Emergence of IoT and the New CIO

James Williams, CIO, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Theresa Bamrick, Deputy CIO and Mayank Malik, Chief Architect
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The Internet of Things is gaining momentum faster than the adoption of the Internet. We see new connected devices everyday and IoT start-ups across all industry verticals. Cisco estimates that by 2020, we will have 50 billion IoT devices connecting people, homes, businesses, cities, and the world. Despite this rapid penetration of connected devices in the consumer space, the enterprise and organizations have been slow to implement and benefit from the promise of IoT.

Why are enterprises slower in the adoption curve?

The key is that there are no direct business outcomes tied to the Internet of Things. Quoting Henry Ford on the emergence of the automobile, the average consumer was asking only for a faster horse. They had no context in which to ask for an automobile, until they understood that an automobile was possible. Internet of Things is the “car” of the business outcomes.

While the consumer is able to derive benefit from a single connected device (example: thermostats, connected lights, smart TVs), the enterprise won’t feel significant benefit until a network of IoT-enabled devices is working in harmony, to solve a business problem, at scale. Such solutions are often difficult for business partners to envision without support from within the CIO organization. Why is it important for the CIO to be a partner? Well, all the traditional functions of data center expertise, network capabilities, data management, and application development reside within the CIO organization. All of these capabilities are needed to build IoT solutions for an enterprise. One could argue that no other organization in the enterprise, is better positioned to support and lead IoT initiatives, than the CIO organization.

  ​The Internet of Things represents the next wave of internet evolution Theresa Bamrick, Deputy CIO

In our own environment, a small, cross-functional team with an innovation mind-set, came together to solve an IT problem. The volume of equipment in a large data center is often at risk of failure of cooling systems, power systems, and other environmental variables. We wanted to have an early warning system that would allow us to respond to failure conditions before they occur or cause irreparable damage to our data and equipment. We deployed an array of internet enabled temperature and humidity sensors to send early notifications of anomalous environmental variables. The next step is to correlate environmental data with failure rates to first understand and then predict future failure conditions. As a CIO, it is incredibly easy to understand the value of having such a system, but how then do we get business partners to understand this paradigm shift, and incorporate IoT into their solution space? In much of our scenarios, the CIO has a historical aspect of being the guy or gal that keeps the computers running, email working, and the network up. The concept that the CIO is a strategic, valued, and innovative partner is still lagging in the minds of much of the senior leadership in corporations and academia. So with the emergence of Internet of Things, the complexity of the integration, and interaction of large data sets, there also emerges a stronger need for CIOs to take more active roles in demonstrating their value and how we can be strategic partners for technical implementations. We shouldn’t wait for our peers and senior leaders to tell us we should be at the table. We need to do things that add value and show up with clear plans on how we can help be part of the business or mission in a much stronger way. It’s a call to Carpe Diem in a way.

Internet of Things along with the emergence of big data and cloud, presents an opportunity for the CIOs to assert themselves and allow the enterprise to benefit from the promise of these technologies. There are currently no turn-keys, but only connected enterprise IoT systems. Designing these solutions is function of vision and Mayank Malik, Chief Architectintegration. The CIO can present a vision and their organizations can build, integrate, and deploy solutions. These solutions will require the disciplines that IT is best-positioned to service: architecture, integration, and application development.

So how does a CIO go about it?

• Identify the business outcomes. You need to have a seat at the table, where the solutions are being explored.
• The skill set of the IT organization needs to be aligned to achieve the outcomes. More than ever before, IT organizations need to continuously learn and stay at the bleeding edge of the technology curve.
• Produce solutions that can become models for future outcomes.

The Internet of Things represents the next wave of internet evolution. Ignore it, and it will become a problem for the CIO, challenging the very existence of enterprise IT. Embrace it, and it provides a highly relevant opportunity for CIOs to offer real solutions to long-standing and ubiquitous business problems.

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