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I Speak for the Trees! (The Lorax, M2M, and the Cloud)

  
  
  

The LoraxYou may ask, what one of Dr. Seuss’s most popular stories has to do with M2M? If you don’t know The Lorax – your childhood was incomplete, check out Wikipedia for some background.

Now to my story…

It all starts simply enough. The other day, I was doing one my favorite activities - web site hopping, when I happened upon a Wikipedia article on “Cloud Computing”. (Believe it or not, I actually do this for fun.) In any case, I was reading the article when the following image caught my attention.  

Cloud Computing
 
Figure 1 - Cloud Computing - Wikipedia

Take a close look and tell me if you can tell what is missing from this picture? I’ll even give you a hint – look at the stuff on the outside…

Missing from Wikipedia’s definition is the real world.  
This diagram implies that all cloud computing interactions come from people through their favorite computing devices. A machine or device communicating with the cloud is nowhere to be found.  

How could Wiki possibly forget the machines? Haven’t they seen the predictions? TRILLIONS of machines just waiting to join the cloud!

So it made me think? Is this some humanist plot! An effort to hold the machines down! Didn’t they see the Terminator and Matrix movie franchises – this type of behavior does not end well.

Perhaps, instead of a species-wide conspiracy, we just forgot? Is this possible? Could we actually forget that machines exist? After all, where we would be without the machines? Still living in caves and using a flint to start fire – no doubt! Wasn’t it machines that powered the amazing productivity gains we have enjoyed for the past 100 years? I really like running water, electricity, heat, refrigerators, cars… Could we really have forgotten them?

Maybe, maybe not.

But whatever the reason for this oversight, a simple fact remains that in 10 years machines will dominate the cloud. Their voices are joining the conversation. Instead of laboring silently in their factories, hospitals, homes and fields, they will be communicating with each other and with us. They will be coordinated, organized, and efficient and will power the next 100 years of productivity improvements.

So to Wikipedia – I say: I SPEAK for the MACHINES!

They belong in your diagram and deserve a special place in our conscience!

M2M Point Solutions are “Pointless"

  
  
  

The general problem with point solutions is that they are point solutions.  

Point solutions, as a rule, do a good job solving the specific problems they were designed to solve.   The flip side is that they do nothing else.  Point solutions just aren’t designed to look beyond their silo.Moobella

For a modern enterprise – that’s a big problem!

A modern enterprise could contain hundreds of M2M point solutions.   These point solutions represent islands of information that will prevent full organizational efficiency from being achieved.  

Remember how hard it was to get your sales force automation system to talk to your financial system.   A million dollars, a bunch of high priced consultants, and maybe you’ll get a simple integration.   (Oh by the way, it will break as soon one of the systems is upgraded.)

Now what happens if you want your fleet management system to integrate with your vending management system and both of them to interact with your supply chain automation system -> sounds like a problem.

A better solution for M2M is to base all of your organization’s device (or product) interactions and applications on a single M2M platform.   An M2M platform acts as a system of record for all real-time device communication.  It provides shape to those real-time data sources and gives them a web-orientated programmable representation.   In effect, an M2M platform normalizes an organization’s device interactions and provides a hub for organizational optimization.  

The real power of M2M is using one real-time source of information to automate a myriad of business processes.   A single source of M2M data will likely touch many aspects of your business – the last thing that you want is to go to the trouble instrumenting your devices - only to find their use is limited.  

For M2M - think platform.

Machines - Embracing The Network Effect – Part 2…

  
  
  

“The more users connected to a network, the more valuable that Network becomes”, Metcalf’s Law… 

This was one of my key themes from my Axeda Connexion 2011 keynote.  

For the past 13 years, the M2M industry has been focused, almost solely, on connecting things.   If you go to an M2M conference, listen to a M2M webinar, or read an M2M article, the topic always drifts to connectivity.

  • What type of communication to use?
  • How much data to send?
  • How much does the data cost?
  • Wireless, wired?

