Future 'Internet of Things' includes cognition
Jan. 18, 2016
by Mark Ollig

Not too long ago (alright, it was long ago), when my generation thought of computers, the first three letters which came to mind were: IBM.

What began as a mechanical tabulation record-keeping company, and a business using rigid, paper punched cards, IBM evolved into the world’s largest maker of mainframe computers used by government and business.

Mainframe computers from the mid-20th century weighed a lot, as they were comprised of heavy, physical supporting hardware; in addition to their electronic components.

And yes, they did take up the space of a large room; I can vouch for this: I’m a former telephone cable-installer who worked in a few of those “computer rooms” back in the day.

Other heavy hardware included early CRT (cathode ray tube) display terminal stations, which were cabled to a mainframe computer in order to access its processing power.

Some of those terminals weighed over 90 pounds.

In contrast, today’s computing devices are lightweight, and their means of handling data is evolving as we speak.

“The future of the Internet of Things is cognitive. The cognitive IoT,” said Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, during her keynote address at the recently-held Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas.

Two years ago, I described IoT as being “ . . . how the Internet will evolve from connecting computers, cellphones, tablets, and smart devices, to also having interconnection with other devices – or things.”

These devices collecting digital data and communicating with the Internet (or cloud), are known as the Internet of Things, or IoT.

She spoke of how the Internet of Things is all part of the phenomena of digitalization of products, services, and companies.

I noticed the words “digital” and “digitalization” were repeatedly used during her address.

Whenever I hear the word “digital,” I think about technology.

I learned digital technology (binary code) in the late ‘70s, while working for the telephone company.

In order to operate and maintain the new digital telecommunication systems we wanted to install to replace existing legacy analog systems, yours truly needed to take classroom courses to learn the technology.

Fortunately, I passed all the tests, and obtained the needed certifications.

Today, “being digital” in addition to its technical definition, can also be termed as a business approach.

Being digital can mean having a pro-active manner of doing things from both a technical and business perspective, in order to attract and keep customers.

Rometty asked members of the CES audience to raise their hands if they work for a digital company, or are trying to become a digital company.

She smiled while looking out at the many raised hands.

“When everybody becomes digital, then what?” Rometty said.

She used an analogy of how “being digital” is not just a destination for a company, but more of a foundation.

Digital data, or “big data,” is being collected from devices such as: wearable technology, security sensors, utility monitors, and IoT devices in our homes, industry, and even from our cars.

According to IBM; “Big data is arriving from multiple sources at an alarming velocity, volume and variety. To extract meaningful value from big data, you need optimal processing power, analytics capabilities, and skills.”

Increasingly huge amounts of data are being collected all around us in a growing number of new IoT devices.

According to Rometty, a surprising 80 percent of newly stored IoT digital data is not recognized.

She emphasized understanding this digital data will differentiate businesses.

“It is cognitive. To think, to learn, to understand,” she stated.

Is IoT the dawn of a new cognitive era? Rometty asked.

We are seeing “digital business” and “digital data” merging into a new IoT cognitive paradigm.

This new paradigm is gaining speed; business will need to become pro-active in order to learn how to best use IoT data.

For me, the IoT cognitive era has already begun.

IoT devices are communicating data on what it is designed and programmed to monitor.

Its data is being run through today’s analytical software.

The information gleaned from an IoT device, which would have normally existed in a static state, is not only monitored, but sourced for determining actions.

Future IoT devices will probably become part of a “collective,” obediently contributing its “big data” to be analyzed via AI (artificial intelligence), or some other, yet-to-be known, sentient decision-making process.

Reprogrammable for future operating system platforms, IoT devices will prove flexible in how the smart-sensors, and other technology embedded into them, are used.

Eventually, I believe IoT devices will incorporate some type of intelligence.

They will become, to some extent, an autonomous device; yet still (hopefully) managed by humans; or perhaps, an artificial intelligence.

You can watch the complete, one-hour long 2016 CES keynote address by Ginni Rometty, on the IBM YouTube channel: http://tinyurl.com/Bytes-IBM.

The science-fiction part of me is asking; “Will humans ultimately end up becoming part of the Internet of Things; transforming the IoT cognitive era, into a “Star Trek” Borg-like assimilated reality?

Stay tuned.

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