The Internet of Things - Rambling Thoughts by Jim Fletcher
Last week I was on vacation in Orlando. The place where I stayed was highlighting all of the "greening" they had done. CFL bulbs everywhere -- now sponsoring recycling (even though we had to drive 1/2 mile to recycle 3 aluminum cans). Wow -- I should have felt so good about this place ...
Well -- SHOULD is the right word ... as nightime came, I looked at my entrance door, and on all sides I could see light from the outside- not just a little light either -- so as my air conditioner ran and ran, cooling the Florida landscape, I had to ask -- "is this place really serious about Green"? So while its great to talk about green its time to be serious about BEING green instead ...
Well despite months of desire, and a total lack of spare time - I finally become an official blogger today. Thanks to Jeff Jenkins for his help in getting this going.
Over the last two years, as I have pioneered the energy management space for Tivoli, I have seen leading organizations begin to recognize that the historical organizational structure around datacenters does not represent well the needs for improved energy management. Unfortunately, in most datacenters, the team responsible for cooling and power, and the team responsible for IT (servers, applications, storage, etc.) report into different lines of the business. Even more unfortunately from an energy management perspective, neither organization is responsible for paying the power bill, and in most organizations, neither team is even aware of the power bill.
As a result, there is no natural incentive to reduce overall power consumption, unless some external factor like availability of power comes into play. This "green organizational disfunctionality" results in wasted spending on energy, and operational inefficiencies given that there is also limited integration between the multiple organizations responsible for the datacenter. Even when knowledge does exist within the IT organization with regards to power consumption, I have yet to see a datacenter, where the IT team is measured in any way on power consumption - instead, availability and performance are the two measurements that matter.
So how can we expect energy efficient datacenters if organizationally there is little focus, and no incentives are provided to reduce spending on energy, Thats the challenge that organizations need to address. I am seeing an emergence of limited discussions between these multiple teams, and I am seeing an occasional "incentive" from the c-level exec to begin looking at how to reduce energy costs, but only occasionally. Instead, most energy reduction today is coming from "tangential" changes such as virtualization.
For those customers who have made a focus on looking at the entire energy consumption lifecycle, significant cost reductions -- sometimes approaching 40% have been seen.
Many customers continue to measure temperature of their server racks using the "back of the hand" method. Unfortunately this is exactly what it says -- they walk the aisle with the back of their hand extended and when they feel a warmer than normal area, that is an area to be looked at further. Well, yes, that's not exactly scientific, but it has worked for years. Likewise power consumption was pre-determined from manufacturer's specs which generally means it was grossly overvalued.
But as we look at better optimizing our overall energy consumption, even a degree or two difference can make a big difference in our overall energy efficiency. The "back of the hand" method cannot provide that level of accuracy, so newer methods need to be implemented. Over the last few years, IBM has introduced direct measurement within their server family for both power consumption, as well as temperature reporting. With the direct reporting of this information, immediate and accurate information can be available and leveraged.
With the availability of more accurate information in a timely matter, datacenters can reduce their "energy buffer" . Typically customers have over-cooled, and over-powered. With the ability to detect even small deltas quickly and accurately, these buffers can be reduced and therefore overall energy consumption can be reduced.
But how does one get access to this information? Tivoli's ITM for Energy Management collects this server information from its embedded Active Energy Manager component. The data can be thresholded with events generated automatically when measured values exceed expected values. Reports can be generated or the information can be visualized in an operations console.
Having accurate and detailed information is just one element of an effective overall datacenter energy strategy -- but a very important one for sure.
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I suspect many of you are scratching your heads today, saying "IBM bought the Weather Channel???". Well first off, we bought "The Weather Company" which includes an amazing cloud-based data ingestion and analytics platform, a very successful B2B business that includes a solution that makes all of my airline flights smoother by providing plane to plane awareness of bumpy air, a proven weather prediction capability that has some of the highest accuracy in the world, and a B2C business that includes a smartphone app that is the most used app in existence today.
And when we think of weather, its much more than knowing it will be sunny tomorrow. Its detailed micro-forecasts that allow us to know the specific weather for a specific local at any time of the day. Its the ability to be pre-warned of impending weather events like extreme winds, lightening, or hail storms. Its heat indexes, windchill, dew points, pollen indexes, UV indexes, etc etc etc. All of these elements of weather when coupled with the awareness that the Internet of Things will bring as everything becomes connected created so many new opportunities.
Now lets think about all of this data in a world that has the Cognitive Insight capability that IBM Watson provides and will grow to provide ... the possibilities are truly endless.
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Over the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to talk with customers throughout the world. The common theme I see is how little we really have done to make our buildings truly smarter. Whether its lack of awareness, or simply lack of caring, we're wasting abundant amounts of energy, and manpower, as we continue manage buildings the same way we have for decades. We have so much more capability that we can now take advantage of, yet in many cases, our capabilities go untapped.
