Your Boss Just Heard from Your Tablet - You're Fired

Rethinking Communications

Your Boss Just Heard from Your Tablet - You're Fired

By Jon Arnold, Principal, J Arnold & Associates  |  November 06, 2014

My last column focused on the Internet of Things and why it could be good for your business. As per the namesake of this column, I’m also here to challenge you and rethink what’s possible with today’s communications technologies. This also means thinking about the potential implications – for you, your employees, your business, your customers, etc.

To do that, you sometimes have to approach the issue in a non-linear fashion, especially for something as far-reaching as IoT. This usually involves stepping away from the world of technology and to look at things from a different perspective. One way is to look at how the Internet is impacting areas other than business – the arts, science, education, etc. Lessons learned there can probably tell us something about what to expect when IoT becomes your next IT project.

Another angle is to look at the serious implications of IoT through the lens of a humorist. Readers familiar with my writing will know that I do this often, as humor gets to the essence – the soul – of an issue far better than any ROI or TCO analysis could ever do.

On that note, this post now becomes interactive and requires you to do some listening. I want you to spend the next 5:07 listening to the classic Woody Allen monologue about his relationships with machines. This dates prior to when most of you were born, and that probably means you’ve never heard this. You may not even know that Woody Allen is one of the all-time great standup comics, and if this post leads you to discover his routines, my work here will truly be done. If you really want to take a human-centric view of IoT for your business, do not continue reading this article until listening to Woody Allen’s monologue.

Did you like it? Now, how do you feel about IoT? Last I checked, humans were still in charge, but when IoT morphs into IoE, far more machines will be interconnected than people. So long as we’re making the decisions, these capabilities can become a great asset to any business. The key, of course, is to ensure IoT remains human-centric, and that will be your biggest challenge – and responsibility – when management tells you it’s time to get on this path.

If this just becomes an afterthought where you defer to the IoT vendors for an end-to-end solution, you risk this becoming more of a machine-centric solution, where the true drivers are network and process-based efficiencies that employees – err, end users – must comply with. Nobody wants that, but it ultimately depends on who’s in charge and what their vision for IoT is about.

What am I getting at? Without trying to date myself, here’s a snippet of dialog from a film I can only assume you’ve seen and should recognize right away. The man vs. machine struggle doesn’t get any more chilling than this, and with IoT it’s far closer to reality today than you might think.

“What’s the problem?”

“I think you know you know what the problem is as much as I do. This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.”

“I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.”

“Where … did you get that idea, HAL?”

If you don’t know the film or the iconic scene this is from, then you’re not ready for IoT, so go Google (News - Alert) it now.

The machines aren’t winning – yet – but that all depends on what you connect them to. As you can imagine, sensors are becoming more powerful and adaptable for almost any environment. The AI world continues to advance, and as we’ve seen from IBM (News - Alert) Watson, the human mind may soon be no match for that tiny processer Woody Allen cited in his killer punch line. 

Jon Arnold is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.

Edited by Maurice Nagle