We are now experiencing a tsunami of information washing over us—over every single business and person—because we’re making more and more things connected and intelligent. For example, we already have smart cement for bridges and highways that can communicate when a repair is needed before there is a problem, and we have smart cars that can drive themselves. In addition, we will soon be putting biodegradable sensors in farmers’ fields to see how moist the soil is, and then we’ll have that information wirelessly communicated to a networked and intelligent irrigation system that will put the water only where it’s needed. These are just a few of the many current and near future examples.
By making so many things intelligent with embedded networked sensors, we can add intelligence to almost anything. And all of those sensors will continue to create rapidly increasing amounts of data.
But it goes beyond data creation and into the realm of something bigger called M2M (machine-to-machine) communication. And this is very different than just putting sensors on things and collecting data. In fact, it creates another tsunami of intelligent networked automation.
With M2M communication, one machine is talking to another and making decisions without a human intervening. How big is this? Over the last several years, the Chinese have built a city larger than Silicon Valley dedicated to machine-to-machine communication. They predict that within the next five years they’ll have a billion machines talking to each other, just within China alone.
Of course, they’re not the only ones doing this. In the United States and in every other country, we are beginning to get our machines talking to each other. So instead of having discreet and lonely siloed systems, we’re creating connected systems that can work more efficiently and effectively.
In other words, we’re giving our machines the ability to take all the connected data and talk to each other so they can make decisions without having to ask us. Here’s a simple example of machines making decisions on their own. You may have seen the television commercial for a new car where the person is backing out of the driveway and, unbeknownst to the driver, there’s a baby carriage in the way that he does not see. But the car senses something in the way and applies the brake without the driver initiating the stop.
Another simple example of M2M communications applies to energy use in your home. For example, sensors on your roof could sense that it’s a sunny day. The roof sensor is connected to the thermostat, and based on the data the thermostat receives, it automatically adjusts the inside temperature on the sunny side of the house and lowers the automatic shades before you do.
The applications of M2M communication and machines making decisions go way beyond these simple examples. Imagine having all of the airplanes flying over every country wirelessly communicating to each other—not to all of the pilots, but the planes themselves communicating to each other real time flying conditions such as temperature, humidity, wind direction, speed, and turbulence. Each plane can then better anticipate potential issues and help the pilots respond before there is a problem. Sound crazy? The plans are already in motion.
So we have many waves of the tsunami coming our way from various intelligent systems that are being developed. As more and more machines talk to each other and make decisions on their own, how we run our businesses and live our lives will dramatically transform.
At this point, you might want to ask yourself the following questions, as you might find some interesting answers. What machines need to be talking to each other and executing tasks that are not connected now? What sensors could we deploy that will provide real-time data and insights that will increase productivity and efficiency, as well as increase safety?