It's Not the Internet of People Anymore

Nov. 4, 2016
Visionary Timothy Chou argues that all the technology we've been building for the Internet for the past 25 years is for the Internet of People. That has to change.

"I'm going to make a stunning observation," is how Timothy Chou, a visionary and leader in bringing enterprises to the cloud since 1999, in his keynote speech at IoT Emerge today. "Things are not people."

While that notion may seem spectacularly obvious, Chou stressed that the implications of it are profound. "Yeah, so you can buy a book from Amazon and process purchase orders or find people to hire over the Internet. But these applications are all basically assuming that it is a human at the other end. As I said this may not seem particularly insightful--people aren’t things and things aren’t people. So if we want to talk about the IoT we have to recognize that things are not people."

He went on to list five ways in which things are not people:

  1. There are way more things than people. At latest predictions about the IoT, there will be 100 times more connected things than the global population.
  2. Things can be where people cannot--at the bottom of a mineshaft, the middle of the Gobi Desert, even in your stomach.
  3. Things have a lot more things to say than people. A wind turbine, for example, has 500 sensors on it. "It has way more to say about air pressure, barometric pressure, and other conditions than any human would ever have to say," explained Chou.
  4. Things can say it more frequently--the data rates coming off of these new things are much faster than any of us can type.
  5. Things can be programmed. People cannot.

Bottom line? Our frame of reference needs to change from thinking that the only way that we could communicate with a machine was through a keyboard. "Merely taking the stuff that we are currently doing is trivial," stressed Chou. "Most machines today are pretty dumb. I've looked at a lot of them and not many have much computational power.

So he sees a whole new shift of technology underneath, including the use of some sort of advanced machine learning and borrowing from the world if artificial intelligence.

But people aren't there yet. "it's going to be the people building the machines that will be leading the charge," predicted Chou. "As they start to make their machines smarter, it will be an obvious path to connect them.

He went on to say that once your machine is connected to a computer, companies can now provide their customers with more assistance. "We are already starting to see this, in one case they are building equipment that connects up to locomotives. They pull a lot of data and learn from it and provide the operator with assistance, say, "speed up here, slow down there. improve fuel economy."

And that, he said, just leads to the realization that if you can assist someone in it, you can do it. And soon as you do it you can start shifting the biz model, and telling your customers, well you don’t need to own this anymore. I will manage everything for you.

"You can say, I don’t have to be in the compressor I can be in the air as a service business. As soon as you do that, the light bulb is on. If you are first to do that you can clean out your competition," stressed Chou. "All it takes is a couple leaders in a company to start moving things forward, they cannot afford to ignore this conversation."

IOT Institute is, like IndustryWeek, powered by Penton, an information services company.
About the Author

Karen Field | Group Content Director

Karen Field is Executive Director, Content for Penton’s new Internet of Things Initiative. She has 25+ years experience developing content for an audience of technical and business professionals and a reputation for challenging conventional thinking and taking a novel approach in the creation of world class editorial and conference programming.

Most recently she launched the Internet of Things Summit at the Embedded Systems Conference and has covered the emerging issues associated with the Internet of Things extensively for EE Times, EDN, and

Karen has a mechanical engineering degree and a master’s of business degree from the University of Minnesota and Boston University.

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