Mark Skilton    Copyright 2019  ©

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Impact of combining IoT and A.I.





Professor Mark Skilton , Professor of Practice , Information Systems Management, Warwick Business School. Author of Palgrave International Books on Building the Digital Enterprise and Digital Ecosystems.

Dr Felix Hovsepian, Independent Consulting CTO,  Informatics and Computational Intelligence.




The term Internet of Things can be traced back to 1999 linking the new idea of RFID Radio Frequency Tags in the Retail Supply chain by Kevin Aston, an Engineering Director at Auto-ID Center and the ability to track and trace move of products across a wide area of a supply chain (1). By 2004 an article appeared in Scientific America titled “the Internet of Things” describing how principles that gave rise to the Internet where now leading to a new kind of network of everyday devices (2). The early definitions of IoT described a “mesh cloud of tags”(3) that could be used to attach objects to the internet, these where simple location data and identification information. It soon became apparent that more information and direct interaction could be a “game changer” transforming the way not just supply chains could be made more visible but “intelligence” could be embedded and customer and user experience radically altered by “Smart” devices and services.  


From Millions of PC, Billions of Mobile phones to Trillions of Things 

What drove this was a technology and consumer transformation from the PC and laptop era that had grown commercially from mid 1980’s to a peak of 300 million shipments worldwide by 2010 (4). Around 2013 the decline of PC shipments had been overtaken by Tablets and moved into the Mobile era of over 2.08 billion mobile smart phones by 2016 and predicted to reach 5 Billion by 2019 almost two thirds of the population of the planet or every adult (5,6,7).   Through advances in sensor miniaturization, an average smart phone has over ten types of sensors including Temperature, light, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, GPS, Camera visual recognition, voice recognition, Proximity sensor, piezoelectric atmosphere pressure to illustrate a few.    With wearables devices such as smart watches and health bands to advanced medical body sensors to connected cars, connected buildings there are now thousands of potentially different sensors monitoring, collecting, augmented and controlled everything.   We are today moving in the IoT era of trillions of connected objects, events and thing;  from an era of millions of PCs to billions of mobile phones to trillions of things.   While the forecast of 50 billion things connected by 2020 is forecast (8) it misses the point of the multiplier of connected data and events across billions of things. It is this massive growth in data traffic this will bring with it new connected experiences from “micro-location” assistants in retail store shopping, to precision self-driving cars to advanced robotics and virtual reality in medical theater operations, 3D printing to augmented gaming such as the “Pokémon Go” combining GPS, Visualization and social gaming.


Innovation in Digital Age

With the instrumenting and sensorisation of rooms, building and public spaces, it moves the connected experience from sitting in front of a PC web page or mobile screen to the “touch points” integrated directly into your personal journey. 
This “digital ecosystem” is evolving at a rapid pace, in order for the enterprise to stay competitive in a global environment it must innovate on a regular basis, because their competitors certainly will be.  
It is wise to remember that IoT things does not mean 'little' devices, they may very come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, one could consider robots that clean your room on their own, which are full of sensors and clever software to detect the landscape, as well as self-driving cars. 

The fundamental impact is only just becoming apparent; the internet of thing introduced a “feedback” loop so that products and objects can “always be connected”. This has a profound effect in how the lifecycle of a product can be realized but also how the relationship with companies, customers and society could change with the awareness of data , privacy and intelligence being “baked into” the smart product, loyalty programs or building and locations. Innovation brings with it new opportunities and challenges to  
New Trends in the way companies are leveraging connected devices and the Internet of Things.
The rise of connected industries and integrated supply chains are part of what has been described as the 4th Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum (9). This is where markets, services and people will become highly interconnected with a term called “cyber-physical systems CPS”  (10)  This is how digital data collected and embedded with things can be used to mimic and change the physical experiences and surroundings. Companies that have traditionally trading in the physical world will use IoT to instrument and change how their products, services, workforce and business processes and operating models will work in the future.


Here are three examples to illustrate:

Personalized living and lifestyle spaces: Your smart phone has a variety of sensors/hardware/software that enables it to determine where you are in the world, how fast and in which direction you are travelling, your biometrics, who you spoke to last and for how long, etc. All this data is collected and harvested to create a digital profile for you, which can be used for insurance purposes, for example to determine your health premium.



