The IoT-Data Centric
W. David Stephenson
December 17, 2015
I’m so pleased to be with the Hong Kong Internet of Things Association tonight. This takes me back to the early days, two years ago, when our group in Boston was just
starting, and we had only a handful of members. Now we have more than 1,700 members, and have become the real IoT community that I dreamed of when I created
the group. I look forward to talking later about lessons we’ve learned, and how they may help you grow.
But ﬁrst I want to talk about my latest area of interest in the IoT, one that I believe can truly transform corporations: the IoT-Data Centric Enterprise.
more to the
IoT than cool
Don’t get me wrong: I love the incredible things established companies and start-ups alike have been able to create using the Internet of Things. They are already
creating proﬁts, satisfying customers, and changing our lives.
But I do wonder: does our focus on the speciﬁcs of IoT technology blind us to its larger potential impact?
What About Real
I’d like to talk with you today about a more inclusive, far-reaching transformation in every aspect of business that the IoT makes possible.
IoT Data as
Hub of Cyclical Enterprise!
That is the concept of real-time IoT data, shared instantly by all who need it, as the hub of a cyclical enterprise. Let me explain…
Tech Limits Dictated
In the past, technological limits dictated the kinds of possible organizational styles — and how we made things.
Hierarchical and Linear
What little data was available about operations and products was fragmentary, usually gathered after the fact, and of limited use. That dictated both company
organization and manufacturing styles.
Companies were hierarchical, because managers controlled distribution of what data was available, on a top-down and need-to-know basis. Typically, one department
would analyze data based on its area of expertise and decision-making, then pass it along to the next department, whose purview would be similarly limited.
Manufacturing was linear, as typiﬁed by this photo of Ford’s massive 1.6 x 1 mile River Rouge plant, where iron ore was unloaded at one end, and ﬁnished cars emerged
from the other. Similarly, the supply chain and distribution network were also linear, ultimately ending with sale of the product. After the customer took control, heaven
knows what happened to the product. We could only guess.
Now: Instant Sharing of
by Everyone Who Need It Changes All!
Today, with the IoT, those historical limits can be repealed.
Instead, massive lakes of structured and unstructured data gathered by sensors in manufacturing equipment, massive earth movers in the ﬁeld, appliances in our homes,
and even ones in our digestive tracts that we swallow, allow everyone who needs that data to improve their work and decision making to instantly share that data.
That changes everything, and, I think, constitutes the real IoT revolution.
• Needed to save
planet: no more
• Restorative or
intention & design
• But how?
This also calls for a new model both for the economy as a whole, and for corporations speciﬁcally, that is no longer hierarchical and/or linear.
I believe there is such a model, gaining support in environmental circles, especially in Europe, and with leading consultants such as Accenture and McKinsey: the circular
It’s not only advantageous for companies, but also essential to survival of the planet, which can no longer aﬀord the “take-make-dispose” model of the old linear
approach. We have to reduce our extraction of raw materials and our energy use, especially of fossil fuels, and recover materials rather than junk them.
But how to create this proﬁtable, sustainable economy?
Data as Hub
The key — and something that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the writings on the circular economy model — is to place IoT data right at the middle — the hub —
of the economy as a whole, and individual companies as well. Everything we do can, and must, revolve around this data.
The results will transform every aspect of business.
• Departments don’t work in isolation.
• Share data.
• Address issues simultaneously.
• Synergistic solutions, ﬁnd problems early.
Most important, it will place collaboration foremost, not only within individual companies, but also externally.
That is a dramatic change from the past, zero-sum approach, in which knowledge you had and I didn’t, made you a winner, and me a loser — and made collaboration
something only chumps would pursue.
Now, the ability I mentioned previously, for everyone who needs it to instantly share real-time data, makes collaboration the winner’s approach.
What will that mean for companies?
First, it will mean that departments will no longer get data sequentially and manage their functions and make their decisions in isolation. Instead of that linear approach,
they will be able to jointly consider the data, eliminating many of the problems that came from working in isolation, especially since so many decisions are
interdependent. For example, now that so many products can be monitored after the sale, both the marketers and designers can discuss whether this requires synergistic
solutions that are now possible, such as leasing products instead of selling them, and/or providing software upgrades over time that may cut replacement sales but breed
customer satisfaction and create new revenue streams such as selling the operating data to the customer.
