Internet of Everything

CoolTimeLife Podcast: Daylight Saving Time and Net 60 – Both Must Go

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Daylight Saving Time and Net 60 – Both Must Go. It explores some long standing anachronisms such as why keyboards still use QWERTY, and why companies take two months to pay suppliers? These are antiquated processes that we hang on to in the same way that our calendar still pays homage to Roman gods.

Twice a year, most of the world manually changes its clocks, meaning that no matter when you read this, no matter when that happens to be, you are no more than six months away from having to do it again. And you will also be reminded by your local fire chief to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. It’s ironic, really, that the time change that happens in the Fall does so now in November, a month whose name was given to us by the Romans, like all the other months, and which was originally the ninth month of the year, hence its name. Novem is Latin for nine or ninth.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how many things we hold onto despite living in a world of change. There are not many cultures in the world that still celebrate and worship the gods of Roman times. Countries now play host to a range of religions, yet we still hang on to the Roman and Norse names for months and days. Why do we stick with that? Tradition? It can’t be out of loyalty to the Roman gods. They haven’t been in favor for centuries.

Look at the keyboard of your computer or phone. It is still laid out in the QWERTY style of keys that has been around since typewriters first made their appearance in the late 1800s. This layout of keys is far from the most efficient. It was developed to prevent jamming of the letters, which used to be mounted on rods to strike an inked ribbon. The letter combinations that are most commonly used in English are spaced far apart to slow down the typists of the day. There is also an apocryphal story that points out that the word “typewriter” can be typed out using just the top row of keys, meaning that the typewriter salesmen of the day did not have to learn how to type to show off the product to customers. This fact, if true, has a direct echo in the world of commerce today, in the area of electric cars. Stories abound of old-school car salespeople burying their new battery-powered models far back on the lot, unwashed and unloved because they themselves cannot understand them and do not know how to sell them.

In all these cases – the continued use of Roman names, the continued use of the QWERTY keyboard and the reluctance to embrace green vehicles, these all point to that reluctance that is at the heart of change management, as well as to the fact that despite all the progress we have made, there are still some things we want to keep old school.

Look at the other item I mentioned earlier – the thing you’re supposed to attend to each time you change your clocks: the smoke and CO alarm. Most people still use the old-school smoke alarms – those white plastic pucks that say DO NOT PAINT in white on white letters that are impossible to read, and whose batteries always start to fail at 2:30 in the morning, depriving people everywhere of sleep thanks to their incessant chirping.

I did some research on why they tend to fail in the dead of night rather than at a more convenient time during the day. It has to do with the drop in air temperature that often happens in houses during the night, either because of the relative cool of a summer night, or the thermostat being programmed to drop a degree or two when everyone’s tucked in their beds. Whatever the cause, a quick drop of a degree or two is enough to trigger a smoke alarm whose detector has become faulty due to the failing electric current of expired batteries.

Anyhow, the point of that explanation was to say that this need no longer be the case. Smart detectors, connected by the Internet of Things, are now much better able to alert a homeowner and family members of a problem using a clear human voice, messaging to smartphones, and the intelligence of machine learning to distinguish between the heat variations that might happen during the cooking of a meal, versus a real problem. In other words, we might soon be coming to the end of an era where we no longer need a fire chief to remind us to change the batteries twice a year when the device can do it for us.

Time marches on, and innovation marches alongside. It might be viable to play devil’s advocate and state that not everyone in the world can afford an intelligent Internet of Things enabled detector for their homes. That might be true. But the same might have been said about cellphones and smartphones once. Yet imagery from the most desperately poor parts of the world, including African deserts and refugee camps, show people carrying smartphones. They have indeed become universal.

Can We Break Away from QWERTY?

So, did I write all this just to talk about smoke detectors? Not entirely. They represent the types of changes that could and should happen in the world but for some reason do not. Look once again at that QWERTY keyboard. Why do we still have it laid out like that? You don’t even need physical keys anymore. Keyboards could be entirely based on clear glass or on laser projections on a surface. Some already are. And these could be configured to arrange the letters in any way you want. Alphabetic order, vowels on the left, consonants on the right, your favorite letters grouped closely together.

And the argument that you need consistency so that all computers operate the same and that everyone can use them will not be an issue when I can download my personal preferred keyboard layout from the cloud and drop it into any device for as long as I want.

There is another argument that it would take too long to train people to change the way they type but given how quickly humans have learned how to use Facebook without any prior computer programming or data processing education, such a theory stands on shaky ground.