Buildings: Can use the data harvested from various kinds of sensors installed in specific well known places to create a digital model of the building/home. How many people arrived, left the building and have the ability to accurately record the time associated with these events. If the individuals also carry smart phones, the building may even be able to determine who it was. The building would also be able to determine an accurate model of the energy usage, based on who was in the building and the time of day. 



Smart Cities: this is where rubbish bins come equipped with sensors that inform the local authority that it is full and needs to be emptied.  Another example might be street lights that only activate when there is some movement in the region that they oversee; it can be smart in that it can activate a neighborhood around the moving object.

What are some of the hurdles impeding IoT innovation?





There needs to be a better definition for the term "Internet of Things", currently if you ask five people to describe what is meant by IoT you will receive at least four different answers. A current definition describes internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data (11). 
Its boundaries and purpose can often be mired in the technical bottom-up details when often difficulties are in the “generic” clarity of getting the generic point across in how IoT could improve health care costs optimization and through life asset maintenance to build energy cost management as real life cases and then to work back seeing the right scale of investment in local, regional and national levels and Public-Private Investments in Innovation to drive this. 



Technical expertise

IoT requires a skill set that is beyond that of a software developer, because it also requires an understanding of hardware and the integration of the two, which used often referred to as systems engineering. Systems engineers are required to have an understanding of systems issue such as system integration, safety, security, stability and maintainability of the system for decades to come.
Security and Standards 
IoT Security needs to be designed into any IoT system; it cannot be an optional extra, or something that is an afterthought. Moreover, IoT security is not only about cryptography or the adoption of certain protocols, but should be established with a system-wide viewpoint.
Much like security, standards cannot be retro-fitted into devices that are already in the field (marketplace).  We faced this horrible calamity when personal computers became wildly available in the marketplace and we needed to determine which component would operate properly with the existing system that we owned.  A good example might be that we purchased a PC and later wished to purchase a regular black & white printer, or video camera, or modem, only to discover that not all PC systems were capable of supporting all printers.  

Privacy and ethics

The huge harvesting of real time data and personal information will change the way we think about privacy and (cyber) security. Laws relating to the consent and use of personal data by companies and governments are being written as we speak. The examples of unprotected mobiles and sensors will become the new attack points for cyber threats, for example we are already beginning to see data breaches related to medical records, or the use of personal geolocation data without our implicit consent. 
This is especially pertinent where children are involved, we need to establish ethical and legal guidelines to protect the location of children in our society, if they can be monitored or discovered in webcams or augmented reality games. Another example might be the ethical use of our personal medical data, what can be revealed and what must remain private when such data is being used for the purposes of medical research. That is not to say such data will not be available for research purposes, but that we must establish appropriate regulation and legal protection to ensure that such data is properly managed and used with the consent of the individual. Clearly, such data is of benefit not just for the individual but society in general and the onus is upon us to ensure that that it is available for future research and innovation.


What can be done now to help lay the foundation for future innovation in IoT? 






A critical issue is investment in infrastructure and connectivity that is needed to connect a cost effective IoT network.  Samsung and SK Telecom in South Korea for example have recently announced the world first in a Nationwide  LoRWAN network investment to provide local area IoT networks for everyone connecting to this. Their investment of 100 Billion WON or 85 Billion US Dollars by the end of next year to build the infrastructure for this network capability fits the gap between expensive 4G mobile networks to local Wifi and NFC that lack range. The LoRWAN,  a Low energy wide area network standard enables larger scale sharing of low data payload data volumes that support IoT networks in locations and business and objects (12).   The vision of 5G is a real-time, ultralow latency high bandwidth capacity network that will establish the IoT as central to this experience, this and investments in connected nested modular architecture systems will be essential to realization of the foundations  for future innovations in IoT to be realized in the real world. 


