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Mars, the Earth, and Your Car: IoT at Genius of Things, Boston

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Michelle Barbee-Vargas, Global Client Reference Manager for IBM Watson Internet of Things, gives us her impressions of the Genius of Things event in Boston earlier this month.

“This is a Connected World” – Deon Newman, IBM

I arrived in Boston fresh off the train from my small town early Wednesday morning excited to hear about what IBM and our clients are doing in the IoT space. As a Client Reference Manager my day consists of hearing about how our clients are transforming the world using Watson IoT solutions, and I was eager to see some of our work in action.

After getting my badge and finding a seat, I made small talk with the person sitting next to me about how IoT is impacting every aspect of our lives. We talked about how amazing it is that companies are intelligently filtering and leveraging massive amounts of data in that pursuit. This ended up being a nice segue into the opening remarks, given by Deon Newman, Vice President of Marketing for Watson IoT.

Deon Newman, VP of Marketing, Watson IoT on stage giving opening remarks

Deon Newman, VP of Marketing, Watson IoT on stage giving opening remarks

“Think big. Start small. Go fast.” – Bob Wolpert, Golden State Foods

Harriet Green, General Manager of Watson IoT, Customer Engagement & Education, discussed three strategic imperatives for IoT: Software Everywhere, Digital Differentiation, and Operational Excellence.

Harriet Green, GM of Watson IoT, Customer Engagement & Education on stage

Harriet Green, GM of Watson IoT, Customer Engagement & Education on stage

Bob Wolpert of Golden State Foods (GSF) came to the stage to talk about the ways the company has partnered with Watson IoT to transform the food industry from the time it is growing in the ground, to when it is being served in a restaurant. This was just one of many examples of how Watson IoT is transforming industries — literally from the ground up.

Bob Wolpert of Golden State Foods on stage

Bob Wolpert of Golden State Foods on stage

Aside from discussing Golden State Food’s exciting new partnership using IoT for Automotive, wearables, and blockchain, Bob made an excellent point that certainly held true for anybody incorporating the Internet of Things into their business: that while the short-term benefits and advances are important, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what we will be able to do in the future. Partnering with IBM, Bob said, will ensure they will be prepared to participate as technology continues to advance.

Doug Voda of ABB on stage

Doug Voda of ABB on stage

Which brings me to the next thing I saw: Paint Robots – as demonstrated below:

 Doug Voda, ABB speaking on stage with image of Paint Robots on slide behind him

Doug Voda, ABB speaking on stage with image of Paint Robots on slide behind him

ABB, known most excitingly for creating the robots for movies like Iron Man, is using AI in a variety of ways, including using real time inspection to spot defects that can’t be seen by the human eye.

“DARE MIGHTY THINGS”- Tracy Van Houten, NASA

Things moved swiftly from Earth robots to Mars robots as Tracy Van Houten of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory took the stage to talk about how NASA is using DOORS NG to bring a little interplanetary Internet of Things to the table.

Tracy Van Houten of NASA on stage in front of slide that says “DARE MIGHTY THINGS”

Tracy Van Houten of NASA on stage in front of slide that says “DARE MIGHTY THINGS”

I remember starting at IBM and being amazed by how many companies had been managing excel spreadsheets for their entire businesses before using IBM software. NASA, apparently, was no exception. Tracy mentioned that over 100 spreadsheets were being managed by 350 team members. I have had trouble managing one spreadsheet on a team of five. While the stakes to keep things organized at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were certainly higher than my job working in the HR department of a university, I think just about anybody would struggle to keep things organized with that many people manipulating that many spreadsheets.

Ben Hoffman, CEO of Movimento on stage

Ben Hoffman, CEO of Movimento on stage

Whether talking about space, automobiles, washing machines, or food, all of the speakers made one point very clear: the Internet of Things is changing their specific industry in ways that are highly unique to them. Ben Hoffman, CEO of Movimento, argued that, “No other industry that has the complexity, the mobility, the global scale, and the reach as auto and transportation in general”. Minutes later, Danilo Elez of KONE made another excellent point that incorporating IoT into building maintenance is crucial, especially considering most elevators and escalators are, “older than your first car”—a thought that makes me mildly terrified.

“Someone will be there soon.” – Watson, IBM

KONE demo booth for The Smart Elevator

KONE demo booth for The Smart Elevator

KONE had one of my favorite demos of the conference: Machine Conversations. I personally find few things as entertaining as watching two machines talk to one another. KONE has given me an entire website I can now visit any time I want and watch elevators around the world talk to Watson about what they’re up to.

If you visit machineconversations.kone.com you can catch such highlights as,

KONE Elevator: “Ready for passengers on floor 1.”

Watson: “I confirm. Patience is a virtue.”

Indeed, Watson. Indeed.

Screenshot of a KONE elevator in China talking to Watson

Screenshot of a KONE elevator in China talking to Watson

Albert Opher, GM of Global Digital Operations, took the stage to talk about something that is important to highlight: IoT empowers businesses and people to own their data. Businesses can identify anomalies in data themselves, like Sears Home Services, who can now better identify exactly what is going wrong with one of their machines and can deploy a tailored solution quickly and effectively.

Alexi Normand of Nokia and Joe Hammer of Global Alliances on stage looking out into the crowd

Alexi Normand of Nokia and Joe Hammer of Global Alliances on stage looking out into the crowd

Nokia is using Watson IoT to put people’s health data in their own hands using devices like scales and wearables. This technology can do things like help people keep track of their weight, and empower elderly people to remain more independent while putting their caretaker’s minds at ease.

“Change is inevitable. Progression is a choice.” – Steve Becker, Kimberly-Clark

Busy demo floor

Busy demo floor

IoT innovation is happening now and it is happening everywhere. It touches the food we eat and the subsequent drive to the gym. It is bringing robots and wearables alike to our workplaces. Everywhere you look, IoT is impacting how we interact with our world. During a fascinating breakout session on worker safety, one of the speakers mentioned that IBM has been in the IoT business (under various names) since 1968. It is, still, abundantly clear that Watson Internet of Things remains a leader in IoT technology, innovation, and collaboration.

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