• Every aspect of
• just-in-time supply
chain & distribution.
Making IoT data the hub for the circular economy will also lead to unprecedented precision in many areas, boosting eﬃciency and proﬁts while reducing environmental
What passed for “just-in-time” supply chains in the past was really just a lucky guess: the data simply wasn’t accurate enough to ensure we got just what we needed, just
when we needed it. Now, data will transmit M2M, and resupply will be triggered automatically, without human intervention. Nearby suppliers, rather than those half-a-
world away, will have resurgence, because real-time delivery will trump lower labor costs.
Siemens’ “factory of the future,” shown here, where they make 950 diﬀerent products with only about 15 defects per million and has a 99% reliability rate, will be
commonplace. GE’s Durathon factory, where the same sensors in every battery that monitor their operation in the ﬁeld can also identify defects in the manufacturing
process, will provide a continuum of data throughout the life cycle.
• Restocking will
• Customers will
offers based on
The same will be true for distribution and sales.
This smart vending machine from SAP will not only greet those who opt-in by name with personalized oﬀerings based on their preferences, but also shares the real-time
data on purchases with a company’s logistics operations, so that, using M2M controls, a delivery truck can be automatically rerouted, without human intervention, to
prioritize restocking at machines where weather data or other data indicates the need is greatest.
Revolution in Product Design
• Products more tech
• Customers may be last
step in product design.
• Rapid design cycles
because of product
Perhaps no aspect of corporate operations will be as radically aﬀected as product design.
Products will require less “stuﬀ” to manufacture and operate because technology will replace prior mechanical components. Perhaps no example is so dramatic as the
AliveCor ECG monitor, which replaces a costly in-hospital machine that can only be operated by experts, with this tiny panel that ﬁts on the back of an iPhone, can be
operated by anyone, and produces an accurate ECG in only 30 seconds, as tested and approved by the FDA.
Customers may even be the last component of the process, because they will be able to choose between built-in alternatives governing factors such as comfort or
As GE is already showing, in this data-centric world, real-time feedback on how customers actually use the products can isolate potential problems and/or opportunities,
making it easier and quicker to design upgrades.
No Loose Ends
• Use systems
thinking & tools
In every aspect of the economy, understanding of systems dynamics will become a critical part of thinking when companies are IoT-data centric. Using modeling
software such as STELLA, companies will simulate all of their processes, to identify dead-ends, where data ﬂows one way. Instead, the processes will be altered so that
all are cyclical, in which continuous loops allow this new-found information from how things actually function to inform every aspect of corporate operations and create
real understanding for the ﬁrst time.
• User Economy: fewer
products, more use.
• Products upgraded,
Equally important, the IoT-data centric circular enterprise will be a win-win solution, not only building proﬁtability and customer satisfaction, but also reducing
It will facilitate the Millennial-led transition to a “User Economy,” in which owning things is no longer as important as the ability to obtain and use them. Leasing will
become more important, and the revenues lost in sales will be replaced by ones from add-on services.
Products, because they will be increasingly electronic, will be upgraded through new software, reducing the need to replace them to enjoy the latest beneﬁts. And, when
they are ﬁnally no longer used, the built-in sensors will encourage recycling and re-manufacturing.
•collaborative decision making
•products that delight customers
•new economic models
•a cleaner planet
So there you have it: my vision of the rapidly-emerging circular economy, with its hub being real-time Internet of Things data.
It is a vision that capitalizes on the never-before possible opportunity to peer within things of all sorts and learn about their operations and status.
Acting on that data, we can:
* design self-regulating processes to ﬁne-tune parts of a complex system base on feedback from other parts of the system. This will lead to unprecedented precision.
*improve product design through feedback on how the products actually function in operation.
*improve daily operations and decision-making by allowing real-time sharing of important data by all who need it, leading to unprecedented collaboration.
*products that delight customers using feedback data on what they like and don’t like, and leading to more frequent, and targeted, upgrades.
*new economic models that substitute services for sales.
*and, ﬁnally, a cleaner planet.
The Internet of Things is far more than cool new devices. It is an engine for fundamental economic change!
For Further Information:
W. David Stephenson
335 Main Street, Medﬁeld, MA 02052 USA