There are just some things that people cannot let go of due to comfort with the past that pushes stubbornly into the future.

Flex time, for example. How can you trust your employees to do work when they’re at home? Well, I for one, look at end results and the nature of the back and forth communication and I balance that against the reality that no one ever puts in a solid eight hours of work, even when they’re in the office. It’s not possible. If an employee must put the laundry in, or go to the gym, or go and pick up the kids from school, so be it. It’s the quality of the work that counts and by and large happier employees are more motivated to make that happen.

Lifelong learning is a similar challenge. It’s difficult for the powers that be to let go of the idea that the only good education is classroom style, when in fact, more can be gained from smaller courses delivered more frequently and delivered in accordance with the individual’s own learning style. And I say that as someone who has delivered classes for years. I welcome its demise, quite frankly.

Why Can’t Clocks Change Themselves?

Back to the clocks for a second. How many clocks do you have in your home, including your car, that you had to manually adjust when the clocks changed? You’ll have to do them all again in a few months, except, for those on your smartphone, computer, or connected to your smart devices. They will have changed themselves through their connection to the Internet of Things.

Now, imagine a world where every timepiece, not just domestic, but industrial, medical, you name it. Anywhere that we keep time – imagine the day when they are all connected to the Internet of Things. You say to me, “Are you suggesting that all these clocks will change themselves?”

Yes, and no. I am not suggesting all these clocks would simultaneously leap forward or backward an hour at the appointed date. That would be simply automating an antiquated process, the digital equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. No! I want to see the day when all clocks adopt a timekeeping system that eliminates the need for the one-hour leap entirely. If it can be proven that we need to adjust the clock at all – something I am still not entirely convinced of, since its reasoning seems to be solely one of economic convenience – if we still have to do it, then why not have all clocks adjust by one second per hour, or 20 seconds per day in some sort of leap second format? I know some devices rely on microsecond timing to keep machinery and medical equipment running perfectly – it might not be as easy as I make out, and surely someone has already thought of this and disposed of the idea. But I cannot believe that a global manual resetting of clocks is in any way more practical.

Imagine if things were the other way around. Imagine if there was no clock adjustment at all, we just lived with the seasons as they are, and someone came along and suggested that every home, factory, and hospital in the world should manually re-set every clock twice a year? It would not fly.

Net-60 Invoice Payment Needs to Die

And this brings me to a final idea connected to these earlier ones by time and tradition. The concept called Net 60. Anyone in small business soon discovers that if you want to do work with large companies, you will have to come face to face with the accounting department, and they do not always move comfortably into changing times.

You will discover that work done today, and invoiced at the end of the month, will then be processed over a 60-day period from the time of receipt of the invoice – a process that in total, from the time of work performed to the time of payment could be three months – longer if your own bank holds the cheque. This places the onus on the small business owner to hold onto enough money to live for three months before payment arrives.

Terms like net-30 or net-60 or even net-90 were put in place to protect the cash flow of large companies, helping them be sure they could cover their own costs and recoup their own receivables before paying off the help.  And to be sure, according to the Golden Rule, which reads “he who has the gold makes the rules,” such a policy has been the way of business for decades and it’s unlikely that any accounting department would be willing to change that up and expose their company to shorter-term financial risk any time soon.

Except for the following, maybe.

In this age, there is now a new alternative. Point of sale and remote payment systems like Square and PayPal mean that suppliers can get paid by customers immediately, securely, and directly without relying on clearing systems like banks or AP departments.

The giants may scoff at this, but what it means in terms of supply and demand, is that the best suppliers, with the best quality and the best price, will go to the best customers, being the ones who pay promptly, as in, within minutes, not months.

This, by extension, means that companies who stick with an antiquated cash flow system may find themselves committed to hiring and using secondary or lower quality suppliers. The best and brightest will have already paired up with equally-minded entrepreneurial companies.

It is said that people always drive into the future with their eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror. We hold on to traditions and procedures because that’s how it was back in the day. But next time you shop online, pay online, call for an Uber or connect to a Skype conference, think about what you’re doing and why you’re not doing it old-school.

