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Podcast: The 'Internet of Everything' is already the next big thing

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IoT is so yesterday. The Internet of Everything is the next big thing, already connecting municipalities and civic infrastructures. Developers need to keep up or they'll get left behind.

As a developer, the technologies you know today are not going to be enough moving forward. It's vital to have a good grasp on foundational technologies that lie outside of your comfort zone. The internet of things is already old school; here comes the Internet of Everything. So says Esmeralda Swartz, vice president of strategy and marketing at Ericsson, in this exclusive podcast.

While it is easy to surmise that the Internet of Everything is merely IoT casting a wider net over the transformation of captured sensor data into transactional information that can be analyzed and monetized, that is an oversimplification. Cisco Systems, which is widely credited with originating the concept, differentiates IoT and the Internet of Everything, defining the latter as "bringing together people, processes, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before -- turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals and countries."

In other words, IoT can save money in a home by turning down the lights or the thermostat. IoE is broader in a societal sense, and might, in a large city, aggregate thousands of homes, street lights, traffic lights, weather data, embedded road sensors, time of day and police dispatches to determine that vehicular morning rush-hour traffic must be rerouted and that roads must be closed due to flash flooding or downed trees from a tornado.

With Ericsson networks now handling 40% of the world's mobile traffic, according to Swartz, she is in a unique position to see developer opportunities unfold.

"If you see where innovation is coming from, it's about creating marketplaces and moving from single-vendor-oriented solutions to ones where you can partner and drive innovation for applications outside of your core competency," Swartz said.

Esmeralda SwartzEsmeralda Swartz

According to a June 2016 study published by Ericsson, IoT is poised to surpass phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018. Much of that growth is due to the scope of things that IoT sensors now monitor, including streetlights and roadways in municipal environments, Swartz said. With this comes the opportunity to build broader Internet of Everything systems that allow cities to function more efficiently.

"You start looking at the impact of 'everything that can be connected will be connected,' and the implications for that across the [IT] industry are remarkable," Swartz said.

Those implications are especially profound for the application development community, and it has never been a better time to be in that profession.

"How do people move up the value chain?" Swartz said. "If you look at where a lot of the emphasis is, it's going beyond connectivity."

The connected municipality

One aspect of the Internet of Everything that is slowly catching on is the opportunity for municipalities to provide services to residents or visitors.

Municipalities typically start with a few pilot applications that can be characterized as easy-to-implement, low-hanging fruit. These applications include smart parking, which can alleviate traffic congestion caused by drivers who circle a block numerous times looking for an open parking space.

There's never been a better time to be in technology, and you don't even have to necessarily create the technology yourself.
Esmeralda Swartzvice president of strategy and marketing at Ericsson

"If you can make those parking spots smart by deploying sensors that tell you about availability … and then have a seamless transaction that includes the ability to use your mobile phone and pay for it, that's a convenience factor that is easily quantified," Swartz said.

Another area of opportunity is in applications that take LED street lighting beyond the empirical savings accrued in switching from power-hungry bulbs. This can include technology to turn lights down or off when sensors detect an absence of movement. Integrate that technology with census-tract crime statistics and street light brightness can be turned up as needed. It is all driven by integrating municipalities with sensors, technology and data accessed via APIs.

A good time to be developing

The Internet of Everything's intersection of communications, sensors, connected municipalities and data makes this something of a golden age for developers building applications and larger systems which are limited only by their imaginations.

"There's never been a better time to be in technology, and you don't even have to necessarily create the technology yourself," Swartz said. "You can benefit from readily available components that you are able to assemble to create innovation. It has always been a good time to be a software engineer, it's just that now you have more choices."

