Internet of Things

How Big Companies Are Feeling Their Way into the Internet of Everything

(from left) David Kirkpatrick, Rob Chandhok, Dave Evans, Paul Rogers, Vijay Sankaran (photo: Asa Mathat)

(From left) David Kirkpatrick, Rob Chandhok, Dave Evans, Paul Rogers, Vijay Sankaran (photo: Asa Mathat)

The big players in technology seem to agree that the Internet of Everything (IoE) is a huge transition that will have an impact on many aspects of life, though they still see the shift from their own points of view—not yet with a single coherent vision.

That’s the takeaway from the opening panel at Thursday’s Techonomy Lab conference on IoE. On stage were Rob Chandhok of Qualcomm, Dave Evans of Cisco, Paul Rogers of General Electric, and Vijay Sankaran of Ford.

“It’s arguably the biggest technology transition of our lifetime,” said Evans—exponentially more impactful than the current Internet. Network speeds are shooting up, devices and sensors are getting smaller and smarter, storage is almost free. All of that will make smart technology ubiquitous and connected. “Imagine a low-cost sensor embedded in the lock on your home that can see your face and send it back through the cloud and decide to let you in based on face recognition,” Evans said. “We’re in for a wild ride.”

GE sees the development through an industrial lens, focused on the optimization of complex systems like railways and jet engines. Sensors in next-generation jet engines will anticipate a maintenance problem during flight, send that information to the ground crew, and automatically order the parts, so that when the plane lands, the problem can be fixed immediately. “Imagine no more maintenance-related delays,” Rogers said. The savings to airlines would be enormous.

Ford looks at the IoE in two ways: outside the car and inside the car. Outside, the car becomes a node in a person’s transportation network, which might include subways, trains, and planes, Sankaran told those assembled. If the system knows where you are and where you want to be, it can suggest the best combination of ways to get there based on real-time information about all the different modes of transportation.

Inside, a car becomes a smart, networked system that connects sound, visuals, and instruments to help the commuter be productive while driving.

Qualcomm, which makes chips that make devices smart, believes the IoE can’t be all about relatively simple devices sending all their information back to the cloud through super-fast networks. “If you have 2,000 networked things in your home, it would be more efficient to connect them to each other locally,” Chandhok said. “It’s pretty frustrating to hold your phone four inches away from your Nest (thermostat), and have them connect by going back out through the cloud somewhere and then back to your device.”

Certainly the rise of the IoE is making companies think differently about themselves. GE’s investment in building a software business is a case in point, Rogers said. “That’s very different for us,” he said. “We have to focus on the technology for making our products participate in something bigger. The leadership of the company is approaching this differently.”

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