an internet-based communication backbone and mobile aren’t new. But, with the availability of incredibly small and powerful chips combined with the cheap, fast data processing of Hadoop, these technologies can be connected in ways not previously possible.

Examples today

It’s this evolution (how smart devices emit events that describe motion and actions which are then are processed by a cloud service to consider history, personality, relationships and so forth) that has changed the opportunity to develop interaction models based on collective and individual patterns and profiles. 

On the first day of IBM Impact, the customer and partner stories really showcased how technologies are changing the individual experience today:

  • The Kiwi Move, a wearable technology, is pushing the envelope past activity tracking to include response to voice commands and motions; think Wii® meets Fitbit®. 
  • Square demonstrated how it processes a mobile credit card payment has set a new bar for payment convenience and portability for entrepreneurs and consumers alike.
  • Daimler’s Car2Go service supports Daimler’s vision of individual mobility in urban centers, lowering greenhouse gasses and making car sharing a realistic complement to public transit.

What’s next?

In a world of device-to-device communication, your needs and requests will not only be supported but anticipated. Having your fridge add “milk” to your digital shopping list becomes not only feasible but a reasonable expectation. By the way: this example was one my mom always joked about when I was growing up; I wouldn’t have guessed then that her idea of science fiction would likely be a reality for me.

As these interconnected technologies continue to refine and expand the individual experience, I expect these technologies to distinguish between personal and professional personas and to elevate services to concierge levels.

After all, if my digital menu included my daughter’s favorite black-bottom banana cream pie, could my fridge tell me that I didn’t have enough eggs as well as milk while I was still in the grocery store?

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