June 18, 2013

Part 1: From Smart to Brilliant: Connected Devices and the “Internet of Things”

You’ve probably seen some of the recent GE commercials that highlight machines and devices that are brilliant (seems just yesterday they were ‘smart’) and are being used to power product innovation solutions that bring value to healthcare, transportation, and a variety of other industries with problems that need solving.


The series is called ‘brilliant machines’ and it does a pretty good job of illustrating how machines, things, and devices can make a lot of different things in our lives better and more cost effective.

Before devices became brilliant or were deemed smart, as a race we’ve designed and built some pretty fascinating electro-mechanical solutions. Anyone who has seen a manufacturing line cranking out any sort of widget or food item that we touch or ingest every day can attest to this. So what makes devices smart…even brilliant? Fundamentally, size, cost and spectrum are fueling the education of our machines.

Continued advances in micro and nano scale electro-mechanical components, costs driven down by volume (thanks smart phones!) and spectrum being re-purposed by owners (thanks again smart phones and data demanding users!) to accommodate the ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Machine2Machine’ demand, are serving to create a new business ecosystem and user value chain that is increasingly impacting our lives in significant, beneficial ways.

There are other critical considerations, like power, but there are a variety of alternative approaches in the works involving more ecologically sound (solar, electrostatic/friction) yet practical ways to keep the machines turned on and reduce power demands. How will these increasingly independent and ubiquitous devices continue to evolve? Is there a future beyond brilliant?

We’ve given our machines fish. Next, we will teach them to fish. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, driven by increasingly sophisticated software, will make our devices ever more brilliant (enlightened?) in aggregate. Ultimately, if the resulting power is harnessed, the aggregate machine will help in orchestrating social change and the evolution of the human race. Pretty heady stuff, huh?

Before the end of the world as we know it, or, depending upon your view, the beginning of a more informed and intelligent approach to understanding our world and how to improve the time we spend on it, there are a number of pragmatic steps that can be taken to help fuel the revolution.

Stay tuned to our series on Smart Devices for thoughts on how to leverage existing data sets and devices to identify new business opportunities and build software products that make machines work for you and your users.