Monday, 22 September 2014

Internet of Things (IoT) versus Internet of Everything (IoE)

"Internet of Things" is a bourgeoning buzzword, but it's not really a new idea. Connecting home appliances and other non-technical "stuff" to a network to provide some level of remote monitoring and control has been around since people started worrying about whether they'd left the oven on at home.

But there is a broader picture here. "Things" are just one part of the mix that make up a value network - the network of things, data/information, people and processes which must all interact for some outcome to be achieved.

As per usual, IT focuses on the physical and takes the Internet of Things as the priority. Why? Because IT operates primarily in the world of the tangible. IT people like boxes and wires. They love to build stuff.

From the business perspective, the "Internet of People" and "Internet of Process" are of more interest. How do you get people to work together better to deliver desired outcomes? How do you get processes to flow across people/team/departments/suppliers/sites?

The truth behind it is that you can't have any one of these four without the others (without failing to gain any benefits):

Internet of Everything = 
  • Internet of Things
  • Internet of Information
  • Internet of People
  • Internet of Process

In order to achieve any business outcome, a network of all four must come into play. So, having a physical focus around "Internet of Things" will again prevent IT from grasping the full picture (the overarching business objective) and will keep IT people in a silo.

  • A toaster with an IP address is useless without a user. Utility is in the eye of the beholder.
  • The value of data/information is nil until it is moved/shared/used/stored/searched/updated by people, via things, as part of some defined or undefined process.
  • The official network of people within a business (quite often a hierarchy) is an oversimplification of the complex relationship network that actually supports the operation of the business. Communication usualyl happens via some device (thing) and is most likely part of a formal or ad-hoc process.
  • Processes draw together resources to deliver results. That means people, data and devices.

 Just like the term Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) needs to give way to Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to illustrate that the scope is broader than the physical device (e.g. data/apps are also being brought into the workplace) - the Internet of Things needs to be considered in the broader context of the Internet of Everything. Value networks disregard what type of nodes (devices, data points/sets, persons or processes) create the value. Any value network/system that doesn't take all four factors into account is likely to be ineffective.


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