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The IoT Ecosystem – A Beginner’s Guide for Benefiting from It

17 Dec

Last month I was at a panel discussion. The Topic was – “The Internet of Things; Leveraging Technologies in Business”. As I was thinking about what I would say to a room full of entrepreneurs, I came across a startling statistic – 87% of people in this world have not heard of the IoT!!! There bursts our collective IT/ Valley type bubble, which gets so wound up in the latest tech thing that it forgets to demystify even really applicable stuff to the real beneficiary!

I decided therefore to begin my talk with a very simple eco system clarification graphic – one that would explain to each of us our place in the Internet of Everything / Internet of Nouns whatever you want to call it. Here it is:

IoT Ecosystem


What it means is basically, that as Consumers, of course, our lives will be made easier due to the Internet of Things. But that happens in essentially 3 ways:

a) The environment becoming more efficient/ optimised/ user friendly and hopefully cheaper. Think smart cities; urban lighting i.e. street lights auto switch off; transport management including traffic congestion easing and smart parking; smart energy grids; city and waste management; agriculture produce optimisation… effect, the Gotham city of the future without Batman! 🙂


b) Better Health and Welfare – All the fitness meters and wearables will enable better quality healthcare for most of us; things like remote tracking for senior citizens; and better compliance and adherence in treatment administration. Not only that, security for kids/ adults/ everyone in fact will be much better with tracking devices and sensors.

c) Customization – What the plethora of things stuck on any and every monitor-able membrane will do, is enable micro modules of data – every action, behaviour, and even possibly thoughts and emotions will be tracked for everyone. This will enable better mapping of individuals (not just segments or clusters), thus making daily lives more efficient and easier. This is where the standard use cases of the thermostat enabled warm home before you enter from office (Google’s Nest acquisition); the pre-ordering fridge when eggs stock gets depleted (Whirlpool, Electrolux); the erstwhile Google Glass, and the pre determined shopping selections at retail play. This is also where much of the glamour and hype around the IoT exists – after all, the early adopters consumers will really be looking at these ‘cool/ quirky” gadgets to show their “with-it-ness”.


But when it comes to businesses, the interplay changes a bit.

Most of the thought leadership coming currently on this space is from businesses participating directly in the Internet of Things – these are (largely) technology or data type firms – and they could be either manufacturing devices (the last mile therefore); or operating in the standards and protocols arena – therefore providing the platforms for all to operate; or working on applications on and around the IoT; or be working with the data arising out of the petabytes of data (erstwhile BI/ Big Data processors).

In all these avatars, the companies are providing products and services directed related to creating, harnessing and delivering the Internet of Things – whether to other businesses, or to end consumers. Also, as in most modern technological playing grounds, everyone is collaborating with everyone else (or, well, should be!). There are large interdependencies, and companies have realized that it is better to work on their chunk of the whole. Cisco, IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon, Samsung and GE with their Industrial Internet are the primary large names that pop up when this category is discussed.

The balance of the businesses, will essentially participate in the Internet of Things to harness and derive the benefits it delivers. Hence, this is about exponentially bettered customer centricity – about really hyper personalized, context driven products and solutions. The insights gleaned from processing the oodles of data generated by all the sensors will enable one to one customer dialogue in a multi channel environment, and therefore real time, event based marketing and service to customers.

But also overall, the Internet of Things will create a smarter, more efficient Enterprise Eco System (that both kinds of businesses will benefit from).

Think more predictable weather conditions bettering disaster prevention; better Industrial Automation, Logistics, shop floor management and supply chains (including traffic/ fleet management); better utilities; better buying procedures; better infrastructure at lower costs!

What this really implies is that, beyond the hype, there is something in the IoT for everyone, the only thing to do is to figure out your place in that sun, and to be able to monetize it (if you are a business), or use it (as a consumer).

Viva IoT!


Is “Want” Enough? Thoughts Post Wimbledon

16 Jul

Food smorgasboard

I always seem to write posts after Wimbledon (this one was written when Murray delighted all of Britain). Probably because the Wimbledon weekend is always fun. This one was more so, as we had many social events with great food galore (see picture).