It drives me nuts…

When I was preparing my keynote, I kept wondering why there was a myopic focus on connectivity in M2M, when it’s clear that the value happens on the other side of the pipe (the user) …   See Metcalf’s law above.

Then it dawned on me … we focus on connectivity, not only because it is required, but also because for most of those 13 years, there really wasn’t a good way for connecting users to a M2M system.

So I used my pulpit at the Axeda Connexion to explain what I coined, the “Cloud Phase” of M2M.   In the Cloud Phase consumption of M2M data becomes the focus and connectivity is assumed.

In discussing this phase, I first went into why the cloud is such a key enabler.   Directly from the keynote, my description of cloud: 

Cloud computing contains the following three elements: 

1)     It’s Everywhere
2)     It’s Elastic
3)     It’s Consumable

I think of it a lot like electricity. None of us know the magic of power creation or distribution, but we do know that we can plug something into an electrical outlet and it just works. 

The cloud is a lot like that …  Data is located in a place where it can be aggregated, analyzed, and distributed. Its ubiquity enables massive consumption of information on an unimaginably large scale.

I then discussed cloud as the key enabler to the unleashing the power of the network effect in M2M:

“It is the wide consumption of M2M data and its millions of users that will create the virtuous cycle that will enable the M2M industry to become the next Social Networking of technology…. “

Finally, I discussed how the network effect is ruling the future of the Internet.   I discussed how M2M unleashes a network effect so powerful and large that in the future it will dwarf even Facebook in “connectedness” … 

Sean Parker, the guy who is most famous for starting Napster (but richest from his involvement with Facebook!) stated in a recent interview: 

 "Companies that harness the power of networks will dominate the future of the Internet." 

The more I thought about the quote, the more brilliant I thought it was. With Facebook, we all act as a hub for our own networks of interconnected friends. In M2M, that hub is the device. The key to the M2M industry generating the type of value that Facebook is unlocking is to extend the personal networks of those devices to as many users and uses as possible.

Let’s do a little back of the napkin math … What if 50 billion devices were the hub of 100 human and business interactions. That would be tantamount to a network with 5 trillion users. Remembering Metcalf’s law, I would contend that the leverage and value creation that can be unlocked from this network would dwarf what we are currently seeing even from social networking…” 

I concluded my keynote with a challenge to everyone… 

I challenge each of you to look to your markets & your organizations, and think about how you can use the M2M cloud to drive massive M2M network effects on top of your connected products.

In the end, we are all part of an industry that will reshape the fabric of the world.   Connected products, connected not only to the company that sold them, but to the world of users, application writers, and each other, will reshape how our global infrastructure operates and how we interact with the products we use … Ultimately improving our quality of life… 

I can’t wait…

Machines - Embracing the Network Effect

  
  
  

Yesterday, I had the privilege of keynoting Axeda Connexion 2011 – properly coined “The M2M Event of the Year”.   I joined a knockout group of M2M industry luminaries, including Eric Goodness of Gartner, Chris Hill from AT&T, and Wayne Ward from Sprint, in discussing both the present and future state of the M2M industry.

I found that each of the primary keynotes had an amazingly consistent message:

• M2M is massive
• M2M is here now
• The Cloud will play a huge role in M2M

Drawing a correlation between the Network Effect, the cloud, and social networks, I focused on the importance of the cloud in propagation of M2M data to as many users as possible.  

So select points from my keynote…M2M

“The M2M industry compares very favorably to the social networking industry:
• LinkedIn is seeking to connect every professional in the world - > 1 billion people.
• Facebook counts every Internet user in the world as a potential user -> currently greater than 2 billion and growing every day.

But with more than 7 trillion machines to connect, M2M dwarfs them both. “

“It is the wide consumption of M2M data and its millions of users that will create the virtuous cycle that will enable the M2M industry to become the next social networking of technology…. “

“The cloud provides a place where M2M information can be aggregated, analyzed, and distributed. Its ubiquity enables massive consumption of information on an unimaginably large scale.”

