The Internet of Things - Rambling Thoughts by Jim Fletcher
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.
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.
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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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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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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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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 ....
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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.
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I had the opportunity to speak at the 59th annual European Union of Electrical Wholesalers conference in Copenhagen Denmark. While I was there to talk about Smarter Buildings and to point out that a Smarter Building is determined by much more than just direct energy consumption. Overall operational efficiency, effective lease management, effective space management, project management, and maintenance procedures all can impact the "indirect" energy cost of the building. The message rang well with the audience and they appeared to agree with my thoughts.
But perhaps what was more intriguing was the parallel changes that need to occur in their industry as are occurring in the IT industry. They are moving from a model of "sell a component" to a model where they need to establish and maintain a long term relationship with the client through value-add services. The "things" themselves will evolve substantially as they take on intelligence, become connected, and become "alive" through new functionality provided through software/firmware updates to the object whether it be something as simple as a light, or as complex as an HVAC system.
Gartner says "The Internet of Things ("IoT") is expected to grow to 26 billion things by the year 2020, representing an almost 30x increase over the 900 million things connected in 2009. " While many of these "things" will be consumer devices, there will be a large number that are evolving building elements. The ability to connect and dynamically change has the potential to totally change how wiring is done for example, with the introduction of "wireless network connected" switches instead of traditional hardwired approaches used today.
The parallel to IT comes in the movement to continuing services and adaptation of systems. There will be considerable opportunity to manage, update, and improve efficiency through the acquisition of data from these "things", applying domain specific analytics, and then driving change dynamically. Truly intelligent -- and somewhat living "things" ... for IT, this means continuous delivery and Software as a Service -- for "thing" developers, this means making "things" have the ability to "become smart" and then driving continual change into those "things" as part of an evolving business model.
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I was googling today to see how different groups defined the Internet of Things (IOT). It was interesting how all of the definitions seemed to miss what the Internet of Things really will be and what it will mean to all of us. The focus seemed to be more around connectivity than around the impact that IOT will have.
I thought of an analogy that really seemed to drive home the potential impact to all of us. Remember back in the "olden days" when we would mail a letter, mail an order or deliver an invoice, or write a memo for an admin to deliver to a coworker? How long was the turn around time for a simple communication -- days or sometime weeks?
Then along came email. We now can exchange information in seconds, and get responses instantly. We can make complete information exchanges that previously took an extended period of time instantly.
So where are we with "things" today? We're in the pre-email phase. We either don't collect information or we collect it with visual readings of meters, documented on paper, and placed into a binder on the cabinet shelf. Analytics are non-existent or historical in nature.
Think of what will happen when "things" are connected and can send information at whatever interval they need to. Think about what can happen when that data can be immediately analyzed to determine the operational efficiency and to drive actions to resolve any issues -- all in near real time. We've talked about refrigerators and washing machines, but to me those make really neat demos, but don't drive the real value we'll see as "everything" becomes connected and can send data that can be aggregated to determine trends and root causes in ways that never were before possible.
Also recognize the impact that this electronic communication has had on traditional mail delivery and on industries that were targeted at "paper data collection". We'll likely see new industries emerging, and expectations around "instantaneous information exchange" as the norm.
The transition to IOT will happen quickly and the impact will be huge. And while the analogy to email is a strong one on the positive side, we'll also see many of the issues and concerns we see (and hate with email as well). Security will be critical both in assuring that the device we're talking to is the device we're think we're talking to, and assuring we're not overwhelmed with "unused" data. To be successful we must assure that data is turned into "actionable information".
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Is it all in a name? -- while IBM has traditionally referred to "it" as Smarter Infrastructure or Smarter Planet, the industry has spoken and "the Internet of Things" has emerged. The Internet of Things is really a great descriptor of the revolution that is happening. Things are connecting. Things are becoming intelligent. Things are interacting. Things are ... or will be ... everywhere and doing everything ...
But what are "things" -- the interesting reality is that we only know about a small percentage of "things" today. Many of the "things" we'll manage don't even exist today. Many of the "things" we'll manage will be evolutions of things we have today.
We've talked about internet connected refrigerators and internet connected washing machines for years now ... why haven't we seen every one of these appliances become mainline then? Why aren't people lined up at the store to get the latest greatest connected device. It all comes down to perceived value by the consumer and business cases by the provider? Is it worth $10 a month to know your refrigerator will fail in 12 years? Probably not ... Do we need a washing machine that goes to the internet to find out what the settings should be on the washing machine for a specific fabric -- probably not when a consumer today never even uses the additional settings on the machine they have.
So why is everyone so excited? The real value of IOT isn't going to be a single appliance or a single solution. Its going to be around the interaction of systems and the analytics that can process the cross-discipline streams of information to product insights that improve our lifestyles, improve our safety, improve our efficiency, etc etc etc.
We're starting to see the Internet of Things in talked about daily it seems. Now we need to find the real use cases that drive the value needed to make it real. IOT will and is happening ... we're 2 inches into the 100 mile journey ... its going to be a great ride.