SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Robert Lee Harris
Robert Lee Harris is President of Communications Advantage, Inc., a consulting company focusing on enterprise communications strategies and cost management....
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Robert Lee Harris | January 21, 2014 |

 
   

Will the Next Wave of Innovation Make Enterprise IT Less Relevant?

Will the Next Wave of Innovation Make Enterprise IT Less Relevant? Smart objects will not be perceived as IT assets, so the next wave of IT innovation will belong to the business teams.

Smart objects will not be perceived as IT assets, so the next wave of IT innovation will belong to the business teams.

What if something comes along that disrupts all the IT department's plans to offer centrally contained and managed IT services and applications? We may have seen most of the impact of the consumerization of IT with the adoption of smart devices and BYOD (see "Consumerization of IT: Is It More than Just Bring-Your-Own (Mobile) Device?"--The answer is "not really"). Business IT has figured out ways to accommodate these new requirements and segregate data and devices where necessary. In short, there is light at the end of the tunnel on this one.

However, I would not bet on the consumer market being the real IT disruptor this next time around. The enterprise "line of business" will drive it, and it will be a much larger challenge than just getting everyone a smartphone.

Connected and Internet-Enabled Objects Will Work Independent of the Data Center
It seems that from basketballs to washing machines, there is nothing left in the world that cannot be "smart." The current definition of smart devices is often limited to sensors and connectivity, so the prevailing assumption is that tracking and storing the information from the device will require a data center where all of the information can be processed and utilized to "everyone's" advantage.

Historically, this has not been the case. Smartphones are having a massive impact on enterprise IT, but their predecessor was plain old cellular telephones (POCTs?), which were useless without the cellular network. Personal computers had a revolutionary impact on business IT, and their predecessors were dumb terminals dependent on mainframes.

In the next generation, there are minimal technical barriers to the possibility of newly connected devices following the same pattern. The first smart objects may be only as smart as their RFID tag or Bluetooth connection, but as it becomes affordable and technically feasible, more autonomous information processing will reside in the devices themselves.

One driver of this is the desire to preserve functionality when the device is offline. Devices that are performing important tasks, whether athletic, diagnostic or security related, are potentially useless if they cannot function independent of connectivity to somewhere else. The 4iiii GPS device pictured in the diagram below has its own storage for location history--not only in case there is no connectivity to a smartphone, but also to avoid battery drain even when that connection is available.

If everything was really going to happen in the cloud, would we care if each generation of smartphones had a more powerful CPU or more storage? No, we would only care that they were equipped with faster wireless data speeds. Instead, based on past history, we can look forward to a whole array of specialized computing devices and objects serving unique business purposes.

Specialization of Technology Will Disrupt Centralized IT Standards
As IT professionals, we try to be futurists in order to effectively plan, equip and train our relevant resources for the next big thing. But one of the shortfalls of looking for disruptive technology trends is that we only look down the road on which we are already traveling.

Last year I was speaking to a warehouse manager of a large company. He had some questions about the firm's video conference system, which was scheduled to be upgraded. He anticipated that he should be able to walk into a room with a tablet and have it connect seamlessly via Bluetooth or some other wireless connection.

Was this line of thinking a case of his familiarity with similar synching technology at home, perhaps with Wi-Fi enabled television? This is a possibility, but what is certain is that this manager also works with embedded wireless technology in his warehouse and supply chain today. The products he is in charge of are valuable enough to go beyond bar codes. An RFID-enabled tracking system and a specialized wireless network are now part of his daily warehouse operations. His perception is that if this is already standard on non-IT-related products, it should be a no-brainer on native IT-centric systems such as tablets and IP-enabled videoconferencing. This is not superior consumer technology driving expectations; it is superior "line of business" technology.

There is also a precedent with building automation. Enterprise facilities and security departments have been driving their own business IT decisions for many years. Much of the network-enabled building automation, closed circuit video and power management systems are purchased independent of the IT department and supported on autonomous networks. In many cases, these systems are growing to the scope and complexity of IT supported systems, but still are not considered "shadow IT." Specialized purposes leave them under the radar of IT governance.

Leviton is a great example of this. At CES 2014 they received the Mark of Excellence (MOE) Award of Human Interface of Product of the Year for their OmniTouch 7 Touchscreen. It is part of their home and small building solutions suite.

Leviton's building management portfolio challenges you to "Think of Leviton as the brain of your automated building," where a variety of systems can be managed to "maximize safety, comfort, convenience, entertainment, and energy savings." Its solutions promise the ability to "remotely control any aspect of the facility from your smartphone or tablet with zero monthly fees. Access multiple locations from the app or customize your own interface using our software developer kit." It's a very IT-centric proposition, but you are unlikely to find it being promoted at IT-focused tradeshows and websites. A quick look at Leviton's event calendar reveals a majority of facility, electrical and security-centric shows on the agenda.