“The Axeda Platform … is built to acquire the vast quantities of M2M information that our machines and devices communicate, process it, and enable its consumption.   Without the ability to seamlessly consume the tons of M2M information we create, the power of the network effect is not unleashed. “

In my next blog, I will share more from my keynote and discuss more about how the cloud unleashes the network effect for M2M.

Stay tuned.

Firefly, Middlemen, Cloud & M2M

  
  
  

I was watching an old science fiction show, Firefly, this weekend with my Fireflydaughter and heard the following: 

About 50% of the human race is middle-men and they don't take kindly to being eliminated”

Now I have no idea if this proclamation is based on fact or just a number made up by the scriptwriter, I assume the latter, but it resonated with me anyway. 

What if computing and automation could eliminate this layer of organizational inefficiency - ENTIRELY? 

Now, I know what you are thinking, computing has been trying to eliminate the middleman for over 30-years — with failed results I might add.   Each successive generation of computing has built upon the challenges and shortcomings of the previous.   Mainframes led to mini computers that in turn led desktops.   Client / server systems let backend systems and desktops work together.   The web made it all easier.   But each of these forms of computing fell short of producing the kind of innovation that enabled the elimination of the middleman.

That brings me to cloud.   In this new era of cloud computing we have some unique ingredients that open the door to value creation beyond what we have seen in our lifetime.

Cloud computing is flexible and open.   All the types of computing up to this phase were characterized by propriety software systems with archaic ways of extensibility and integration.  Tried to extend you SAP system lately?  Ouch!

Cloud computing has at its foundation Web Services.   Web Services are open and flexible ways to have things talk to each other.

Cloud platforms are now infinitely extensible.   These cloud platforms can:

  • Listen to anything – machine, process, business system, human. 
  • Trigger rules and code to run that analyze real-time streams of information.
  • Provide you with the ability to store information in any way you want it.
  • Enable you to develop code and web services that are stored as data within the cloud system itself.  

In short, you can interact with and extend the system to do anything you want.  All on top of a world-class professionally hosted and operated cloud platform.

I am so excited about this development because now for the first time, you have the perfect business orchestration platform.

Middlemen, beware, your days are numbered. 

Shameless plug of the day – Axeda has a platform that does just this - check it out at www.axeda.com or if you are more curious join us at Axeda Connexion (June 7-10) for a deep dive…

 

M2M Gets a KISS

  
  
  

The year is 1985, I have just started my first job out of college.   I have a freshly minted EE degree and a burning desire to prove to the world that I can do it!   Every task I undertook was done with a vigor that probably drove my co-workers crazy!   My primary design goal – highlight my worth.  

One day, a senior staff member, a grizzled engineer named Tom, gave me a piece of advice.   “Dale,” he said, “You have to follow the KISS principle.”  Being greener than grass, I had no idea what he was talking about.   Seeing the blank expression on my face, Tom elaborated – “Keep It Simple -  STUPID!”  He then gave me a wry smile and walked away.

Fast-forward 25 years.  Today I know that everyone has heard of the KISS principle, but it never ceases to amaze me that most products we see and interact with fail to follow it.  The real art of a product is to make it as simple as possible while delivering its intended value.  I have used this concept as a guiding north star for everything I have done since that conversation.  

Recently, AT&T and Axeda announced a partnership So one might ask – what does the leading M2M carrier and the leading M2M application platform teaming up have to do with the KISS principle?

The net -  M2M is inherently difficult.  

  • Millions of products talking over the air to a mega-backend system.  
  • Hundreds of thousands of users interacting with the system.  
  • 10’s of business systems doing their thing.  

To make M2M simple the entire ecosystem must work together – hand in hand – to take all of the friction that an organization would face when building these solutions out of the equation.   Axeda and AT&T have committed to the marketplace to create this simple experience.  The seamless integration of the application cloud and the network will eliminate development and deployment friction. 

An M2M developer will not have to learn two disparate systems and then tie them together.  Instead, they will be able to take two best of breed solutions and work with them as if they were one seamless system.   The elimination of this complexity will save time and effort, ultimately taking the inherently difficult task of building an M2M solution – and making it SIMPLE.    