But, a few things stood out – Serena’s 38th Grand Slam at age 33, Sania’s first Wimbledon giving India her first ladies Wimbledon (and all the brouhaha over the BBC’s Hingis tweet), the other two Wimbledon Cups India won; and…….my daughter’s dance exam!

The dance exam gave us as many tears as maybe Muruguza shed in private – both for daughter, and parents! The deal was, that daughter felt she wasn’t prepared enough for it, and therefore wanted to skip the exam – we felt it was a milestone bringing a year’s work to a close, and we weren’t particularly worried about how well she had done in it, and so wanted her to just get it done with!

The daughter’s tears came, I figured, also from the fact that (like most of humanity), she doesn’t like mediocrity –


Cannot be coincidence that this year, most of the finalists Serena, Federer AND Djoker spoke about hard hard work – As Djokovic said, It’s about being on the court day in and day out – sometimes repetitive practice – that brings them to that one moment on the court.

Federer in his losing finalist speech said: “I do work very hard, but all the other guys do the same, so there’s no advantage….” Also, “That added a bit more pressure but these parts of matches you work all your life for. You envision yourself being on Centre Court in this tournament and holding this trophy. It’s a thrilling feeling.” Fortunately, for us, he is still “…hungry and motivated with playing….”

And Serena, ofcourse, has famously said:

serena luck quote

So, to me, the deal is:
a) It’s great to “want” – infact, “want” very often leads us to achieve more….
b) But, if want is either unrealistic (a two left feet person like me saying I will win a Dance Reality Show as an example), or unbacked by hard work, it’s going to be very very very demotivating….
c) Either way, Life will throw “evaluation” at you – tests/ exams/ quizzes/ interviews/ negotiation/ competition….you cannot skip these – they have to be taken, more so, if you “want” something really badly. And, given the reality of these evaluation, one may as well work hard to make sure one is mentally prepared to take them on – more so, when one knows evaluations are coming.
d) Also, it is good to feel fear before any evaluation – healthy fear makes one actually deliver well – so, it couples the “want” with “need”. BUt, the fear has to be conquered – and one just has to go ahead and “do” it!

This “want” being the mother of all syndrome is seen in corporate life too – unless you want something badly enough, and fight for it/ ask for it/ bargain for it; you don’t really get it — whether it is your promotion or a salary hike, a great deal from a vendor or partner in negotiation, a move to another role/ destination….As my old boss used to say – “Even a mother gives the crying baby more milk”

Now, the ONLY problem – how does one coach a just teenager on all these things?

As federer said at the end “Its how it goes….”

P.S: Her dance exam went quite well!

wimb final

Google’s Unification, IBM’s Smarter Planet; and Orwell’s 1984

17 May

So Google’s i/o conference was focused around Unification – one view across multiple devices/ collaboration/ convergence – call it what u may. I also read this really excellent article (highly recommend that you read it) at around the same time, which had the same concept – the programmable world.

This started around a decade ago when the smaller devices started talking to each other – I think probably the first avatar of this was Logitech’s universal remote – one remote that could operate most devices in the house. This was a truly good idea – took a real consumer problem and solved it.

Universal Remote

Then the devices started performing different functions – so your gaming console also became your internet screen, your TV also became your message receiving center, the radio enabled GPS etc.

The problem still was that you had bought different appliances as they got released for primarily different things – also, many a time the “secondary” function was not executed as well as the primary one, leading to a loss of user experience.

The big jump in this world of connectivity came when wireless came into its own. Made a network a reality.

The smartphone took all of this to the next level – and started gradually offering most of the potential applications from one screen. This also coincided with consumers becoming more and more addicted to the mobile screen – so it gelled well.

And ofcourse, now every appliance – many of them wearable (watches/ glasses) – is instantly sensing your movements – and telling the other what each is upto.

All very well, I’m sure. Apart from saving time and making everything easier, I see great uses in healthcare specially. GE is doing pioneering work in smart sensors and making huge savings in industrial production.

Big Brother

But I am reminded more and more of George Orwell and the Big Brother syndrome! Much like the “three stages of Winston Smith’s reintegration “There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance“, there are 3 stages to this process – connecting, talking and then …hacking? (Imagine one “unperson”, thanks to the “Miniplenty” data available, hacking at it– and oops – there goes your privacy, “Minitruth” or not!)