From M2M Platforms to AI and “Reasoning machines”

A second foundation is to establish Vendors and partnerships that growth digital ecosystems of IoT in and across industries.  As seen with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) (13), companies such as GE, Intel, Bosh, Siemens to Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung and many other are starting to establish their own platforms of connected apps and devices for smart homes, cars, lifestyles and a range of services growing rapidly.  As this progress they will start to cross-over and integrate horizontally enabling IoT connected experiences that are truly universal in the near future.  
Many of these organizations are investing in "Machine to Machine" (M2M) automation where machines are able to communicate with other machines without the intervention of human beings.  There has been much effort places in the use of Artificial intelligence to create face recognition, speak recognition, Augmented and Virtual reality, the use of sensors will add an extra dimension to these effort and leads us down the path where it will be possible for machines to reason for themselves based on the information they gather from their environment. This information together with the knowledge/information they already possess will lead to the emergence of a truly intelligent entity the likes of which we have not seen to date. 



We need to educate people so they are fully aware of the choices they are about to make, the pros and cons of a given solution and whether that solution is even appropriate in their case. For example, in the case of the Smart Home, one pro might be that you are able to control the heating/AC while away from home; the cons might be that hackers may gain access to your home. The patterns that we all have with regard to our daily lives, will be captured by the smart home that may even also know your geo-location and your estimated arrival time, information that would be very useful for a potential burglar.



Developing students and IoT in education. 

The role of IoT is critical in education and is reflected in national programs. Examples like the Government of Finland IoT initiative see it as central to investing in the national interest and the development of Industrial crowd sourced consortia in IoT (14, 15) and the Helsinki IoT Studies (16) illustrate the great power of the IoT world that the next generation will grow into. A great example is student projects in robotics and in “smart greenhouses” where raspberry pi   devices and low cost heat, humidity and CO2 sensors are  used to build and teach principles of connected self-contained and sustainable systems and building of the future.   
Undergraduate, Masters and PhD programs are working on such projects right across the spectrum of computer science, engineering and business schools as well as sciences, medical and other disciplines because of the nature of the integration of IoT  across all these areas.  It is the source of Business Model innovation in being able to use sensors, massive big data and real time analytics to define how Machines and Humans will work together. The new business models we will see from companies and IT vendors will increasingly be based on IoT+A.I. and processes integrated into user experiences and smart intelligence objects and things.   This requires new ideas and skills to develop connected distributed and intelligent solutions. 
Distributed and concurrent systems were taught in a totally artificial setting, often using concepts from mathematics, however with the advent of real computing hardware at an affordable price means that students are now given the opportunity to build a real distributed system for themselves, and consequently are able to experience the various characteristics possessed by such systems that are typically absent from conventional computers used on an individual basis.



Creating awareness and curiosity about IoT is important as we enter the 4th Industrial Revolution of connected intelligence.   A paradox exists in that the more devices and people we connect the more personalized and specific experiences will be demanded by the consumers and rights to access and use of these digital ecosystems in the developed and developing world.   
This is the impact of the intelligence Internet of Things which will define the next era of business technology.  






1.    The Internet of Things  Thing, In the Real world, things matter more than ideas, Kevin Ashton, RFID Journal Jun 22  1999, 
2.    The Internet of Things, By Neil Gershenfeld, Raffi Krikorian and Danny Cohen on October 1, 2004   Scientific American 
3.    IoT  collection of articles 2016 - Wikipedia 
4.    PC Sales Bottoming Out  ,  Ranjit Atwai, Gartner Blog comment,  March 1  2016 
5.    Shipment forecast of tablets, laptops and desktop PCs worldwide from 2010 to 2019 (in million units), Statista 
6.    Number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2013 to 2019 (in billions), Statista 2013-2019 
7.    There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world, The Independent , 7 October 2014 , 
8.    "The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything" (PDF). Cisco. April 2011 Dave Evans. 
9.    The Fourth Industrial Revolution , by Klaus Schwab,  World Economic Forum 2015 
10.    Cyber Physical Systems  - Home page  NIST 
11.    "Internet of Things Global Standards Initiative" 2015  IoT-GSI Global Standards Initiative by the ITU 
12.    Samsung and SK Telecom to launch world’s first nationwide network for the Internet of Things in South Korea, Techcrunch, May 25 2016 
13.    Industrial Internet Consortium 
14.    The Internet of Things: Envision the Future in Finland
15.    IoT partners 
16.    Aalto University