Before the holiday and the end of 2013, I had the distinct honor of joining dozens of San Antonio CEOs and Texas CEO Magazine in spending an hour with Smart Grid Pioneer and author of The Advanced Smart Grid, Andres Carvallo. Why you might ask; if you know me professionally, you know that energy and innovations in the grid aren’t exactly my forte. Weeks ago, I bore witness to one of the most profound discussions of The Internet of Things and a visionary explanation of what it will mean to businesses.
What is The Internet of Things?
In the early days of the internet, long before people were concerned with privacy, photos revealing their party antics, and the persistence of an inappropriate tweet, we dreamed about the promise of omniscience. Imagine: the internet is one big database and therein is the potential to attain near sentience in knowing and automating your life. Seems a little troubling until you really realize the implications. One of the things that really bugs me about the internet, as an example, is that I rate movies on Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Facebook, and Flixter; independently of one another. In each experience, I rate movies to enhance my experience therein from that point on; to get recommendations, customization, etc. Why do I have to do it in a half dozen different places? The internet is one big database. And don’t conclude that the promise is that we should be able to simply rate once and be done: your experience on dating sites, events, with book recommendations, etc. would all be transformed because everything is connected. Knowing you like Batman and not Superman (god forbid) is a data point that correlates with your taste in so much more.
But that promise was never realized. The media grabbed hold of privacy concerns and tracking issues while businesses put up walled gardens, the likes of AOL, in which they could control, monetize, and leverage data about ourselves for their own purpose and profit. We got scared and the corporation got greedy.
Still, that idea, the promise, helps understand what’s possible when it comes to The Internet of Things.
Your fridge will tell you when to buy milk
Just as smartphones have forever connected you to the internet, increasingly every technology with a heartbeat has the same connection. And not just the obvious connections like that which you’re already experiencing with your TV, home audio, or even your car… your garage door, the windows, your glasses, dishwasher, swim goggles, football helmets, and certainly your thermostat are all being connected.
And built on that promise of the internet, those devices can know what the internet knows, track what the internet tracks, analyze with the power of big data, and enrich. That enrichment is the key; just as we dreamed of a day when the internet itself knew all of those things, imagine what the world will be like when just about everything we do, in life, knows. Imagine the implications in business.
Troubling, is that the reaction to this is not unlike that which we experienced with the internet. At CES this year, Maureen Ohlhausen, commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, warned, “Because interconnected devices collect and share large amounts of information, the tech industry must be sensitive. It’s crucial that companies act to safeguard the privacy of users in order not to give it a bad name.” Sounds like a slippery slope doesn’t it? Robert Pepper, VP of Global Technology Policy at Cisco, which reports that 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by next year, is pragmatic but prudent, “You have to bake in privacy and security from the beginning. When you have big data it requires big judgment. We have to think about building it in to give consumer the choice, control, and transparency.” Yet Bloomberg asks if The Internet of Things isn’t going to result in a “Horror Show.”
What was truly remarkable about Carvallo’s talk in San Antonio was not the future of The Internet of Things but in painting an strikingly similar technical picture of what I like to paint with regard to the future of marketing: that with all things connected, business has forever changed.
The light bulb going off
Andres Carvallo was a founder of Austin Energy so far more than being one of the industry’s foremost on our energy grid and the future of the smartgrid, he knows power and what’s involved in fostering efficiency therein.
“Smarter enterprise is the nonstop, on-demand redesign journey of the business models, processes, technologies, org structure, and applied human capital,” shared Carvallo during his talk, “to seamlessly blend existing and new standalone silo trends related to IoT into a more profitable business.”
Steven Collier, Vice President of Business Development at Milsoft Utility Solutions, shared last year in exploring the significance of technology in public power consumption, with Public Power Magazine and Hometown Connections, “Increasing complexities of operating a public power system in the 21st century require new solutions. New and emerging technologies can vastly improve economy, efficiency, productivity, reliability, sustainability and customer service. The benefits of these new technologies can far outweigh the costs, but it is crucial that you have a comprehensive technology integration plan in place that is based on open systems sharing data across multiple platforms from a variety of vendors. Only this will enable your utility to obtain the maximum benefits of each solution. In fact, it will amplify the total benefit, achieving a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.”
While CES has been full of exciting innovations and hesitant reservation about the interconnectedness of everything, the light bulb shines. “There’s a nice symmetry in smart light bulbs blazing the trail for the Internet of Things,” shares the Houston Chronicle’s Benny Evangelista. “When electric wires first appeared in homes in the early 20th century, the sole purpose was electric light. But inventors soon found other ways to use that wiring, giving rise to electric appliances like irons and vacuum cleaners.”
The light bulb went off for me in seeing the correlations between Andres’ talk, from the perspective of the technology and the CIO, with my own: when it comes to raising money, marketing, or understanding the role of search engines and big data in your organization, the bottom line is unequivocally that it’s all connected, and executives that hope to win, must think about the implications of everything, on everything.
“We can go everywhere from here,” Brian Bedrosian, senior director of wireless connectivity for Broadcom, shared with Evangelista. “There’s nothing that can’t be connected and there’s nothing that you can’t find some very simple use for to make it more pleasurable or make it an easier way of living your life.”
And your business
What the Internet and its Things Mean for Business
We talk a lot about Growth Hacking here and Steven Collier’s characterization of The Internet of Things, in discussing the implications in the power industry, is the very definition of growth hacking a business with a singular focus on growth; to paraphrase: Leveraging new and emerging technologies that vastly improve economy, efficiency, productivity, reliability, sustainability and customer service. The benefits of these new technologies can far outweigh the costs, but it is crucial that you have a comprehensive technology integration plan in place that is based on open systems sharing data across multiple platforms from a variety of vendors. Whoa.
Andres pointed out that promise of The Internet of Things, applied to the administration of your business, will transform business through:
- A smarter playbook
- Knowing your customer
- Leveraging social media
- Unleashing mobility
- Accelerating collaboration – embrace frememies
- Using analysis dashboards
- Embracing the cloud
- Automating everything possible
- Empowering employees and sharpening skills
Imagine, marketers, sitting in a room with CEOs, CTOs, and CIOs, listening to one of the leading technologists, the very type of individual with whom we’re constantly trying to explain (justify) how marketing really works these days, draw a correlation from The Internet of Things, to connected technologies, to that transformation of business. I was blown away. And in seeing that connection, between tech and marketing, between innovation and growth, I was reminded of Peter Drucker who said that the only things that matter in business are innovation and marketing; and here in this room in San Antonio, I witnessed it come together – not as the internet of things, but in our future with the internet of everything.