Ironically, Steve Jobs, who’s brilliant 1984 Superbowl ad for Mac – aimed at IBM as big brother won him such accolades, must be smiling up in heaven – he partially helped create one version of unification – only, in his case, all the world is one – as long as it is an Apple world!

The good news (maybe) is that there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. This degree of inter connectedness – or even a fraction of it – has yet to really manifest itself, and many a times hopes have been raised, only to be dashed to the ground again.

We’ll wait and watch – I don’t think it will take till 2084, but it certainly ain’t happening in 2014!

The Secret Sauce in a Start Up – Passion

11 Jan

One of the first things i did this year was join an aerobics class (yeah yeah, part of new year’s resolution – maybe soon to be broken! fingers crossed). I’ve been going to it for 6 days exactly (most days i am compelled to just hang my tongue out with fiercely pounding heart while the rest of the class is fiercely pounding away at the steppers!). But one thing that stands out as i look at Sapna, Nilima, Sujata, Katja, Niki, Monica, Gowra et al – all 12 of them – is – passion! This is a set of ladies more or less my age – doing very different things in life. The one thing that unites them is extreme dedication to their cause of fitness – they run through a steps of (to me) excruciating exercises every morning and do it really really passionately – u can see their “almost addiction” to the cause – they smile and LOVE the thrill of the challenges that the instructor sets them. The instructor Nirupama is another one who exemplifies passion – she actually makes notes on the routines she will carry out for the class that day – so its all planned….now me, in my ignorance somehow never ever imagined that one wd put in so much thought effort and dedication to what after all is a fitness class. Well, i was wrong, and how!

The analogy i could draw to my previous life really came through in a panel discussion i had spoken at a few weeks ago. My co panelists were Pramod Bhasin, the almost legendary founder & ex Chairman and CEO of Genpact, ex chairman of NASSCOM and a host of other bodies; and Gerard Rego, head of Ecosystem & Developer Experience at Nokia India and ex entrepreneur. The topic was innovation, and amongst various allied topics and discussions the one thread that came up again and again was exactly this – “passion”.
Asked repeatedly about – how did these people recruit/ what made them spot star performers/ did they prefer aptitude, skill or attitude etc etc — they just kept saying – its passion, and hunger that separates the rockstars from the “also-rans”. It was eerie almost – coz a long time ago in an interview, i’d said almost the same words about new recruits needing that special “glint in the eye”.

It’s true really, as most of us having started up and run companies (or for that matter even having been in sr. exec leadership positions) know – its ALL about the people. Most often, while you have a vision and a plan for your start-up, what you have most of all is determination – and its the same determination/ passion/ HUNGER that you look to build in your ecosystem – whether employess (when you can afford them), or partners. After all, it is impossible to have all skills necessary – and, more at a start-up than at others, you do need to exhibit multiple skills/ wear many different hats – from business development to technologist to people manager to cost accountant…yes, even the janitor! So, what helps you survive – its just the “can do” – the “i don’t know it, but i can for sure figure it out”, and also “i’d LOVE to figure it out”! attitude…

And this is what you need in your recruits — most employees join a start-up because they are tired of living structured lives in traditional organizations, and also because they want to have a chance at making extra-ordinary money with large amounts of work. This implies by default that there IS no definition of your work – you have to stand up, see possibilities and take on the onus to EXECUTE, you have to display “ownership” of your start-up — this comes only with passion and hunger and drive and commitment and LOTS of blood, sweat, toil and tears!

I think therefore that this is a personality type – its not qualities you see in everybody — but those who have it thrive on it – and just have enormous loads of fun. As i would repeatedly tell young analysts at my start up – yes, i know the work is hard; yes i know you havnt slept much in the last 48 hours; yes, i know the client is being unreasonable….but, a) you signed up for it and b) ask yourself – are you having FUN? That’s what it is all about — be passionate and have fun!

So, my biggest advice to folks wanting to start up companies is, do stuff you are passionate about, and more importantly, recruit people with passion! As an old professor once told me – “anything worth doing, is worth doing well!” …..Now, i only wish i can teach this lesson to my kids! sigh….