Transcript - Podcast: The 'Internet of Everything' is already the next big thing

This transcript has been edited for clarity:

Joel Shore: We're talking with Esmeralda Swartz, vice president of Strategy and Marketing at Ericsson, and we are talking about IoT innovation. What's changed in the last year?
Esmeralda Swartz: I think it's more of an ongoing trend that we've seen, which is, if you think about where innovation is increasingly coming from, it's about creating market places and moving from single vendor-oriented solutions to ones where you can partner and drive innovation for applications outside of your core competency.
Shore: We're going beyond the internet of things to the internet of everything. And what we're seeing -- in fact, I think you talked about this in your presentation -- is that by 2018, IoT will surpass mobile phones.
Swartz: Yes, that is data from our latest mobility report that was released in the last couple weeks in June. You start looking at the impact of everything that can be connected, will be connected and the implications for that across the industry are pretty remarkable.
Shore: My audience is primarily application developers who are building cloud and mobile applications. With this seismic shift to IoT, what does that mean for the application development community?
Swartz: [There's] never been a better time to be in that business than today. One of the things we talked about in the session is, how do people move up the value chain? And if you look at where a lot of the emphasis is, it's going beyond the connectivity, which is expected to be there. So you think about where a lot of the value creation is going to be realized across vertical industries and it's the applications and services, and it's about how you open that up through open systems and APIs to allow developers to deliver value into that IoT marketplace.
Shore: You said the magic word, and that's services. We've traditionally lived in a world where you went out and you bought a package, whether it was shrink-wrapped or not. And now we're moving away from buying a product to subscribing to services. How does that change the whole dynamic?
Swartz: It flips the entire industry upside down, in a good way, I think, because services differ from products in a couple of very important dimensions. The first is that services can be transient, they can be created on the fly, they can be packaged on the fly. You can create a partnership for as long as that partnership needs to exist for the life of that service. They also shapeshift. So a lot of the things that were true for the way that you thought about going to market for a product or something that had a SKU associated with it, no longer applies.
Shore: The example I like to use is building a recipe application or cooking application where through the magic of APIs, you might pull in geographic data, cuisine data, weather data, time of year data, data from 20, 30 or 40 different sources….
Swartz: Yes, and that's what's remarkable about all of this, because this is why no single vendor is able to dominate because you can have systems that are going across and between different industries and there are a variety of sensors and devices that you're [using to collect] all of that data. The big trend is not the data ... the data is not where the value is, the data only becomes useful if you do something with it and turn it into information that allows you to then create a new service or create new value or change your business model. That is really where the industry is headed now.
Shore: Data is really just a pile of ones and zeros, it's how you combine it with other data and leverage it.
Swartz: That's correct. If you're just collecting data then you're basically still doing telematics. That's obviously not where the industry is today or where it's headed.
Shore: In this world where you're pulling in data from so many sources, including data that one generates on his own, how do you decide what you want to own and what you don't want to own?
Swartz: I think that's the question that a lot of people or companies are wrestling with. There's a lot of value in the data. If you look at an industrial piece of machinery, it can generate on the order of 150,000 data points per minute. If you think about the ... what we're able to ... or what we're taking advantage of today, it's still in the single digits, probably 2%. So there's a lot that can be done, and I think that companies are trying to determine what they need to own because that's going to be of value to them. And what they open up in terms of ... again back to those APIs, to allow others to build applications that are more the long tail applications on top of what is critical to them and where their value is in going out to the market.
Shore: You've talked about some use cases, and one of them was a municipality that's putting sensors out everywhere to monitor all kinds of things. Can you briefly describe what a couple of those are and how that information is being leveraged through IoT?
Swartz: I think if you look at a smart city, there's usually a few pilot applications that people start off with, and we've seen, you know, consistently the low-hanging fruit. Some of those applications include smart parking. I talked about in the session that one of the proven traffic congestion points of any city is people driving around looking for an available parking spot. It sounds simple. If you can now make those spots smart by deploying sensors that tell you about availability and allow you to just find that open available spot and then have that seamless transaction that includes the ability to use your mobile phone and pay for it, that's a convenience factor that is easily quantified.
