The Internet of Things and Social Media
By Ken Herron
Is social keeping global IoT adoption from its tipping point?
“CIoT (Consumer Internet of Things), IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), GIoT (Government Internet of Things)? If we have all of the technologies, what is really keeping IoT from taking off, right now, globally?”
I was asked this question recently over lunch by a smart engineer friend with a love for Thai food who works in Dubai. Without thinking, I answered, “Social IoT. Developers, manufacturers, operators, and governments need to implement the ‘last mile for IoT,’ the social layer of the Internet of Things. That is the missing piece.”
The last mile for IoT is Social IoT
So what is Social IoT? Social IoT is the ability for you to simply talk – meaning write or speak (think Natural Language Processing (NLP) and the explosion in Artificial Intelligence- (AI)-driven chat bots – to *any* of your smart, connected devices, and they back to you on *any* of the communications channels you use, without a dedicated, ecosystem-, device-, or maker-specific app.
Social IoT taps the communications channels – and their respective native web and mobile apps – you already have and use on your laptop, tablet, and phone. Depending on the time, location, and need, you may email, text, post on social networks, or chat on messaging apps. And depending on which country you happen to be in, those can be completely different channels. You may use Line in Japan, but use KakaoTalk in Korea and Hike in Brazil. And sometimes, it’s not by choice. The communications channel you rely on and use the most in one country (for me in Singapore, for example, it’s WhatsApp), can be illegal and/or blocked when you’re in another country (http://www.emirates247.com/business/technology/voip-including-skype-is-banned-in-uae-tra-2015-08-24-1.601231).
The magic of Social IoT is that it lets you the user control all of your different connected devices – including everything in your home and office from appliances to trash cans to locks. With a text, a tweet, or a WhatsApp, Social IoT gives you this control regardless of the technology’s ecosystem (iOS vs. Android), manufacturer (Huawei vs. Samsung), or brand.
Pick up your mobile. Go to your Contacts. What do you see? You see people. Social IoT allows you to now add your smart home, your connected car, and (sooner than you think) your smart city as contacts on your phone. With Social IoT, you can have a normal conversation with all of your different devices.
Because of the tech media’s recent focus on smart home technologies, there are some people who think IoT is justCIoT, but it has equally strong (i.e., compelling ROI) use cases for IIoT and GIoT.
Why does CIoT want Social IoT?
Smart homes. Connected cars. Wearables. These are all great examples of CIoT. Nothing against your bedroom, bathroom, or living room, but picture your kitchen. How many appliances do you have? A refrigerator; a conventional, convection, infrared, and/or microwave oven; a dishwasher; a coffee maker (or two…); an electric kettle; a mixer; a toaster; a food processor; a blender; and that’s not even including your smoke detector. What if you could talk to them? What if you could tell your refrigerator what groceries you wanted? What if your refrigerator could also tell you how much milk, eggs, and ice cream you have left, or even auto-order them from your favorite stores (taking advantage of the best weekly price offers and specials) for pick-up or delivery? WhatsApping your oven to pre-heat itself when you give in to that craving for your favorite frozen pizza at the supermarket, so it’s ready to go by the time you get home? That is the magic of Social IoT.
What do Orlando, Singapore, and Dubai have in common? They can all be hot. Very hot. I have friends who can now start their cars, and more importantly, their cars’ air conditioners with an app. With Social IoT, there is no need to download another app. With Social IoT, I can show off to my friends by tweeting my car to turn on the AC. That is the power of Social IoT.
CIoT also plays well with children, seniors, and animals. Your pre-schooler runs out of the schoolyard during recess? The teacher is instantly notified via text message. Your elderly mom has a fall. Her friends and neighbors can be instantly messaged on Facebook. Your prize puppy is being flown to you today from the breeder in Kentucky. Regular email updates on his “Fido Fitbit” show you he’s enjoying the flight. Those are the capabilities of Social IoT.
Why does IIoT need Social IoT?
