Paul Brody recently left IBM, where he headed the mobile and Internet division, for consulting firm Ernst & Young. This week, Fortune profiled Brody, focusing on his advocacy for block-chain technology. Brody contends that this technology — which underpins Bitcoin — could be used to connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices by allowing these devices to communicate to each other directly, rather than via the cloud.
As an integration blogger, I should be for anything that eases data sharing. But this article chilled my enthusiasm because it includes the scariest sentence I’ve read in a long time:
“He expects that, just as the Internet made digital knowledge searchable and knowable …, the Internet of things will make physical information searchable and digital—with all the pros and cons that entails.”
Maybe I won’t get a FitBit after all.
This is the dark side of data sharing, integration and interoperability: When technology stops being a barrier, anyone can — and someone will — cross a line. That’s always been an issue, but the IoT couples the existing problems of the Internet — international and anonymous threats and attacks — with the ability to locate in real time a physical person or object. And, just as with the Internet, the technology is ahead of society’s ability to govern it.
Brody’s response is, as Fortune nicely puts it, unorthodox: He urges businesses to remake themselves in preparation for “a transparent and connected world that comes when everything is connected and your primary value is how you handle the data generated by your own and others’ businesses to build new services.”
He briefly discusses how that might work, but if I were a supply chain officer reading that, I’d be worried about opening up my supply chain to very real risks from terrorists or thieves.
Oh well. As the fictional heroine of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara, famously said, “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.”
She must have been an engineer, because she immediately dug in and dealt with the very real problem at hand — rebuilding.
Right now, the Internet of Things is also struggling with the opposite problem. Based on this reality, futurist Dale Evans foresees a very different future for the IoT if it continues on its current development path.
“With IoT, we are not taking full advantage of the Metcalfe effect where value increases exponentially as more things are connected,” he writes. “Instead, we are creating islands of technology. … When you combine fractured experiences with higher costs, it’s not long before people give up and go back to the old way.”
Who will be right? History indicates both will. So perhaps instead of debating which fate awaits the IoT, a better question would be how much the IoT will cost us as it evolves through both.
Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.