By Marieta Goetz, Business Analyst and Researcher at ConVista Consulting.
Still grappling to get to grips with concepts like adaptive, agile, complexity and big data as challenges in the workplace, industries have to brace themselves for the next tsunami of change: the Internet of Everything (IoE). As companies are relooking at their strategies in the coming New Year, be aware of the disruption already under way. Very few industries, if any, will be left unchanged by IoE. The staggering predictions on the impact of IoE from the major industry players and research houses are generally difficult to grasp, says Marieta Goetz, Business Analyst and Researcher at ConVista Consulting.
Network giant, Cisco, predicts that IoE will create business opportunities of up to $14.4 trillion in private sector economic "value at stake" over the next 10 years. It is predicted that entire sectors in the economy will be re-engineered, resulting in new opportunities for visionary institutions, entrepreneurs and inventors, and the creative destruction of those that do not adapt their business models and value chains accordingly. The extreme complexity challenges of systemic innovation will require enormous cognitive efforts as people have to leave the comfort zones of their domain knowledge and industry silos. Companies and specialists will no longer work within the parameters of a brief. Instead, they will have to engage in continuous collective sense-making across various industries while working towards an emergent set of user requirements.
The Internet of Everything has been defined by Gartner as one of the top 10 Strategic Technologies of 2014. However, because of the systemic nature of the convergence of the physical world and cyber technologies, IoE should be seen as more than a technology. It is built on the intelligent connections among people, processes, data and things. It is not about these four dimensions in isolation, because it is at the intersection of all of these elements that the true power of IoE is realised. It has already quietly started reshaping the way we interact with our world, as Internet-enabled devices can sense their environment and communicate with each other and us, delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time, in the appropriate way.
As an emergent, complex techno-social system, the IoE promises to trigger a new industrial revolution. According to Dave Evans, Cisco's Chief Futurist, combining people, process, data and things, the exponential power of the Internet will allow us to create exponential responses to the extraordinary challenges faced by individuals, businesses and countries. Another futurist, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that the rate of this exponential change will mean that the 21st century will be equivalent to 20 000 years of progress at today's rate – about 1 000 times greater than the 20th century.
Dave Evans cautions us though: "When the history of IoE is written, its success or failure will be determined by answering one question: How did IoE benefit humanity? In the end, nothing else matters." Bill Gates (Microsoft co-founder) echoed this sentiment in his recent interview with the Financial Times: "Industries are only valuable to the degree they meet human needs." He commented that, whatever Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley's tech billionaires believe, the Internet is not going to save the world. His comments were made with regards to Zuckerberg and other tech giants' initiative, internet.org, to bring the Internet to five billion people not currently connected.The Internet of Everything cannot be all that it is promised to be or benefit all of humanity if it is not also the Internet for Everybody. We cannot leave the five billion unconnected people behind on this journey. The effort to grow global connectivity through the initiatives of internet.org, Google's Project Loon and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is therefore crucial. Technology, and the Internet will not necessarily provide a panacea to humanity's issues, but it can certainly help a long way towards it. We have already seen how cellphone connectivity has benefited rural Africa in supporting sustainable livelihoods, merely by the fact that people have access to critical information and the flow of money.
Industries across the board have to become part of the value constellation that works towards purposeful change for an inclusive global society. This new industrial revolution sparked by IoE is an opportunity to apply social transformational design for the good and not just to create more consumers to boost the flagging world economy. Let us use this opportunity to liberate us from the profit-hungry sins of our forefathers. Let us not wait until we retire to bestow philanthropy on the world, but let us make it part of our intent as we reshape our strategies for 2014 and beyond. It might be extremely idealistic, but within the spirit of the Madiba legacy, let us not only dream of a better world: let us work purposefully towards that change.
Marieta Goetz has a degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town and a Master's Degree (Cum Laude) in Information and Knowledge Management from the University of Stellenbosch. Her interests include systemic design thinking, visualisation and information technology for development. She is currently employed by ConVista Consulting as a Business Analyst and Researcher. Besides researching industry trends, she is also involved in the design of the visualisation aspects of business intelligence solutions, as well as the solution design of software as a service (SaaS) products.
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