There are people who work seriously dangerous jobs. Take mining for example. Mining requires working around machines and equipment that can kill you. But mining is one of the leaders in embracing Industry 4.0 (http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/manufacturings-next-act). Imagine you’re a miner. You’re likely now wearing a safety vest with a flashing red light that alerts you when you’re in a dangerous situation. With Social IoT, sensors in your vest can now trigger an instantly delivered message to your smartphone, your crew, and your supervisor to give you the why, the context for the flashing red light, telling you the specific danger you’re in. You’re approaching a machine you’ve not been trained for, you’ve entered an area where explosives are being used, or you’ve exceeded the number of safe working hours on your shift. Those are the accidents at work avoided by Social IoT.
Consider your average factory, filled with machines which require both supplies and maintenance. Profit maximization is achieved through downtime minimization. Social IoT enables both maintenance and supply chain management right out of a science fiction novel. Some examples? A machine can now order its own replacement parts so it never has to stop for a “refill.” Based on real-time diagnostics, all types of equipment, including elevators and escalators, can submit their own support tickets on Telegram for both repairs and preventive maintenance, sending the message to the nearest or next available engineering team. That is the improved productivity generated by Social IoT.
In April 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source from [treated] Detroit Water and Sewer Department water to the [untreated] Flint River. Officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the corrosive Flint River water, which caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the community’s water supply, causing extremely elevated levels of the heavy metal, causing lead contamination in 6,000-12,000 children.
Had the city of Flint simply published their water quality sensors’ daily readings on Facebook and Twitter (as cities publish their air quality sensors’ daily readings), city officials and residents would have been instantly alerted of the problem before it impacted a single child, or cost the US $300 billion (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/03/05/flint-water-crisis-could-cost-us-300-billion/81359834/). Those are the children’s lives and big money saved by Social IoT.
Why does GIoT require Social IoT?
From Jun, Spain (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-powers/jun-twitter-social-media_b_7102780.html) to Croatia’s Istria (https://www.shareistria.com/about), and from refugees to recycling, governments around the world are already making great use of social media, but Social IoT is also powering smart city initiatives around the world.
There isn’t a country in the world that is immune from the risks of natural and manmade disasters – threats of fires, storms, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes; virus outbreaks; and terror attacks. The SHOUT emergency broadcast system for mission-critical communications, from SAP and Unified Inbox (https://ideas.sap.com/D32172), allows city and national governments to instantly share messages out on email, SMS, social networks, messaging and chat apps, outdoor screens, websites, and even live TV news tickers. Large enterprises use SHOUT for two-way communications with employees during times of crisis like the March 2016 Belgian airport bombing. Social IoT saves people’s lives.
Why my grandfather would have loved Social IoT
What did Social IoT look like 30 years ago? Visiting my grandmother always felt like attending the trials for the Olympic stair-running team. Every time I visited, much to the relief of my grandfather, it was “Kenneth, go downstairs and see if the washer is done yet.” Growing up, *I* was the Social IoT between my grandmother and her washing machine, giving both (almost) real-time alerts and notifications, and taking actions based on verbal commands. I would run down two flights of stairs to see if the wheezing old washer had finished its wash cycle, breathlessly running back upstairs to accurately report back to Grandma Mimi.
Flash forward to my mother’s washing machine and dryer. Looking back at her then state-of-the-art Sears “Laundry Center,” it’s hard not to view it today as anything but dumb and dated. It had a buzzer to communicate when the wash cycle was finished. When I say buzzer, I mean a wake-the-dead, rattle the windows BLAAAAAAAT of a buzzer that could wake a sleeping baby the next house over.
It’s now 2016. We have the internet. We have wireless connectivity. We have our mobiles. We have a rapidly increasing number of smart devices. We have Social Media. And now we have Social IoT. I am not alone in expecting my next washing machine to be able to send me alerts and notification on my (ever-changing) choice of communications channels. I will happily pay a few dollars more to have my next washing machine to be able to communicate back and forth with me on WhatsApp, WeChat, SMS, or even a tweet, but that I will be able to simply communicate with all of my different appliances and devices at home, at work, in my car, and when I travel by sending them an email, text, message, or social network post.