Here's a short video from the VERGE conference I spoke at in London earlier this year - enjoy -- Smarter Buildings VERGE Event
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IBM last week reaffirmed its commitment to Watson and the value that Cognitive Computing will bring to our future. With IOT we're moving to an era of massive data, driven by orders of magnitude reduction in the cost of collecting and maintaining that data. But what do we have when we have lots of data -- well the answer is simple -- "lots of data". With billions of devices potentially connected and interconnected, traditional approaches to leveraging operational data will become unmanageable. Why collect all of this data if we're not going to do something of value with it?
So what's the answer? Well, Cognitive Computing will become a key aspect of the value for IOT. Cognitive Computing will allow us to draw insights that would have not been possible in the past. We'll find the root cause for failures faster, allowing us to further prevent failures through operational insights provided by Cognitive techniques. We'll be able to turn "lots of data" into truly actionable insights, and provide them to technicians in a prescriptive form.
Think about how Watson has transformed the medical field. Medical personnel are now presented with a list of diagnoses with a probability for each based on analysis of the symptoms. What prevents us from applying these same techniques to inanimate "things"? Why not leverage the wealth of data being collected from "things" to feed a Cognitive system which produces not only a list of potential failures with a confidence factor about their possibilities, but more importantly what if a Cognitive system provided insights into maintenance - where maintenance operations become individualized based on operational environments potentially saving millions in unnecessary maintenance, while also eliminating failures.
We're truly at an inflection point in the possibilities and opportunities to revolutionize our future.
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As I am sure many of you have heard by now, IBM is making a major investment in the Internet of Things (IOT). On Thursday April 9th, IBM will have a web streamed event around our announcement and what it will mean to our customers and the industry. Here's a link to the live event: IBM IOT Event Link.
With its strong capabilities in streaming and historical analytics, its IOT Foundation for data collection, its breadth of database capabilities, and its Bluemix and Cloud solutions IBM is well positioned as a major player for the Internet of Things. Couple that with the industry expertise that IBM has built over the years in areas such as Asset Management with Maximo, Smarter Cities, and Smarter Buildings. As real time information will become available, so many aspects of how our clients do their jobs will forever change.
And the change will start with the engineering. Engineering and operations will digitally integrate. Rich visualizations, coupled with augmented reality capabilities will improve safety, reduce maintenance, and enable workers to better perform their roles.
Its an exciting time, and I am so glad to be in the middle of the IOT revolution.
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There was a great article in Forbes recently talking about the Internet of Things and the impact it will have on Retailers. With solutions like IRIS from Lowes, connectivity to a wide range of "things" in the home is already. While starting around energy with thermostats, and lighting control, they are expanding their abilities. Just recently Orbitz announced an IRIS-enabled (z-Wave) water timer for example. Lowes also introduced their MyLowes card a year or so ago. While the public messaging was around helping you track your returns, the reality is that Lowes knows what you bought and when you bought it.
Think about the possibilities of combining the knowledge of what you purchased with the ability to connect and communicate. Lowes would be able to set the watering timer daily based on the type of plants you bought, the weather conditions, and the locale of your home. They might even add a moisture sensor to the plant to further complement the solution.
Look at all of the systems that can gather knowledge and interact, and be accessed by a human-driven smartphone today, but why not my indepth analytics and recommendations engines tomorrow.
The real value in the connectivity and the knowledge will come from the combination of knowledge. While everyone is focused on Nest and what Google is doing, Lowes is on a much path towards a deeper real knowledge of your home and everything about it, while adding real values for the consumer.
We're so early in the journey still. Many more players will emerge, and new technologies will be spawned, but the potential is endless.
For some time I have been talking about the need for, and value of the introduction of IT technologies into the operation space. The reality is that the operational space is becoming more IT like in its technologies and implementations. Mechanical devices are being replaced by or augmented with intelligent processors and sensors. They are being connected to (either physically or logically) to networks. These formerly isolated mechanical systems are now becoming connected "IT" endpoints. They are now more susceptible to network attacks. They are now software devices, and will need software updates -- whether for maintenance or for new capabilities. With the replacement of the man with the clipboard, why limit readings to once a day - why not once a second? Why not monitor the systems in near real time (both the endpoint and the collector).
The possibilities are endless and the challenges are many but the reality is that the convergence is happening and will drive a fundamental change in how we architect, operate, and maintain these systems.
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As is always the case with CES, exciting announcements are made. Today a new standard for Wifi was announced that should be available in 2018. Here's an article on it: Halow Wifi
The new standard focuses on improved range (up to 2x) and lower battery consumption. I have seen some articles focused around larger bandwidth hogs like file transfers, but as we look at IOT solutions, we're going to see a need for efficient connectivity, and exchange of small bursts of information. We could see apps that may have looked at BLE but now can leverage Wifi Halow instead.
Many have also positioned the technology more around the Smarter Home, but it would equally apply to a range of offerings as IOT will drive wide spread connectivity needs.
Lots of possibilities -- another great space to watch.
