IoT Industrial Revolution: Towards the Next Societal Disruption

IoT Industrial Revolution: Towards the Next Societal Disruption

By Sanda Berar

[Part 1]

“IoT represents the next major economic and societal disruption enabled by the Internet […] It offers a way to merge the digital and virtual worlds into a new smart environment which senses, analyses and adapts” [Peter Friess, “The Hyperconnected Society”].

Digital transformation is happening today both at economy level as well as at society level, and IoT is the leading platform that drives the change. Industries, businesses and markets are changing how they operate. “It’s safe to say that we are at the start of another industrial revolution. The rise of the connected objects known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT) will rival past technological marvels, such as the printing press, the steam engine, and electricity. From the developed world to the developing world, every corner of the planet will experience profound economic resurgence. Even more remarkable is the speed with which this change will happen.” [Dr. Shawn DuBravac, “The Internet of Things, Evolution or Revolution”]

People’s behavior and the way we interact is changing. Already today, our working, shopping, entertaining, and communicating behavior is heavily digitalized. Tomorrow, we might express emotions with the help of objects, use our environment to achieve goals, offload cognitive tasks to things around us, and expect to be able to naturally communicate with the objects around us.

Through creating a fabric between things and humans, IoT has the potential to transform a multitude of aspects of our lives, but maybe the most intriguing one is the potential to transform us, to change the basic levels of our physical and mental capabilities, the way we interact, and finally to alter the grounds of individual’s competitiveness in the society.

Better Informed

Situational awareness and voice control lay the foundation for a “second brain” as users relay on devices to listen for their (sometimes unspoken) requests and offer suggestions triggered by real-time observations and user history. In the digital form, solutions have been available for years already. GPS navigation systems guide us step-by-step to the destination, offering just-in-time voice guidance. A difficult cognitive task (navigating an unfamiliar territory) has been transformed into a trivial exercise of following directions. The combination of sensor-enabled wearable with the cloud-computing services, creates the possibility of building the next generation of situational-aware experience, real-time and truly personal. We will be better informed, we will have always access to the information that is right for us, at the right time, in the right place. Improved well-being

The evolution in the sensor technology enabled the development of the first wearable tech consumer products, the sensor powered bands. Their main function is to track and measure activity level (function known as quantify self). Fitbit, Microsoft Band and the rest of the activity trackers on the market are designed to encourage their uses to maintain the desirable level of activity in their life, by applying Peter’s Drucker rule “What is measured, improved” Self-competitiveness

The tracking devices and quantified-self applications can be useful in helping us to improve our habits and reach well-being goals — and even more they are driving a human behavior change, namely self-competitiveness. Improved senses

Today we have our smartphones, the best example of how smart and connected our devices became. When we are looking into buying our next smart phone — we are searching for one even smarter. More processing capacity, they “think faster”, have more memory, a better “vision” with higher and higher camera resolution, improved audio system with dual-sensor array microphones and more. What we would really want is for us to become super-humans. To have better memory. To see, hear, sense better. Wearables can surely help to have a better vision and hearing (they do it even today, without being neither connected nor smart). But even more, the smart connected gadgets of the future might be able to give us real access to a 6th sense. What if the teacher in the classroom does not need to wonder any more — “Is this lecture proceeding well or are all my students bored to death?” What if the sensor data from the smart connected desks in the room can be collected to give the teacher an average of the “class engagement” so he can “sense” what his students are feeling so it can adapt the speed and tone of the lecture? Improved effectiveness in achieving our goals

Persuasive applications can help us to change our behavior in order to achieve personal goals (i.e. quit smoking, lose weight, become more productive, more active). Within the IoT context the potential exists to make use of the physical environment (=the objects around us) and get better support in fulfilling our goals. From a smart scale to assist with weight management, to a smart cup that recognizes the beverage that is put into it, displays its nutritional value as well as health implications and supports us in managing our drinking habits, to a smart toothbrush used to teach healthy habits to children, the surrounding objects can help us to self-manage and induce positive changes in our behavior. Better self-control

In the near future new possibilities to create digital augmentation of reality will emerge. Combined with services that would evolve from the predictive applications of today (i.e. Cortana or Google Now), smart devices will increasingly function as smart assistants to users, anticipating what information they need based on past behaviors, current location, environmental conditions and detailed information about their physical (vital signs) and digital (calendar, contacts) state. By having the input of sight, hearing and vital signals overlaid with mobile services, AI and machine learning, both in-situ and preemptive access to information can be provided. Purveyors of these systems could market them with promises such as “minimizing cognitive lift and give you more time to focus”. When we get cognitive assistance, we can improve our capacity for self-control and capability to focus — theoretically at least. Improved emotional connections

Dr. John M. Gottman, internationally recognized authority in the area of human relationship, has advanced a model that identifies the basic components of emotional connection. According to Dr. Gottman, people frequently make what he calls “bids” for emotional connection. According to this model, the most harmful response that a person can receive for an “emotional bid” is not an angry response (turning against), but a non-response (ignoring, turning away). In many cases the bid is ignored because it has not been recognized, but the harm is done nevertheless.

Wearables become tangible connections between loved ones over any distance. We don’t miss the “emotional bids” sent to us anymore. Bracelets vibrate or light up when the significant other is thinking of us. The jacket our son is wearing allows us to send him a hug while we are at work. We get instant reminders when we feel down that we are loved. When we are happy, the feeling is going “out” to the dear friends. Sharing love becomes a constant part of our day, it’s done effortlessly and instantly through our gadgets. Our emotional connections and hence our emotional health could improve. — The question arises — if IoT could really change our behaviors and way of living, what are the consequent social implications?

The industrial revolution brought with it significant social changes — urbanization, new social classes, new working class, changes in family structure.

What is the potential of social changes that can be brought upon us by IoT disruption?

In all productive revolutions, skills greatly determined the quality of life.

How big will be the impact of digitalization on re-modelling the work force? How will assessing an individual’s competitiveness change? Can the access to IoT devices and applications create a new “social class”?

We are privileged to live in these times — when great economical and societal disruptions are about to erupt. From within, they seem to be unfolding in slow motion. And, probably, the actual drama and speed will become clear only in hindsight. Nevertheless, the change is happening.

— — to be continued

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