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Vecna and Ants Have a Lot in Common With the Internet of Thingsby@gumiandcompany
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Vecna and Ants Have a Lot in Common With the Internet of Things

by Gumi and CompanyFebruary 24th, 2023
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Whatever ideological persuasion resonates most with you, whether the biblical Tower of Babel story; biological - where plants and animals in nature transmit signals and act in synch towards a common purpose; pop-culture; or day-to-day observations of ants going about their work-life balance; a wide number of examples exist to hit the reader’s head with a figurative stick as to what IoT is fundamentally about and how shockingly effective environments where ‘everything is talking to every other thing at every point in time’ can be as a really great place for achieving positive business and social outcomes.
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Internet of Things (IoT) is really good mimicry


Why should an article about certainly high and possibly transcendent technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) start by stating familiar, easily observable ideas?


First is biomimicry, which in its basic definition is the emulation of the models, systems, and elements of nature in taking on human problems. Some examples of biomimicry can be found in aviation, architecture, technology and material design where for instance flight and physiological patterns of birds guide aircraft design.


Then you have ants, which are known for their hive mindsets in the way they exhibit swarm intelligence i.e., thinking in unison with each other, working together to solve complex problems and finding solutions to these problems.


There is also Stranger Things, the American science fiction television series created by the Duffer Brothers. For the four seasons Stranger Things has been on air, the teenage protagonists have battled a ‘great evil’ residing in an alternate dimension called ‘the upside down’. While the ‘great evil’ and ‘the upside down’ won’t be winning beauty or landscape design contests anytime soon, they certainly possess a great deal of durability and effectiveness that comes from the main villain, Vecna and the support villain, Mind Flayer having a most distinct ability called ‘hive mind’, which is built on synchronicity in connection, communication and control of all the elements in this compelling new world.



Illustration: Vecna refreshing its connection to its Internet of (evil) Things


The final easily retrievable example for getting into a discussion about IoT is the story of the Tower of Babel in the Jewish Bible or Tanakh. The mythical narrative is often presented as a way of explaining the origin of different languages spoken among different peoples of the world.


However, the other point in the story is that seemingly ancient people communicating with each other in the same language could attempt to carry out a project that could elevate them right to the front of God’s door knocker in the skies, and to quote parts of the story from the book of Genesis- “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves… The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them”


For the leader of an organization, what are the obvious threads linking the four examples?


It is that there is the opportunity to maximize what can be achieved in a system or organization when all the parts of a system are designed to connect seamlessly and actually communicate effectively towards a common purpose.


This probably holds true in all spheres of human endeavor, but the rest of this article explains how powerful these concepts are regarding the connection and communication among hardware and software systems within an organization.


Simply put, whatever ideological persuasion resonates most with you, whether the biblical Tower of Babel story; biological - where plants and animals in nature transmit signals and act in synch towards a common purpose; pop-culture; or day-to-day observations of ants going about their work-life balance; a wide number of examples exist to hit the reader’s head with a figurative stick as to what IoT is fundamentally about and how shockingly effective environments where ‘everything is talking to every other thing at every point in time’ can be as a really great place for achieving positive business and social outcomes.


How do we tie all of these into digital transformation?


In digital transformation parlance, the Internet of things describes objects equipped with sensors for transmitting and receiving signals, along with the ability to process signals being sent back and forth, all powered by the internet and software which make it convenient and seamless for these interconnected objects to communicate with each other.


The average 21st century organization that fits IoT smartly into its digitization equation has the potential to leverage the exponential possibilities of this technology in its operations.


As far as IoT is concerned, a simple representation of the digitization equation resembles something like employees distributed across different locations geographically or within the same building possessing connections via their hardware devices to other objects (IoT) among themselves and with external players such as customers, partners etc.


During the course of work and external service delivery, these interactions produce Big Data which can be stored and parsed via the Cloud, and which overtime can be used to create unique Artificial Intelligence that can be applied to solve complex problems...just like ants? Yes!


And the truth is the more an organization is set up to leverage every step of the above equation, the better positioned it is to optimize its possibilities for scale, scope and learning - thereby increasing the amount of value it can deliver as well as capture.


