The devices are coming, the devices are coming…

I had an amazing conversation the other night about the concept of smart devices and “dumb devices.” I should, had I been thinking clarified the concept a little, as frankly I am not sure I agree with the concept of dumb devices. Mute devices, yes, dumb no. So I thought for this morning I would define the terms (IMHO) and lay it out clearly at least in my mind.

Device: Anything used by tool using creatures to make their lives easier.

Smart: here is where I differ. I don’t believe smart devices are connected. The act, art and reality of connection doesn’t make a device dumb or smart. It simply makes the device connected. So my definition of a smart device, is a device capable of producing information regardless of connection.

Devices producing information regardless of consumption. Simple. Clean. Connection is interesting in that we can now create devices that are connected. But what of all the smart devices out there that don’t today have connections? Or don’t understand the concept of mesh connections and therefore if Bluetooth isn’t available they are quiet? No wi-fi no weather data.

Integration with devices then becomes the challenge for CPS (IoT). Not the explosion of devices but the integration of that information becomes the problem. Not looking at data only but considering the analysis required. What can we learn from the information we have right now? What information that we don’t currently have could we gain that would change the results we are gathering significantly? Farmer’s can gather information about soil and plant health. Yes we can’t stop the freeze, but we can provide the right attributes in the soil to prevent freezes from being devastating.

Smart Devices: Devices that produce information regardless of connection. Let’s play with stadium turnstiles for a moment. Today they capture relevant information (does the person have a ticket). Sometimes they are fully automated and sometimes they have a human there. What data could we collect that would be interesting? What about that stadium full of people would be interesting to know?

Let’s first off grab a color sensor and have it on the turnstile as people walk into the stadium. Snap the color of their hats and coats. Why? What the heck let’s share the dB produced by fans of a specific team and then the number of fans estimated quickly by simply counting the colors as they walk in. 100,000 people in a stadium. 32,000 fans of the Indiana Hoosiers produce 132 dB of noise as they go on to victory. 68,000 fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes produce 32 dB of noise. *not possible or real just teasing all my Ohio State fans.

Tell me when you have information is one aspect of a smart device. capturing information that is logical but also valuable is another aspect of smart devices. Let’s take roads as another example. Today we have millions of miles of roads around the world. Millions of miles. We know what the impact of weather is on the condition and status of roads. We know the decay rate of concrete and of asphalt (as well as dirt and gravel). The sensor that is aware of this and able to report during periods of peak use as well as periods of peak decay is of value.

Connection isn’t the mark of a smart sensor and smart device. Connection is simply a state the device can be in or not in. In 2013 Analysts projected 50 billion IoT/CPS devices deployed by 2020. I’ve seen new numbers (2016) that change that to 200 billion IoT/CPS devices deployed. I wonder how many of them can tell the difference between Crimson and Scarlet? I can!


IoT/CPS futurist