Disruption and Innovation is all about thinking in terms of ‘What IF?!’ and ‘Why NOT’?! This is the universe that I live in. Building cultures of disruption and innovation around the globe. Always starting with the words ‘What IF?!’. That dialog goes a very long way towards change. Here is one example: In 2001 I asked the question: What IF we replace barcodes with RFID tags and completely change inventory, logistics, retail and awareness of everything at all times? That simple question started the change which brought RFID as the leading IoT element and enabler of Big Data…So, let’s start the dialog on What IF?!

What IF?! Rule number 1: When you ask the question ‘What IF?!…’ It will be unsettling to most, some will reject your idea immediately, more people will be skeptical and many will say it will not work. When you get this reaction, smile, breathe and know you are on the right track. Charge ahead!

The reality of IoT vs. the World of Connected Things: The same or different?

April 11, 2016


This week I had the pleasure to speak at the MIT Enterprise Forum annual conference on Connected Things. The MIT Media Center was buzzing with vibrant conversations about Connected Things, IoT, RFID, AR/VR, and more. Great debates everywhere! So here are some thoughts:

First off, let’s establish some ground rules:

  • 1.‘Connected World’ implies ‘things’ that are connected to ‘something’ via the Internet. There may or may not be any visible outward change (e.g., action, reaction, monitoring, outcome, or behavior) at the end point. Simply connected. Connected does not automatically imply connected with a purpose. Almost everything today is Internet-enabled, but that does NOT imply meaningful or intentional connectivity. What we are looking for is ‘mindfully connected things!”.
  • 2. The Internet of Things (IoT), on the other hand, generally implies intentional and meaningful connectivity with a purpose – goal-oriented connectivity with outcomes of consequence. For instance, sensors that provide accurate information which prompt specific decisions. There is (or ought to be) mindful intent in IoT. Over the next few months, let’s explore the nuances of IoT to gain a deeper understanding.

For starters, the top level of the landscape may look as though we have five different types of IoT:

A.Industrial IoT:
This is today’s large scale use case. Billions of end points connected to a gateway (or multiple gateways). Input is sent, data is analyzed and action takes place. This involves the larger world of sensors across any and all industries providing simple to complicated input. Algorithms can run on gateways nearby a cluster of devices or, depending on the complexity of a device, can at times run on the device itself. This process applies to the industrial economy, hence Industrial IoT. As an example, sensors in farms allow us to have an accurate read of water levels, humidity, and weather patterns. This information, in turn, enables us to allocate water dispersion in the most economical and effective manner, supporting the crop to generate the best results. The impact goes beyond profit – this chain of events from data to consequences enables farms to consume water efficiently and avoid wasting this often-scarce resource.

B.The large scale, intentional connected world:
This is when things connect to each other and often implies complexity. My GPS connects to my car – which connects to my mobile – which connects to many other devices and services. Imagine how wonderful and complex the world of driverless cars and delivery drones will be. Imagine the complexity of the connections and how mindful we are going to need to be to avail ourselves of this connection wisely. In other words, tons of pre-planning is called for, and this is what I call multi-dimensional (or complex) IoT. This involves complex and integrated interconnectivity leading to the truly connected world.

C. Predictive & Cognitive IoT:
Now things get exciting. Enough with monitoring. Let’s start predicting and optimizing based on the data we have obtained. For decades, we have massaged data to obtain information (often passive information using analytics) and we have not used that data to predict and improve future results. Repeatedly looking at the same data and results (e.g., graphs, analytics) only means that I see it over and over again! Now, instead of simply getting readings from farm sensors, what if we start predicting water utilization in the future based on many sources of data which we can obtain, aggregate, and analyze. What if we start optimizing to use even less water?! This gets us into the world of Cognitive or Predictive IoT. It involves looking at many complex sources of data at the same time, as well as knowing what to look at and how to predict what simple analytics cannot show us. Imagine the consequences in power, water and energy utilization! Think of the consequences in healthcare!

D. Machine learning (self learning systems):
We hear a lot about the multi-zettabytes of data that IoT is going to generate. Simply put, we are looking at billions of bytes and an exponentially growing amount of data that humans will not be able to look through and comprehend. Frankly, unless we start predicting and learning (in other words, changing how we look at data), one thing is for certain: we will be buried under the mountains of data! We need to design systems (algorithms) to start ‘trimming’ what we look at and when we look at- based on the importance and consequence of data and hand over a ton to machine learning. Merely collecting every piece of IoT data is not the solution. Knowing what, when and which data to collect is the essential element. When you are dealing with such huge volumes of data, this is much harder and critical. So let’s start noodling on this one! (Note: the term ‘machine learning’ elicits a lot of reaction about security hacks and other concerns, so more on this soon.)