I Sense Therefore I Am

  
  
  

ZeoImage resized 600

Before leaving for Barcelona, I read a really cool article by Scott Kirsner titled “Tiny sensors make it possible to track life’s little details; start-ups hope for big sellers.”  The basic premise - startups are leveraging new advances in sensors and connectivity to track things that were previously untrackable – providing people with insights into all sorts of life’s minutiae…

Examples in the story included a Boston startup named Zeo Inc. that provides a personal sleep coach. Zeo, which just raised $12M from Best Buy and J&J, provides an alarm clock size device that communicates with a headband that you wear while you sleep and then uploads information to a “myzeo” web site where it provides you with a view on your sleep habits along with useful tips on how to improve your sleep and restfulness.  All for about $200 - wicked cool.  I’ll have one by the end of the week…

While I am a huge advocate of personal connectedness - one thing that I don’t like is the proliferation of islands of information and my personal lack of ownership and control over that information.  I am envisioning that in the not too distant future there will be a fairly complete picture of me online:

  • My driving habits
  • My sleep habits
  • My exercise habits
  • What I eat
  • Where I go
  • How much energy I consume

Each of these “islands” will be managed by someone like Zeo – who then provides me with a cool connected gizmo.  This would provide a useful service - but it could be so much more if the information were openly available, sharable, and mashable – under my total control, of course.

What I really want is a centralized place online where all of my information is securely collected and available at my finger tips. Imagine the concept of personal data collectors - sending information to a personal repository … and then … imagine a marketplace where I can consume value-added applications that let me slice and dice this data in anyway I want.   My Zeo feed becomes just one source of information about me …

Think about it.  I bet my doctor would be interested in how my heart rate has reacted to my exercise.  A feed from me and my treadmill should provide some very interesting insight that might be useful in my overall health.  Heck, my mechanic knows more about my car!

As machine-to-machine (M2M) applications become more widespread, we are simultaneously entering a new world at the individual human level – a world where everything about our very existence becomes collectable and will find a home online.   In this virtual world – I will exist.   The question is – do I exist in parts or as a whole?  Will I be in control – or will someone else be?   Hmmmm…

Live from Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona, Spain

  
  
  

Live from Mobile World Congress … 

Topic of today’s session: “Biggest hurdle in the transition to the mobile cloud – User Trust (59%)”

OK, I am blown away by Fabrizio Capobianco, President of Funambol’s opening statement. Remember that this is a cloud forum, but, and I quote, “I will not put my baby pictures on the cloud because I don’t want someone to make money on me.” It was an ultrasound picture.

Did someone just drop me onto Mars? Do people really worry about this? Perhaps it is because many of us are in Cloud Central in the U.S. and we understand the benefits of having places to share our photos, movies, and activities with our loved ones and friends. For that value, we are willing to sacrifice some level of control on our personal activity to fund the very services that we utilize. Hmmmm…

OK, now Huawei is talking about clouds. David Bernstein is observing that we have many clouds, such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, plus many, many more. David notes that consumers want only one cloud—not many. He is drawing the analogy that having multiple clouds is equivalent to the days when CompuServe, Prodigy, and America Online were alive. The general consensus is that new protocols are needed to enable cloud interoperability. Hmmm…I’m thinking that Web Services (RESTful with JSON for you techies in the audience) is the answer to this. Wow! A lot of people are working on this problem, but is it really a problem? There are hungry people out there, guys.

OK, moving onto Microsoft and Richard Ang, CTO of the Communications Sector. Richard is talking about the cloud trends that we would be familiar with in the U.S. One phrase of his that I like is “Digital Turns Social.”  Sharing our information is only the first step. The consumption of that information by others creates a social context. Ultimately, it is the social experience that is overpowering all our other fears, particularly privacy.

OK, I’m off to Google. Stay tuned for more posts…

We Have Seen the Light – and its Name is CLOUD!