The old IT trick of just not allowing it on the network won't work much longer. Last June Ayla Networks, a Silicon Valley startup, unveiled the Ayla Platform, which allows its partners to transform thermostats, appliances, lighting and other everyday products into interactive connected devices. The portfolio includes Ayla-enabled Wi-Fi modules and IP gateways, a proprietary cloud service for managing devices, and Ayla application libraries. No programming code is required for customers to create virtual devices. The "Internet of things" can be built with its own WAN connection and its own data center.

Connected buildings and objects is small change compared to the specialization that will come out of new interface options; from wearable technology to neurotechnology, the business value in these advances won't be as alternatives to using a mouse and keyboard. The real boon will come in very specialized business products that will be a challenge to standardize companywide due to form factor demands.

J.P. Gownder, Forrester Research's Principal Analyst serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals, published a report prior to CES predicting that the real innovation in wearable technology will be in the business world, stating, "Because of consumerization--the fact that the technology we have at home is often better, faster-moving, more agile, more mobile, etc. than the tech we are issued at work--we tend to assume now that *all* innovation will originate on the consumer side. Wearables 2.0 will upend that a bit, because the most useful enterprise devices are often highly specialized." His compelling examples include sensor technology and augmented reality allowing a phlebotomist to see the veins in a patient's arm. It's a much more significant benefit than walking through the neighborhood seeing Yelp reviews out of the corner of your eye!

Will IT be the one to provision and support these solutions? Probably not, for two reasons: ownership and expertise. "Smart" objects will often be enhanced versions of the objects the business is already using. Since the connectivity will be providing additional functionality, the business, not a centralized IT department, will decide where that functionality delivers value.

Expertise is the second challenge. IT support can tell when a PC won't connect to the Internet, but can they tell when the phlebotomist glasses are seeing all of the veins? Will the product development department consult them to troubleshoot the depth scaling on their gesture recognition system? IT could adapt to any one innovation, but with enough specialized systems emerging, it will be more practical to employ technical expertise at the business level. Many business groups are already responsible for their own apps. The difference here is that the object itself is the app.

Specialized IT Systems Will Lead to Smaller Autonomous Networks
Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Internet existed as autonomous, purpose-built systems with limited connectivity (e.g. ARPANET, MILNET and NSFNET). Commercial ISPs such as Netcom, Prodigy and CompuServe soon offered services, also with autonomous systems. Since commercial services were offering access to similar content (email, usenet, chatrooms, news, etc.), either connectivity between the systems or dominance by a single ISP/content provider was inevitable. Today, businesses and consumers depend on ISPs primarily for Internet access rather than content and applications.

Cisco now envisions the "Internet of Everything" in which all of the connected devices are networked to anywhere else in the world. Your car will know that you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and modify your driving route to meet the expectations of your connected appointment book. Another example was a smart desk that could notify the teacher when schoolchildren are sitting with an unhealthy posture. All of this depends on massive interconnectivity, which would be very advantageous to companies such as Cisco.

If you are worried about security, they can solve that problem for you as well. The level of trust in the Internet has never been very high, and widely-publicized revelations about NSA surveillance are likely to decrease that trust level even more. Unencrypted Bluetooth connections are the most common connectivity between devices. The technology itself is less secure than encrypted Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth's distance limitation mitigates the possibility that someone is tracking and compiling your personal information at some faraway data center.

The more invasive the collected data becomes about people's personal health and habits, the more protective consumers will become of it. The level of personal health information now available through smart devices is endless--from simple pulse and heart rate monitoring to brainwave stress monitoring and DNA screening for cancer risk. Even in the unlikely event that consumers and employees are comfortable with the dissemination of this data, it is likely that an agency such as HHS will regulate the data under HIPAA (while simultaneously wanting aggregated access to it for their own analysis).

What do today's functioning smart objects talk to? Primarily, they are close proximity connections over Bluetooth, Zigby, Z-Wave and WiFi. Eventually there will be some value in an outside service, such as the prior example of Ayla Networks, to store and process data. Will these networks be part of the "Internet of everything?" More likely, any data that is shared outside of the local network will be transmitted over specific networks to specific partners--security companies, healthcare providers, etc. In the enterprise, there is a good chance that the IT team will not be called upon even to provide the connectivity, a return to separate, purpose-built domains.

Where Does Today's IT Department Fit in the Future Enterprise?
It is very unlikely that the product manufacturing division is going to march up to IT and announce, "We're in charge now." What will happen is that innovation and enabling technology will start appearing in other parts of the business. Enterprise IT trends have already helped the process by standardizing services and systems to the point where they are low cost commodities. We'll still need these commodities for the foreseeable future, but many have become generic enough to not require the inventive IT leadership that was so valuable years ago. Smart objects will not be perceived as IT assets, so the next wave of IT innovation will belong to the business teams.





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

December 13, 2017

The two major vendors in the Unified Communications space, Cisco and Microsoft, are both strongly promoting their cloud UC deployments. If cloud UC is on your enterprises roadmap, but you dont want

November 29, 2017

As video conferencing use rises in the enterprise, businesses are looking for ways to bring this technology out of traditional conference room and make it more broadly accessible. That's made the h

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.