The Internet of Things (IoT) will help society do more with less,
drive efficiencies, and light a fire under economic growth, but concerns around change-averse
industries and user privacy may delay that promise.
That was the take-away from a World Affairs Council panel
held at Cadence May 7. The sold-out event featured executives from GE, ARM,
eBay, and Cisco and was moderated by Aleecia McDonald, director of Privacy at
Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society. (Right, from L-R, panelists Stephen Pattison, ARM; Katherine Butler, GE Software; Guido Jouret, Cisco; Steve Yankovich, eBay; moderator Aleecia McDonald, Stanford)
"I think this is going to be a new industrial
revolution," said Stephen Pattison, vice president of Public Affairs with
ARM. "If we get IoT right, it will unleash economic growth and embrace
whole swathes of people all over the world, creating jobs, delivering services,
making lives better for everyone."
Guido Jouret, vice president and general manager of Cisco's
IoT Group, teed up the potential that comes with billions of new connected
devices--27 billion of them in the next few years.
Today, about one percent of devices with electrical connections
are connected to a network. By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more energy,
and half the planet won't have access to clean drinking water. Half of all food
is wasted or rots, he added.
"We know that the answers are not 'let's grow more
food or find more water.' We have to take advantage of the infrastructures we
have today, and one of the ways to do that is by connecting the
Pattison said one aspect of IoT--the industrial
Internet--has "enormous relevance for the future," especially the
prospect of repatriating manufacturing to countries and regions that have lost
that to lower-cost areas.
"Once you get IoT in manufacturing, that whole dynamic
changes," he said. Factories can be remotely managed and don't have to
make the same thing day in and day out, he noted.
But where some industries stand to benefit enormously from
IoT technology, others may actively hinder its growth and adoption.
For example, "The medical environment has done a great
job resisting change," Jouret said. "It's all about expert knows
best. 'Just take (our) advice.'"
Technology isn't the major challenge to the growth of IoT,
although there are some areas of improvement, notably algorithms and artificial
intelligence, according to McDonald, who noted that AI has for decades been
called the technology for "20 years from now."
Jouret acknowledged that while algorithms today aren't as
robust as they should or will be, systems benefit from massive amounts of
"The weakness in the algorithms has, to some extent,
been offset by the richness in the data. Brute force Big Data approaches
provide pretty good results," he said.
Jouret cited Google Translate as example of an AI-driven
application that's not perfect but works for many users.
Panelists generally agreed that the industrial applications
for IoT will surge much faster than consumer applications because the business
models--and efficiency gains--will be compelling. In addition, the privacy
concerns are less.
But privacy will play some role in industrial applications
and for more consumer-facing uses it threatens to stall growth, the panelists
Said Katherine Butler, general counsel with GE Software:
"A lot of IoT
will get built out by industries. The front end of that on the consumer side is
one that needs a different debate. It should not just be the application of the
technology without a thoughtful discussion, and we're going to absolutely have
to do that on the consumer side so people do understand what's happening with
their personal data."
Pattison went further, saying that even devices in the
industrial space need to be considered:
"The IoT will
surround you with objects that stream data. Sensors won't have user interfaces
and it'll be harder to set permissions for where the data is going and how it's going to be used. So unless we get a framework for how we handle data, we run the
risk of more freak events...and debates that head off course and to some extent
holds up this future development."
He called for "more sensible, measured debate"
that involves a variety of stakeholders who establish a framework in which
consumers can feel confident about how
their data is handled. And this needs to be led by industry, he added.
But IoT technologies empower people and hold the promise of
changing the relationship between doctor and patient.
Steve Yankovich, vice president of Innovation and New
Ventures at eBay, used a crowd-sourcing example and concerns about privacy.
What if a patient with heart trouble was perfectly willing to share data among
a group of patients with similar conditions to crowd-source his own treatment?
"If you think it's going to help save your life, you're
going to let your data go," he said.
On the other hand, in response to an audience question about
whether we can ever hope to wrestle back control of our data from companies,
Yankovich offered a different example: The connected home. Today's vision sees
various consumer appliances connecting
to the cloud to manage energy or order goods to replenish, say, refrigerator
stores. But we could architect the smart home such that it's a walled garden
and only specific requests leave its confines, he argued.
"The algorithms and business logic stays in the
home," he said. "'What you can do for me' is all that leaves the
--Embedded World 2014: Confronting IoT, Automotive, and Security Challenges in Electronics Design