Furthermore, for organizations already some way into their digitization journey, investing in more digitization produces a value curve that grows rapidly in positive outcomes from the increase in IoT connections, the data analytics drawn from these connected devices and the quality of trained AI these improved connections offer. The larger the number of ants working in sync in the colony, the larger the hurdle they can take down.


Traditional companies and the status quo are going to be overwhelmed by organizations with advanced IoT and other digitization capabilities. For example, we in Gumi have discussed with smaller players in countries like Nigeria with terrible energy supply, how estate or industrial settlements can create an IoT stack to optimize allowable and integrated energy sources i.e., distribution companies, large diesel generators, mini-grids and solar setups, and to build systems that integrate these options into highly reliable and efficient energy delivery solutions.


If every home or unit within the residential or industrial settlement embeds smart metering, each one connected to other whilst sending status, performance and usage readings back and forth throughout the day, algorithms can be developed for pricing, monitoring, control and other decision making and predictions such as when equipment may fail or when usage peaks or drops, allowing the control office to maintain and regulate supply before power cuts or failure.


The aforementioned example is relatively small compared to a much larger energy use case like the American power grid where the integration of IoT, cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence has completely digitized the utility industry originally designed over a century ago by Edinson and Westinghouse. Here, the transformation of the 20th century power grid into a smart grid consisted of IoT led transformation in upgrading or replacing a multitude of devices to fully sensor the power generation and distribution value chain in a way that all devices now emit telemetry and can be remotely managed.


Additional sector use cases also bring to bear the possibilities of IoT. There is the potato farmer example found in the Digital Transformation text written by Siebel.


“A potato farmer in the Netherlands now runs one of the world’s most advanced potato farms because of IoT. Multiple types of sensors on his farm—monitoring things like soil nutrients, moisture levels, sunlight, temperature, and other factors—provide large amounts of valuable data, enabling the farmer to use his land more efficiently than other farms. By connecting every piece of the farming process through IoT, he knows exactly which parts of his land need more nutrients, where pests are eating leaves, or which plants are not getting enough sunlight. Equipped with these insights, the farmer can take the right actions to optimize his farm’s production”.


Many more examples exist at industrial scale, in healthcare for development interventions and in consumer IoT with notable examples such as smart watches, heart monitors, refrigerators and the car. The applicability of IoT is industry agnostic and every organization’s leader can and should begin to think about it from today, and in the final parts of this article, we begin to give advice on what to do going forward.


Looking forward, advice for companies on their IoT journey is grouped into two categories depending on current levels of digitization:


Category 1 - O wow! You have a long way to go, please get started


Category 2 - Here is how you can improve on what already works


What should organizations in category 1 do?


  1. Procure computers, mobile phones, internet service and start to phase out much loved, unnecessarily held on to analog and traditional business processes. This is simple advice but a staggering number, possibly up to 70% of ministries, departments and agencies in developing countries don’t even have the entry level hardware for IoT.


  1. Recruit data analytic capabilities into organizational operations to establish a framework that optimizes for what is relevant from what the newly connected devices are transmitting over the course of work and service delivery, how what is being transmitted can be disaggregated, and how can insights be drawn from all what is being transmitted into useful information for organizational processes and decision making.


What should organizations in category 2 do?


  1. Connect your communication-enabled devices to a purpose-built platform capable of receiving and analyzing data which can then be used to develop policy, customer applications, services, processes as well feed forward learnings to the beginning of the IoT loop.


  1. Invest in security, privacy and confidentiality infrastructure from the beginning as the IoT technology stack is being developed. Breaches in any of these areas can have adverse consequences for the organization and its stakeholders.


  1. Acquire 5G wireless communication capabilities as it provides the opportunity to move data at velocities great enough for accelerated decision-making


There is so much more for organizations to understand about the internet of things, first and foremost, generally and as it relates to them more specifically and what they can do.


The intention of this article is to lightly recenter thinking about IoT as part of the strategy, digitization discourse for leaders of organizations going into the new year, as they expectedly search for areas to thrive and maximize competitiveness.


A deeper and wider read can be found here in our earlier released knowledge paperwhere we conduct a deep dive not only into the internet of things but other exponential technologies.

Finally, readers can also engage us further by commenting or reaching out with questions. To also discover how we can help further your IoT capabilities or digitization agenda, please reach out to a Practice Director on [email protected].


Also published here.