Monday, 3 November 2014

IoT: 3C's of Internet of Things (aka Welcome to Industry 4.0!)

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel discussing IoT and UX at SMARTWEEK 2014 (Toronto) hosted at MaRS and UofT. (slides for Challenges of IoT and UX).  After the session I got a few questions & requests to expand on my 3x C's of IoT idea and I'm hoping this blog entry helps any similar questions...

(SMARTWEEK 2014 @ UofT Bahen & MaRS DD)
My take is slightly different from others like Google's Scott Jensen whose broken IoT into 3-layers: Discovery, Control and Co-ordination. (see his blog Deconstructing the IoT). I have strong influences from my RFID and controls experience (via now defunct Sybase RFID Anywhere) which worked with many hardware technologies like Passive, Active RFID tags, PLCs and Location Information Systems

I've seen the slow progression from very 'dumb' readers to today's 'smart' readers. I've seen original simplistic hardware readers which had to be directly connected to PCs and servers, become only *a part of* more expensive, complex programmable readers systems that had customer firmware, high powered CPUs and locale storage. Hardly recognizable from their more primitive predecessors. I've seen old 'dumb' readers become simply a component or plug-in for more powerful mobile devices that are connected with locale storage and run apps.

So here is my take on the 3C's of IoT devices...

(Slide 7 - IoT + UX challenges - SMARTWEEK 2014)

In my reverse pyramid, devices are quickly moving from individual, isolated direct Control devices and into Connected network of devices that are able to Cooperate and Coordinate. So to expand:
Level 1 - (Direct) Control - At the bottom of the pyramid, the devices work on their own and isolated. They can go through life on their own and interaction is necessitated directly between the user and the device. Your Toaster is a example of this, it's happy to fully function on it's own never knowing another toasted (or any other device) ever existed.
These devices are bottom of the ladder and aren't very smart at all.
Level 2 - Connected -The next level is a device that can communicate with other devices. (Unfortunately, at this point often the communication is uni-directional and more in a slave-master type of relationship.) Your Logitech Harmony remote is a example of this, as it's happy to tell your Blu-Ray Player, Receiver and TV what to do. Once you've gotten used to interacting with the single remote it's hard to imagine interacting with every single device one-at-a-time (like when you have to debug which device is not working properly!?!).
These devices are smarter as they have to know at some level to communicate to other devices.

Level 3 - Cooperation-Coordination - The 3rd and final level IoT is devices that work together for a common good. At this point the magic happens as suddenly the sum is greater than the parts. Beyond gains from simplification, new features and powers emerge from the 
gestalt/collective. For example BitCoins is much more powerful than a simple collection of electronic banking institutions. Your car cooperating with your house so you can seamlessly continue that conference call would be another use-case.

These devices are by far the smartest as they realize the untapped potential of co-operation.

Another great example of what Level 3Connected, Coordinated/Cooperating Smart Devices is Industry 4.0. Pioneering out of Germany and SAP is playing a part. 

In this 4th industrial revolution, Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) will interact with each other (aka Co-operate) and work together (aka Coordinate) to build and manufacture products in much more complex ways than we've ever seen before.

Below is a quick diagram that illustrates how far we've come since the Cincinnati slaughter house in 1870 to the next generation of CPS enabled factories. Ironically PLCs aren't even 50 years old yet!


So without talking about Machine/Artificial Intelligence, we are currently building the next generation of factories and other systems that have 'smart' devices that are Connected and Coordinating/Cooperating together to provide never seen before productivity. Isn't technology awesome!?!

I hope that helps clear things up...

Wayne Pau


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