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In the IoT No One Can Hear You Scream

Maybe It's OK to Be Hostile

The IT department is a favored punching bag in any enterprise. This applies to that young kid who takes care of the computers for a small business and to that entire building over there with a couple hundred people for a large company.

IT is rigid. Imperious. Not helpful. Hostile. IT does things like make you change your password every few months, curbs your email storage, hands down the latest inflexible applications revs from on-high. IT has no clue about the real business going on here, and doesn't care. Ignorance and apathy are virtues over there.

And say a new word about, say, web services or cloud computing, and IT goes ballistic. They think you don't know what you're talking about. They laugh at your clueless temerity.

And so we go. The great divide continues. "Aligning business and IT" is one of the great canards of the past 30 years. Throw in semi-business talk like "compeititive advantage" or semi-tech talk like "seamless interoperability" and you are performing the absurdist dance well.

And now, we have the Internet of Things. The IoT. Sounds like The OC except more vacuous.

Scream if you want.

Taking Over
But in The IoT no one can hear you scream. Sensors are taking over. They don't care if you're hostile. They don't care if you yell at them. They do care, I suppose, if you don't deploy them, but that's a weird, existential question -so let's move along.

Criticisms abound in these early days of the IoT.

I saw an interesting tweet from XSockets guru Uffe Björlkand (@ulfblo) in Sweden saying he doesn't like the "half-duplex IoT." That just shows how early we are with this stuff.

Another friend, who writes about personal computers, told me the "IoT is bunch of crap," but slightly tempered that to "nothing good" will come of it when it falls into the hands of governments and other power mongers.

His last observation is prescient. It's quite easy to imagine Orwellian abuse of a sensor-laden world. I don't mean to sound like Diogenes, let alone modern conspiracy theorists, but I think it behooves us all to question the use of our relentlessly more powerful technology by those who would only use it to control people.

People should control Things, not the other way around.

Virtuous Hostility
Maybe IT had it right all along. Maybe human hostility's a virtue after all. A little questioning of the IoT is a good thing. Only then will both the IT and business sides understand fully what the IoT can do for them.

I fear the IoT's potential for control, and loathe its potential for bugging me with ceaseless promotion. Yet there not only technical people, but significant opinion from creative and artistic communities, that believe in the IoT's potential for good. I spoke with one of them, Rob Van Kranbenburg (@robvank) in Ghent, Belgium, earlier this week. I'll write up my thoughts on what he's doing soon.

Meanwhile, I think the IoT's ultimate benefits are going to be on a gargantuan scale, particularly in our use of energy. Smarter buildings, cities, grids, and nations. In a world in which several billion human beings remain stuck in sub-standard conditions, the IoT may be the big breakthrough.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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