What Does The “Internet Of Things” Mean For CIOs?

The Internet of things is coming our way – how will this change things?
The Internet of things is coming our way – how will this change things?
Image Credit: cthoyes

If you’ve had the opportunity to pick up just about any IT trade journal lately you have undoubtedly seen an article or two talking about this new thing called the “Internet of things”. What the authors are talking about is the simple fact that because we are currently Internet enabling so many different devices from refrigerators to cars to washing machines, very soon the majority of users on the Internet will no longer be live humans, but rather machines talking to machines. Clearly this is going to change things, but how and what does it mean for CIOs?

Say Goodbye To Your Screen

Right now you and I both use screens to interact with the Internet. No matter if it is the monitor that we have connected to our computer at home, the display on our laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, or the ATM machine’s display that we use when withdrawing money, they are all pretty much the same. As the importance of information technology increases, how we interact with the Internet is one of the things that is going to dramatically change as the Internet of things arrives.

All of those new devices that are now being “Internet enabled” simply do not lend themselves to supporting a standard display. What this means for us as the person with the CIO job is that we are going to have to start to get our workplace ready for a new crop of screen-free interfaces. These new interfaces won’t be controlled by today’s standard keyboard or mouse controls. Instead, they’ll use voice commands, gesture controls, or may simply react to data that has been presented to them by a network of sensors.

Since you are the person in the CIO position, you’ll have to be the one to answer the question of how these changes are going to impact your company. If you had left it up to me, I would have told you that I thought that people would have been quite attached to their screens and unwilling to let them go. It turns out that I would have been wrong. Surveys that have been taken of current computer users revealed that users prefer interfaces that operate both invisibly and which use natural human movements to determine what we want computers to do.

The Interfaces Of Tomorrow

So if today’s monitor based interfaces are not going to cut it in tomorrow’s Internet of Things based world, then what kind of interfaces will we be using? The answer, it turns out, is potentially many different types of interfaces. One such interface is called an ambient notification interface. This type of interface simply changes color based on what information it wants to convey to you. As an example of this, if you received a high priority email, it could turn red. If you got a text message from a family member, it could turn green. Clearly you would still need to have a monitor, but you would no longer feel the need to be constantly checking your monitor to see if you have received any new information.

Another type of interface that will probably be showing up shortly will be the gesture control interface. We’ve already been introduced to this type of interface by Nintendo’s Wii game system and Microsoft’s Kinect game system. This kind of interface requires that we wear some sort of armband that allows the system to sense the movement of your hand and fingers so that the system can allow your entire body to act as a form of a remote control. This type of interface allows us to interact with the world in a way that feels very natural to us.

Another type of new interface takes the concept of gesture control interfaces to it’s natural conclusion. The creation of wearables has been made possible by advances in the shrinkage of both sensors and computing hardware. This is allowing technology to start to be embedded into jewelry, eyeglasses, and shirts. These types of interfaces allow technicians to “see” instruction manuals when making repairs, track where employees currently are and if they are moving, and can acquire environmental information and share it with the wearer.

What All Of This Means For You

There is a revolution that is going to be coming our way and it is called the “Internet of things”. Devices that we may already be using are going to start to be plugged into the Internet and then they will be able to share information with us. In order to interact with this new wave of Internet enabled devices, our traditional way of interfacing with devices is going to have to change. Out with monitors and in with new interfaces.

The new wave of devices that are going to be connected to the Internet don’t have the capability to support a monitor like we are used to. This means that you are going to have some CIO decisions to make. It’s going to be out with keyboards and mice and in with new types of interfaces. These new interfaces may consist of ambient systems, gesture control systems, and wearables. Each one of these operates in a different way, but they all allow their user to interact with a part of the Internet of things without having to use a traditional computer display.

Depending on your age, we’ve all been through this before. First it was the introduction of mice, next came video game controllers, and most recently touch screens on PCs. The changes that the Internet of things will cause will require us to once again make changes to how we go about interacting with the computers in our lives. As your company’s CIO, you’re going to need to keep your eyes open and make some important decisions regarding which set of interfaces is going to the right ones for your business.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What would be the best way to start to try out new interfaces as they become available?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job, one of your ongoing responsibilities is to always be looking for ways to streamline how the company operates. We all know about the importance of information technology and that if applied correctly, we can take multi-step time consuming tasks and turn them into quick and efficient online processes. However, in our quest to create the “paperless” company, is it possible that we just might end up taking things too far?