Sometimes it makes sense to move forward into the future, and that means more than just adjusting your clock by 60 minutes in the Spring.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Daylight Saving Time and Net 60 – Both Must Go. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at stevenprentice.com/podcast.html

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The Internet of Everything and Africa

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My most recent article looks at the way that the connected technologies of the Internet of Everything are making changes in the lives and economiesof Africans, who have long struggled to keep pace amid war, poverty and difficult weather. I hope it is appropriate. I would love feedback (positive or negative) from people who lived in, or have lived in an African nation, and who perhaps have experienced change through technology.  Here is an excerpt:

Digital banking, for example, has freed workers in places such as Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Soweto, from the dangers of carrying cash through lawless areas, as well as allowing them easier and safer transfer of funds to relatives with lower remittance fees and the elimination of the need for physical travel. Cellphone-based banking has also cut down on corruption and illegal “dipping” made by employers. The dual benefit of cloud-based money transfer not only assists individuals in keeping their cash safe, but stands also to coax wary Africans from storing their savings under their mattresses – an amount estimated to be the equivalent of two billion dollars in South Africa alone. Additional funds feeding the banking sector hold the promise to trickle through to the establishment of stronger commercial sectors and social programs.

With the agricultural sector currently accounting for seventy percent of Africa’s total employment and thirty percent percent of its GDP, technological innovations in areas such as drought prediction, low-cost machinery for quickly draining flooded fields, smartphone apps that assist with the health of herd cattle, or point-of-sale transactions and supply chain management are the first steps towards growing the economies of African countries, moving them towards stability and greater competitiveness on the world stage.

To read the full article, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything and Corporate Life

July 17, 2014

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My seventh article looks at the way that corporations – business of any size – can leverage the technologies and processes within the Internet of Everything to learn more about employees’ hidden talents, and to tailor jobs and tasks more closely to their abilities.  Here is an excerpt:

How, for example, could a regional manager identify a great candidate who is both willing and able to take on a new and risky project? How might the skills required – leadership, comfort with risk, diligence, delegation, discipline – be truly demonstrated? Social media sites such as Facebook are natural places to discover such abilities, not through overt verbal job titles, but through actual real-life proof. For example, consider an employee who reveals on her Facebook site that she loves to scuba dive and is certified to teach scuba to others. The connection between the ability to lead people through risky behavior in this way might not show up on a traditional personality assessment or performance review, but it is evident in her real life activities.

How about those individuals who are natural communicators? The ones who, for whatever reason, everyone turns to in order to get things done? Not because they are workaholics, but because they have a natural ability to network, to put people in touch with other people, to move, shake and make things happen? Technology that identify these types of people as well as fostering the same types of connective behavior in others will strongly assist in breaking down silos and enhancing the productivity and profitability potential of a company or department.

To read the full article, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything and the Public Sector

July 10, 2014

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My sixth article looks at the way governments, or more precisely the public sector are taking advantage of the The Internet of Everything to deliver new services to its citizens. Here is an excerpt:

If you live in Chicago and you want to know when the street sweeper is coming around so you can move your car and avoid getting a ticket, well, there’s an app for that. It’s a simple yet elegant solution produced by one of an army of app developers that the city’s public service has engaged to capitalize on the ever-growing usefulness of the Internet of Everything, defined by Cisco as the juncture of people, process, data and things.

Traditionally the public sector has been maligned as a place and mindset that is far from the cutting edge, with bureaucracy and partisan politics dominating. But increasingly an opposite perspective can be seen. Given the enormity and variety of the responsibilities held by government, the constant scarcity of funds, combined with increased calls for transparency and accountability, the opportunities offered by the connected technologies of the Internet of Everything are both appealing and fiscally prudent.

To read the full article, please visit CloudTweaks here.

 

Money, Currency and the Internet of Everything

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My fifth article focuses on money, or at least virtual money, which is not only representative of the Internet of Everything, it also promises also to play a major role in the way things are bought and paid for.

Here is an excerpt:

In terms of the Internet of Everything, virtual currencies such as BitCoin allow for a wider range of actions that traditional banks find too costly to touch, and who make too expensive to use, such as micro-transactions. These small purchases may be the equivalent of a couple of cents, and would allow consumers, or their IoE-enabled possessions, to pay a small fee for to access a single news story on a news website, for example, removing the need for banner ads and other old-school monetization techniques, and allowing a greater sense of pay-as-you-go-only-for-what-you-need.

BitCoin is not the only virtual currency out there. In fact there are many dozens, if not hundreds of virtual currencies vying for market attention. BitCoin is only the most famous of the bunch – for now. But together they represent change, and a significant move toward decentralization and virtualization, just as cloud technologies are doing with big data.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything: Value at Stake Index

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My fourth article discusses the Value At Stake index, a calculation of the potential profits up for grabs for companies that embrace this third wave of Internet engagment. Here is an excerpt:

The potential for the range of the Internet of Everything is virtually infinite, with an expectation from some observers that up to 99% of the items people use, in life and business, will be connected within the next few years.