Other applications include smart lighting. That's another low-hanging fruit because even by going to LED lights, you can drive significant cost savings because the electricity cost is actually one of the biggest costs for any municipality or city. If you can now cut down on just the cost of electricity, that's a significant driver. Now you start going beyond that to smart lighting, and then there are a variety of other use cases that can be applied. I think if you look at a smart city, there are the classic applications that everyone thinks about and these are common services that we all interact with. But then you start looking at where else can you deploy intelligent sensors and technology that make the experience of living in that city a lot more compelling.
And in particular, if you are ... like all cities today, whether it's emerging or a developed country, you're dealing with the impact of urbanization. The only way you can make the city sustainable and a pleasant experience for dwellers, as well as visitors, is through automation and intelligence. Driving that smart city portal, that leverages connectivity and the fact that pretty much every citizen today has a smart phone and the way that they interact with the city completely transforms, if they have that connectivity and that intelligence.
Shore: Just to go back to something you said before -- smart lighting. This is not just a matter of replacing mercury lighting or sodium lighting with LEDs, it's also possibly a matter of turning those lights off when it senses that there's no one in the area.
Swartz: Yes. Crime prevention is an interesting use case that begins to emerge. We've seen cities that will use smart light poles and smart lighting as a way to turn the lights on more brightly in areas, or [turn them on] at a time of day [and] make those types of decisions … depending on if there's been a pattern of crime in the area. Or, you know, they can dim them a little, make them a little bit less bright in areas where that's not been a problem. Then you start looking at other applications like putting gun shot detection sensors on the light posts. ... And then of course because of the location of all these light posts around the city, they can also be utilized for gathering information on traffic patterns and congestion and all of these additional applications that become possible.
Shore: Let's close by talking about what Ericsson is up to. You said in your presentation that Ericsson handles 40% of all internet traffic. Is that true?
Swartz: Forty percent of the world's mobile traffic is running on our networks. We are the guys that make the connectivity possible ... I think that represents about 2.5 billion subscribers. So, what is there? There's seven billion phones at the last count? That's a fairly significant amount.
Shore: That's pretty amazing. And in the United States, where the name Ericsson might not be top of mind, I think people would find that really revealing.
Swartz: Yeah, I mean, we of course have our operator customers where, as I said, we are supplying the networks that made that universal connectivity possible. But then we also are doing, in the IoT area, the software platforms. We're in the media space. We have a mobile commerce platform. [There are] a wide variety of different industries that we're providing infrastructure, mobility solutions, as well as the software platforms to then drive the innovation and transactions.
Shore: And when you put all those together, the future looks really bright. And that's not just LEDs.
Swartz: No. No, it's not just LEDs. It's about the impact that you can have on a market that is transforming before our eyes, right? And it's not just one vertical, it's basically every vertical that's undergoing this transformation. I think there's never been a better time to be in technology, and you don't even have to necessarily create the technology yourself. You can benefit from readily available components and solutions that you are able to assemble to create that innovation.
Shore: Do you see a skill shortage? Are you still lacking for talent?
Swartz: I'm actually from the Boston area, and one of the things that I've seen recently is, in the IoT space, you know, enterprise software and digital expertise is certainly an area where there's a lot more interest now. And that's been interesting just looking at the pattern movements in terms of skill sets. If I look at the west coast, I would always joke with my Silicon Valley friends that the last 15 years, maybe 10 years, the best minds in the industry are focused on getting people to click through mobile ads.
I think we're now shifting to creating real stuff, and that's created a tremendous amount of opportunity in software and cloud and IoT. And to answer your specific question on skill shortage, I think absolutely yes, and I think that's why you see a lot of the innovation and a lot of the startup community and even a lot of the large companies that are building innovation centers around, you know, clusters where there's universities. So, in the case of Ericsson, we have innovation in Boston. You know, we also have a significant presence in Silicon Valley. We have been increasing our population there and really looking at where we need to be to leverage the talent that's available at the community level.
Shore: It's a good time to be a software engineer.
Swartz: It's always been a good time to be a software engineer except now you have a lot more available choices.
Shore: And that spells opportunity.
Swartz: That spells opportunity.
Shore: We've been talking with Esmeralda Swartz from Ericsson. As always, thank you for the time.
Swartz: Thank you so much … always a pleasure.
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