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Why smart everything is more exciting than the Internet of Things

Amar Babu
Amar BabuVice President and Chief Operating Officer, Asia Pacific at Lenovo
My priority is to drive the next phase of growth for Lenovo. I currently holds the title of Chief Operating Officer for Lenovo Asia Pacific and I am also the Chairman of Lenovo India. My focus is on product diversification, especially in smart, connected devices, while still maintaining the company's leadership in PCs. I was previously Managing Director of Lenovo India, during which time the subsidiary saw phenomenal growth in the PC market. Market share grew from 8.3% to 19.8% in less than a decade, and the company became a strong contender in the smartphone and tablet categories.

Follow me on Twitter @abrk

Originally published on LinkedIn

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a firmly-established concept. The numbers are large and compelling: Gartner quotes 20 billion connected devices by 2020. As an organisational leader, it’s important that you think about what the IoT actually means: new opportunities, businesses and organisations not yet imagined. Ideas will come from unexpected directions and challenge the way you go to market.

For me, the IoT points to something even more enticing: the concept of “smart everything.”

Data and insights will flow from connecting billions of sensors from the ground to space, from human bodies to domestic appliances. (You may have heard of self-styled human cyborg Dr Kevin Warwick, who has been turning on lights and opening doors with an implanted silicon chip transponder since 1998.)

When things become smart,they deliver new ways to create customer experiences and add value across organisations and supply chains. New categories of smart entrepreneurs and businesses will arise as IoT progresses, and major economic benefits will follow.

Getting smart in Asia-Pacific

The implications for emerging economies and key markets across Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia are profound. Interconnected smart devices will assist with better, and more cost-efficient, remote health care benefits into rural areas. Governments are also playing their part. For example, a new government and industry partnership in Malaysia is looking to drive digital healthcare benefits using the IoT in areas that include telehealth, smart access, and remote patient monitoring. Meanwhile, countries with aging populations like Singapore are today exploring new ways to deliver smarter services via consumer wearable devices and smart home products.

In July, India opened its first Centre of Excellence (CoE) for IoT. This public sector and private enterprise partnership is good news for fuelling start-ups in areas like biotechnology and agriculture. Therefore, creating and enabling an ecosystem for innovation in this space.

As Bill Rojas, a research director with IDC in Asia Pacific, recently pointed out, we’re at the start of an expansion in smart cities. The IoT will reach deeper and deeper into commercial and public infrastructure driven by city planners, telcos, and an array of enterprises. Specifically, he points to “industrial IoT, connected cars, fleet management, freight monitoring, smart grids, smart buildings, home automation, and personal wellness,” as solutions continue to mature and work together to create smart environments.

How do we best capitalise on a shift to ‘smart’?

We often talk about technology as an enabler. “Smart everything” thinking makes this real. It allows us to test for connections in new ways now possible with the smart inputs now appearing. With everything “smart”, these new connections can be sought.

This type of new thinking is more powerful when driven by commercial incentives or open collaborations. Being “smart” generates economic benefits, to subsistence farmers and national economies.

Other examples of “smart everything” thinking include animal welfare. A “smart farm” could be created by correlating the health of individual animals with data on rainfall, soil composition, ambient temperatures, or the prevalence of pests.

Or correlating traffic flow data with other factors that might lead to improving the morning commuters’ gridlock. For example, smart suburbs and supermarkets could provide data that indicate how routine shopping habits affect the start times of trips to work, which in turn trigger traffic jams in certain situations.

What does this mean for economies? Data is data; if you can access it, there are no limits to what you can do with it. Every nation has smart individuals able to analyse data for trends and opportunities. With “smart everything” thinking, entrepreneurs will spring up around the world. Manufacturers will connect with primary producers. Micro-businesses will transform into global companies.

Here are my suggested definitions for “smart everything”:

  • strategic thinking that takes the Internet of Things one step further
  • clear business or organisational objectives integrated with open-ended options to enable the business to connect data in new ways, with new data sources
  • sensors to capture data
  • advanced analytics to draw down insights
  • integrated feedback loops
  • access to appropriate levels of data processing
  • access to sufficient data analytics skills and expertise

We already know the Internet of Things is at our doorstep. As we head towards an age where everything around us will have computing power, storage and networking as the norm, we will want more as consumers. Companies and organisations are creating new ways to provide new services and new value, from home environment managers to personal file managers, personal health alerts to executive assistants.

Organisations that take the lead will do so by taking the IoT one step forward, to “smart everything” thinking.

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