Along with such a far reaching vision of usage, comes an equally astronomical assessment of the profit potential for companies that embrace it. Cisco, which sits on the leading edge of the IoE frontier, incorporates this assessment as part of its overall Value Index, and puts its estimate in the form of a Value at Stake of $14.4 trillion worldwide over the next 10 years (2013-2022). That refers to net profit up for grabs.

The Cisco IoE Value Index combines survey data and third-party metrics on business and technology environmental factors to gauge IoE capabilities around the world. The Value at Stake component highlights the potential bottom-line value that can be created, or that will migrate among private-sector companies and industries, based on their ability to harness the Internet of Everything over the next decade. Cisco predicts that this IoE Value at Stake will be $14.4 trillion for companies and industries.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything: Invisibility in your Kitchen

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My third article discusses the ways in which the Internet of Everything can change one of the most intimate places in your home: your kitchen, and the challenges it faces to truly succeed there. Here is an excerpt:

What could be simpler than opening the fridge and grabbing yourself a snack? That’s the challenge for designers and engineers who are looking to bring the Internet of Everything into the kitchen. Eating food is based largely on sensations of hunger, an age-old instinct which is pretty difficult to ignore. As for preparing food, people either enjoy it or they hate it. Either way, when preparing to integrate a kitchen into the Internet of Everything sphere it is important to realize that the kitchen is an area where emotions rule, not facts.

People go to the kitchen when they are hungry. They meet in the kitchen during parties. Many take pride in cooking from recipes handed down through the generations. A kitchen is a hearth; it is a place for being human, and as such the often highly practical, yet overly logical inventions that have been designed for the kitchen over the decades face steep opposition from the simple fact that if it needs to be thought about, that’s one step too many.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything: Wearables

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My second article discusses wearables, the fascinating concept that clothings and other items that we can carry around without actually holding onto them, can connect to everything else. Here is an excerpt:

Imagine a hospital gown capable of reading a patient’s vital signs even during a walk to the washroom or around the grounds. Imagine military fatigues capable of detecting gunshots and allowing for split-second protective or retaliatory action against snipers. Imagine your next smartphone as a color-coordinated piece of jewelry mounted in your lapel or worn as a necklace allowing hands-free communication with your clients, your car and your home-delivery grocery list, or one that could transmit business contact information and up-to-date product website links to a prospect through a handshake.

These are just a few of the types of applications that fall under the category of wearables in the expanding universe of the Internet of Everything. They represent the next generation of Internet usage, following in the footsteps of Generation 1 (web pages and email), and Generation 2 (social media), in which technology is not merely placed on the physical body, but is in touch with dozens, hundreds or thousands of other devices, not just computers, through a wide range of networks, from traditional Wi-Fi through to a personal body area network connected, for example, to a heart and health monitor worn on the wrist.

Wearables are coming to the consumer and industrial markets quickly and from all directions, and analysts, both technical and financial, are expecting the total market value in this area to increase ten-fold – from $3-5 billion to $30-50 billion – over the next three to five years.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything – From the Ground Up

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My first article is an overview of the Internet of Everything, and is entitled The Internet Of Everything From The Ground Up. Here is an excerpt:

Traffic chaos in crowded city streets is largely the result of several thousand independent beings (i.e. vehicles and their drivers) all seeking a direct route to their own particular destinations in competition with each other. Every time they stop at a traffic light, to pay at a parking lot, to find a space or to merge into already congested traffic, the ripple effect travels backwards, holding up hundreds more. There is a direct similarity here to the time and productivity gridlock that occurred in business in the pre-IoE era: employees working in silos, on workstations with seat-license software, connected only by the still woefully inadequate and obstructionist technology called email, and meeting occasionally in boardrooms.

The magic of IoE for smart cities is the development of a larger-scale city-wide awareness in which IoE technologies transform the commuting individual into a component of a larger entity – one in which a car and a phone merge into an intelligent life-device and the city itself functions more as an organic being. Small cities such as San Carlos, California, and larger cities such as Barcelona and Amsterdam have started to roll out integrated traffic management systems as part of a city-wide embrace of IoE as an economic solution to high-density life. This ushers in a proactive solution to transit woes: an inoculation against the problem, rather than a Band-Aid upon it.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.