E. Social IoT or Personalization of Data:
I often use IoT interchangeably with IoD (Internet of Data). Data is the final outcome of IoT. Data is not always going to emerge from a device; rather, sometimes it is going to be from you, the human. To take a simple example: I may pick up your heart rate from your Fitbit, but I also need to know your mood, your level of energy, what you ate, your general preferences, your DNA, and much more in order to use the heart rate in a meaningful way to make a consequential decision as a doctor. Another example (retail) has to do with the personalization of data, which refers to understanding you and all your preferences. Then I can be delighted by being presented with choices I love! Hence, I shop more! Hotels, banks, insurance companies, airlines, and retailers need to understand us better and know our preferences. This is essential in order to provide meaningful impact and be able to delight us, and hence increase sales. Think about why you may like AirBnB and Uber more so than your traditional hotel or taxi? All of this requires understanding you and your data. The ‘social you’! Some data come from devices, some from social data, and some which you will need to enter from many other sources.

All of the afore-mentioned elements are interconnected. We are still in the very early stages of IoT and enabling the industrial IoT and the Connected World. In a way, I think of IT to-date as the necessary infrastructure (scaffolding and plumbing) that prepared us for this massive explosion. Think of how critical cloud computing, mobile apps, and similar technologies are to enabling the connected world. In a sense, we spent the last few decades getting ready. Now we are ready. Now the key is for us do it right!

My parting thought: IoT is highly complex. It gives rise to our connected world, one in which I hope we are meaningfully connecting Things to the Internet with great purpose, outcome, and intent. A world in which we can always improve things – and improve everything!

There is much for us to unravel and I am delighted that finally we are ready for this amazing journey…

AR/VR Resistance. Why?

two business persons are developing a project using virtual reality goggles. the concept of technologies of the future

One thing is for sure: Anytime there is disruption, there is resistance. That is what we talk a lot about in my book ProVoke. I remember when I had my RFID Company (ConnecTerra Inc. in Cambridge, MA) and demonstrators were outside the doors because they thought RFID invaded their privacy (which of course it does not, as it requires a reader in the vicinity)! I also remember Google Glass not getting the warm reception it deserved because people simply resisted and reacted negatively. How dare we change the PC paradigm from a desktop setup to an eyeglass?! It will NEVER work!

First, let’s establish the baseline that resistance is the first reaction to any/all major technology disruption.

Second, often it is the case that a lack of proper information about the technology fuels this resistance. I have spoken to countless people who are very negative about AR/VR gear and yet have never actually tried one on! How can you dislike something or reject an idea if you have not experienced it?

And third, with time resistance gives way to adoption. AR/VR is one such case.

As someone who has tried almost all AR/VR gear on the market, I love the potential! Like any initial prototype, the form factor is clumsy, heavy, and awkward. Something from a sci-fi movie! But we are seeing the gear become lighter and more usable. In three years, I have seen remarkable change in the gear, user interface, clarity of the display, and ease of interaction.

Also, working in a truly three dimensional space is something new. After all, you are not looking at a two dimensional world, rather existing in a three dimensional world. So that takes a bit of getting used to. But once this happens, the magic is amazing! Imagine the possibilities in technology, healthcare, gaming, training, architecture, and much, much more…

Think about the very first portable laptop. More like the first portable big brick computer. Remember how heavy and awkward it was and how little it did for us? Remember the very first cell phone? Fast forward two decades and voilà! Look at your tiny mobile device that is an uber computer! Look at how not only the look and feel have changed, but how this technology has changed your life. AR/VR is on this road, so let’s embrace, not reject, it and imagine the possibilities together.

In my upcoming pieces, I want to talk with you about AR/VR, the connected-world, robotics, 3D printing and more, and how the two are merging beautifully. Stay tuned!

In my upcoming piece I want to talk to you about robotics and 3D printing and how the two are merging beautifully. Stay tuned!

Quantum disruption in IoT –>IoD!

Intel Capital Summit

Loved the crowd and atmosphere at the Intel Capital Annual Summit last month in San Diego. Here is the video where I discuss the future of our ‘data’ economy. IoT or Internet of Data as I call it, is not just about collecting and analyzing data, rather, it is about how to transform the data into ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS that can mindfully impact our world of tech and beyond… When we start thinking in terms of zetabytes of data… it is all about how to think in terms of actionable transformation of insights in our massive shared data economy…

QUANTUM DISRUPTION – Fully describes the theme of my talk at the Intel Capital Annual Summit in San Diego, CA yesterday! An explosive 15 minutes conversation around the mega disruption in the Internet of Data space, and how we need to mobilize for the far bigger disruption ahead than just IoT… Full video available in a week. Great post talk conversation with clients and it is exciting to see that we are now globally ready to look at, understand, respond to and consume data in a very different way than we have until now. That is the power of the emerging Internet of Data, IoD…More soon…

August 2015: I wanted to share the following with you. IoE: Internet of EVERYTHING! Last week at IDF when looking at connecting gaming consoles and games, we started calling it IoG (Internet of Gaming). Then of course we have the Internet of Devices and things in Industrial and commercial setting. And above all, IoE, deals with Data… No matter what the end point, devices, things, gaming, social, other DATA is the main element that is transported, transacted and reacted to in IoE. So, I think netting it out IoD, Internet of Data is much more appropriate as it is ultimately all about the data…

Speaking of IoT and IoE (Internet of Everything) where data is the key commodity of interest, let’s think about the objective. Often I hear folks talking about ‘Connecting’. Connecting is a one-way transaction and if it is from the end point to a gateway or to a central node, that is what we already have in digitally connected devices. So, what is hot there? The key focus is for us to achieve NOW-TIME IoT vs Real time IoT. The transformation that IoT will enable us is not to simply connect things but to create bidirectional communication highways between ‘things’, ‘anything’ and end points, and between end points and create an entire communicating ecosystem. All in now-time. This is key in what we I am calling ‘Experience-Based-IT’ and spoiler alert: You will be seeing a lot of this coming from IBM. So stay super-tuned!