  
  
  

Microsoft Pickets Salesforce.com at Cloudforce

It made me think!   Why is Microsoft picketing salesforce.com.  Could it be that they don’t like what the cloud is doing to their business?  Could it be that cloud computing will demolish IT as we know it?   Could it be that Microsoft has figured out that they are a dinosaur?   Hmmm…

Today millions of people and an entire ecosystem of companies selling billions of dollars worth of goods are involved in an activity that history will paint as the rough equivalent to “sticking a needle in your eye.”  

 Picture this:

  • You allocate a significant percentage of your people and dollars and have them work on things that are out of your core competency
  • Once you have done that, start buying parts that you have to put together, operate, and be totally responsible for
  • And for the cherry on the top – you will have to pay the companies that sold you the bag of parts just to pick up the phone when you call

Sound like a good deal?

No way! Yet, I would say that is a fair description of the global IT market as it is today – and it’s painful!      

Benefit can be derived, but high costs, risks, and distractions to your core business are CRAZY OUT OF CONTROL!

The way I look at it, IT in its current incarnation is going the way of the dodo bird.   The global pervasive network called the Internet allows us to consume our IT in a better way – hosted and operated in the cloud by companies who make it their business to do it well.  And the best part, if you don’t like it, you change.   No bag of parts, no big capital expenditures to hold on to, no regrets.  You can even call them without having to pay something extra.   It’s all good.

Over the next 10 years – the “old” tech companies will either completely reinvent themselves or perish!   This is their buggy whip-to-automobile moment.   Cloud is it – it’s cheaper, better, and easier.   

So to Microsoft – I am sorry – we will not go back to the old ways.   We have seen the light – and its name is CLOUD!

Top 10 Reasons for On-Demand Solutions

  
  
  

As promised in my last article, these are my own Top 10 reasons why organizations should adopt SaaS/On Demand solutions:

1. Focus: It goes without saying that companies do the best when they operate within their organization's core competency. By getting rid of distractions an organization is better able to focus on its unique value-add. An analogy - all companies use electricity but none make it.

2. Reduced Costs: SaaS solutions have a much more attractive investment profile. Almost all SaaS solutions start with moderate up front investment that enables your return to grow with your investment versus having to capture it back over 18 - 36 months.

3. Leverage Best Practices: Most SaaS solutions have evolved to encompass best practices through the volume of experience gained by interacting on a particular business process automation problem. An organization is infinitely better off leveraging this expertise and adapting its execution to embrace it. Extensive customizations are like a ball and chain - they are heavy and no fun to carry with you over time.

4. Time to Value: Return on investment is comprised of three items. Investment - cash out to reach some goal. Return - value back. Time - time it takes to start getting your return. Since SaaS solutions are packaged and ready to use, there is a much shorter window until the returns start. i.e. no infrastructure to build = quicker time to value.

5. Solution Consumability: Change is an attribute of life - do it or become extinct. Too big of a change, too fast or too little too late and you are toast. Highly packaged SaaS solutions are ideally suited to the evolutionary approach - take a step and then adapt to environmental conditions.

6. You Don't Know What you Don't Know: Heaven and Hell are in the details. No one is an expert in an area without living it. There is always complexity hiding under the covers as projects scale.

7. Accountability: Who would you feel more comfortable holding accountable - your internal IT organization - part of which just got outsourced - or a company that is in business to solve your problem?

8. No Shelfware: We have all heard the horror stories from the 90's - millions of dollars of value setting on the shelf - consuming a solution as a service eliminates this risk.

9. Pain Avoidance is Good: If everything went as planned there would be no need for management. Suffice it to say - it does not. So where do you want to spend your valuable organizational bandwidth? Avoiding a task avoids the pain associated with its growth and development. I don't really care how the car works - as long as it takes me where I want to go.

10. Simplicity! A packaged simple to use service is always better than purchasing the parts, putting it together, and maintaining it. KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid!


There were several excellent Top 10 lists on various topics associated with SaaS. These are the lists I found particularly useful:

1. Bessemer's Top 10 Laws for Being "SaaS-y"
2. Top 10 SaaS Traps: Watch Out For Hidden Snags
3. Crownpeak Challenges Top Ten SaaS Myths
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