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The non-tech media has finally caught wind of the Internet of Things (IOT) and is highlighting what happens when you don't secure your solution. They are showing cars that have their braking and steering systems controlled remotely. They are talking about home automation systems being hacked with lights and heating being remotely controlled by the hacker. They are talking about home appliances being turned on and off without the homeowner intervening. Just today USA Today featured an article on Congress wanting to hold special workgroups around the area of IOT security -- USA Today Article
So while this makes for great news stories, the need for security in any connected solution has always been critical. In this modern connected world, the ability to hack in and take control will happen unless we do something to prevent it. Any IOT solution requires security at the connection level to assure that the control "pipe" is not hijacked and used for unwanted purposes. IOT security is also needed at "the thing" to assure that it cannot be taken over and controlled by an undesired source, such as a hacker. A good IOT solution would also place bounds on what "the thing" is allowed to do and actions when "things" are controlled outside of normal bounds. For example, who would preheat their oven for 8 hours -- the "smart oven" would reset itself if preheated for too long.
But there is also a new class of security needed for many of those "things". Location - is the "thing" where you thought it was. Has it been moved to a different location, so that the stop light you though you were managing is now no longer where you thought it was. It might sound far fetched but think of the implications?
The net is that we have to be concerned with security with any intelligent and connected solution. Whether being hacked with a USB device introducing malware, hijacking the device over the network, or simply signing in with a weak password (perhaps the biggest concern) the impact is real and we have to assure whatever we build, that security is a major focus of the solution.
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Nothing like titling a blog entry with three TLAs (thats three three letter acronyms). But when I look at technologies driving change, these two will drive a 180 degree change in how disciplines like Smarter Buildings and Enterprise Asset Management evolve.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) allows us to define, operate upon, and visualize "anything" ... and visualize it in context of everything around it. The Internet of Things (IOT) will allow us to collect real time operational information about everything ... and aggregate that information so that I understand the relationship between the "things" and derive patterns about how the things interoperate.
So now what do I have -- by integrating the ability to accurately visualize, drill in, rotate, look inside, etc etc etc and to understand how things are operating now and in the past, and predicting how they will operate in the future without ever having to physically touch the "thing" we're enabling an infinite realm of possibilities to improve operations, improve health and safety, and forever change how we do our jobs ...
Exciting times to come ....
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I attended the second meeting of the Raleigh Internet of Things group yesterday. It was amazing to see how many people from so many disciplines that were interested in meeting for an exchange session on the Internet of Things. The excitement and the possibilities of what IOT will mean to all of our lives is huge.
Yesterday's meeting had presentations from 4 different presenters representing both large and small companies. Over 100 people attended. What is clear is that IOT will be an entrepreneur's paradise. Everything will become connected and interactions between things that we never have imagined would occur WILL occur.
One example from yesterday's meeting was from Big Belly Solar. The solution is a connected trashcan which can report when it needs to be emptied. Connectivity is provided by a 3G connection, power supplied by solar, and the ROI for a trashcan that costs 5x what a traditional can would cost has been shown to be less than a year. The savings come from personnel and truck roll cost reductions, and the a side effect will be immediate awareness of an "out of the normal" usage pattern that has an overflowing trashcan needing attention.
Think of the possibilities -- so much fun to come ...
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As we look through the history of user interaction with a computing device, we have seen numerous transitions in how we interact. There have been attempts at many alternative approaches -- many of which never made it and some which made it then quickly disappeared. Many of you won't remember the "light pen" for example which was used to select data on a screen by touching the screen with the specialized pen. The mouse was by far one of the greatest interaction inventions, but even that was replaced by a touchpad device, and gestures as a means to replace specific clicks and keystrokes. The touchscreen will eliminate those before we know it across all devices.
The Mouse and the touchpad are indeed interaction models which I expect to see disappear over the next few years. The movement to touch screen and hybrid devices, and the need to create visualizations that can be interacted upon by touch devices will end the era of the mouse. We'll move to touch screen devices, and eye movement recognition for many of our applications.
So what does that mean to us? It means that we have to develop our applications with the reality that a finger may be the "selection tool" of choice. Gestures will move us from place to place. As we know, that means larger "targets" and more space and larger fonts in our text selection areas, and intuitive logic for our gestures (and of course, lots of cloths to clean those screens).
The rumors are that Apple will release an 11 inch Ipad .... watch as this size device or larger becomes the "desktop" of choice .... One thing for sure about the space we're working in .... you can never get bored .... and if you do, you will be irrelevant before you know it.
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No this isn't an answer from Jeopardy ... the recent announcement between IBM and Apple is a key indicator of where the enterprise world is headed. We're moving from desktop fixed location systems to mobile systems. When we asked one of our transportation customers what they saw as their preferred device in the future, they indicated that tablets (aka iPads) will be the norm. But why? This is where the Internet of Things ties into the picture.
Much of the operational information we collect today (when we do collect it) is manual, delayed, or disconnected from the the management system. As we move to a "everything is connected" world, we'll now have the data to drive analytics to recommend and drive actionable information to these devices so that actions can be taken before problems ever happen. The ability to aggregate information from a range of systems, easily, and intuitively and make that information available to the appropriate person in near real time.
So Apple's devices coupled with IBM's Enterprise and Big Data skills, coupled with the emergence of the Internet of Things ability to collect data from "any thing" is a great combination ....