Why does Now-Time matter? Why is bidirectional and multi-endpoint-communication critical? The entire impetus behind experience-based IT is to immediately and instantly reach you while you are interacting with the endpoint to ENHANCE your experience… So, if you are interacting with your hotel, and that requires tons of multi-node interactions, while you are connected in what I call the now-time-mode, you want to have your experience enhanced (and so does the hotel in question and any/all other endpoints) and that is exactly what they want. Why? Once your experience is enhanced, you will want to buy more, spend more money, you will love your interaction, propagate your experience through your social channels and that is the power of experience-based IT. Today all of your vendors are concerned about your experience! More on this soon… As we are living in the most vibrant moment in IT in the last several decades. Finally, when we can do things with data that we always dreamed about vs archiving and storing away in the vault and doing analysis so late that it no longer matters.

Experience-based IT in Cloud and IoT is a strong component of our vision at IBM. Stay tuned as there is much more to come….. Feel the buzz!

Two part series on the Washington Post discussing intimidation and finding your VOICE…Be part of the dialog! Participate to change the world! Take part in this critical dialog!

Funny looking woman speaking with a megaphone

2014 – Very excited to join IBM as Chief Innovation Officer, Cloud and Internet of Things. Great company and phenomenal journey ahead.

IBMWhy did I join IBM? My history with IoT: I have been fascinated by and engaged with the Internet of Things, IoT (Internet of humans, everything, whatever) for the last 17 years. First at BBN where we designed some of the first IoT applications for the military (realtime, critical). Second from 2001-2006 with my start-up ConnecTerra Inc. where we were one of the first players to connect, authenticate, communicate and enable RFID deployments for enterprise IT. Third between 2006-2014 where I have been engaged with start-ups and enterprises enabling true IoT. And now at IBM engaged in building the vision and strategy of the future of IoT. What we will be building and enabling will knock your socks off and this is why I have joined IBM. The emerging Internet of all things. To make the impossible–>possible. IoT is far beyond the world of connected things, rather it is the defining paradigm of future computing. More on this soon. So, IoT and I have had a long term close relationship, and what the future holds for us is nothing like what we have seen to-date. Totally stay tuned as we greatly look forward to collaborating with all of you! Hint: It is all about Intelligent IoT!

Here are a few of the specific reasons why I joined IBM:

1. There are very few companies in the world with the depth and breadth of the technical capability that IBM has across the board. Touching upon all aspects of computing and now rapidly evolving into cloud computing, IoT, cognitive computing and much more…

2. My passion with IoT: Wikipedia states RFID as one of the earliest instigators of IoT, leading to true big data. In 2000, I founded my company, ConnecTerra Inc, in Cambridge, MA where we built the platform to enable large scale RFID deployments, the authentication model and partnered with the MIT to enable large enterprise deployment of RFID. I am thrilled to see our great journey in IoT at IBM and how we will define, disrupt and lead the IoT innovation journey!

3. There are very few who have changed so many aspects of technology as we know it today over a period of 103 years. You also know that I have a passion for complexity. IBM knows complexity.

4. Right out of grad school I had the opportunity to work with extremely bright thinkers at BBN as we solved uber hard problems. I am thrilled to be working with extremely smart thinkers at IBM. This allows for constant learning and being challenged-which as you know I love! How can we disrupt without challenging status quo?

5. As you all know I am fascinated about not only bold (out of the box) and large scale innovation, but equally so about the timely and effective EXECUTION of innovation. At IBM, as we define and execute IoT, Cloud and many of the critical emerging technologies. We will be changing the world and enabling the impossible to become possible.

That is why I joined IBM! To be a part of changing our world. I hope to work with you during this most exciting journey.

As we discuss in Provoke…Are You Ready?

Praise for Linda’s book “ProVoke”:

Linda Bernardi, a successful tech entrepreneur, was not satisfied with only being one of the drivers in connecting data and analytics with physical devices through RFID. Ms. Bernardi saw the forest, not just the trees. She saw wave of new information technologies that would not only revolutionize the way that devices are built and used, but the very way in which innovation is practiced. Large scale, vertically integrated organizations were not capitalizing on the network of technologies and the rethinking they offered – instead, Linda saw the world as it was: big companies were stagnating. So she went a step further – she studied the root causes. Read the rest of the review….


Linda’s Passion, Story & DNA

Image credit via Flickr (Tsahi Levent-Levi)
Find out more about Linda’s Story and why she believes disruption is part of her DNA.


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