Is it possible to democratize the Internet of Things? How to avoid that a handful of companies can dominate IoT

Possibly be the US technology companies the most commonly use the word “democratization” as a marketing and sales argument. Influenced perhaps by the famous quote of President Abraham Lincoln “Democracy is the Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, US Tech companies have been abusing of the term to sell more. I wondering if their intentions are closest to the no less famous Oscar Wilde´s sentence “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”

Democratization of technology refers to the process by which access to technology rapidly continues to become more accessible to more people. Thomas Friedman argued that the era of globalization has been characterized by the democratization of technology, democratization of finance, and democratization of information. Technology has been critical, facilitating the rapid expansion of access to specialized knowledge and tools, as well as changing the way that people view and demand such access.

Nowadays, with the combination of Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the promise of democratization of technology for all companies, not only the big ones, and government and citizens looks like more feasible.

It’s no wonder, given my long career, which I have had to evangelize many times in front of customers and partners the idea of democratization of technology, an idea that has always fascinated and motivated me. Now I am doing the same for the “Internet of Things”.

The journey towards the Democratizing the Internet of Things

For companies like Inex Advisors, ”Data Democratization Migrates From Aspirational to Empirical With the Internet of Things”.   Most consider that democratizing the IoT will come by leveraging the sensor data wave and using that data to create solutions (IoT Platforms and Application Vendors), but for other democratic IoT technology should make it easy for users to build connections (Connectivity vendors).

One of the companies most active in Internet of Things, PTC, has used the concept Democratizing the IoT during LiveWorx event last July,2016. “I think what we’re most excited about is the opportunity to democratize IoT…making [solutions] really fast and really easy,” said Rob Gremley, Group President of Technology Platforms at PTC. The same company that is aimed to ‘Democratize’ Augmented Reality.

At Microsoft Ignite, Satya Nadella the former and prudent CEO of Microsoft outlined the 4 pillars for democratizing AI, and so on and so forth.

But, democratizing the Internet of Things is not just technology, is to ease new business model, is enabling sharing economy, is providing power to ordinary citizens, is provide a level playing field where small business owners can compete with large enterprises, is collaboration between humans and machines. The journey just started.

We need to fight to achieve and maintain the Internet of Things open, innovative, and free.

Democratizing Smart Cities through the Internet of Things

The most important thing about smart cities is not the technology—it is their effect on democracy. When we hear that smart cities can improve citizens’ quality of life, we want they give us the power to make decisions. For instance, if cities can monitor air pollution cost-effectively, as citizens we can play a role in making decisions based on that data.

The process of integrating data into decision making can also make cities more rational. Right now, our cities are too political and, very often, mayors don’t think long-term. They just worry how an investment will affect them or the next mayor.

While the design of smart city ICT systems of today is still largely focused on passive sensing, the emergence of mobile crowd-sensing calls for more active citizen engagement in not only understanding but also shaping of our societies. For instance, the Urban Civics Internet of Things (IoT) middleware enables such involvement while effectively closing several feedback loops by including citizens in the decision-making process thus leading to smarter and healthier societies.

Data assimilation, actuation and citizen engagement are key enablers toward democratization of urban data, longer-term transparency, and accountability of urban development policies. All of these are building blocks of future smart cities and societies.

Democratization of Water Data through the Internet of Things

The “democratization of water data” is not only timely but essential if we are to move from 19th century water policies and 20th century infrastructure to 21st century solutions.

We are still challenged to deliver safe drinking water to everyone. A few statistics frame the challenge: globally, 884 million people worldwide don’t have regular access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lack improved sanitation facilities resulting in about 842,000 deaths per year, of which 361,000 are children under age 5.

Will Sarni, Director and Practice Leader, Water Strategy at Deloitte Consulting, consider that “Now it’s time to democratize water dataand IoT can help by allowing everyone had access to water quantity and quality data on a real-time or near-real-time basis, driving innovation and allowing collaboration between Public sector, civil society, investors, cross industry collaborations, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Entrepreneurs.

“IoT will move us towards the goal of universal access to water data to accelerate solutions to universal and equitable access to water.”

Democratization of Farming through the Internet of Things

With cheap sensors now allowing us to connect to and understand the physical world in a way that’s been impossible on such a scale previously, we are seeing how the democratization of farming is coming, and the Internet of Things promises a revolution or reformation potentially larger than the internet revolution of the late 1990s.

Lance Donny – CEO of agtech startup OnFarm Systems – is one of a handful of innovators who have highlighted the potential for, as he calls it, Ag 3.0, a data-rich approach to farming that utilizes inputs from diverse sources – sensors on plants and farm equipment, weather stations and satellite images – to make better farming decisions

In this interesting article, Lance considers that the Internet of Things will be key in the democratization of farming because it offers the promise that some of the specialized knowledge that commercial farming requires today will be available to all, regardless of their farming prowess or economic situation.

Democratization of Healthcare through the Internet of Things

Beyond the trendiest fitness consumer gadgets, there’s a more significant healthcare revolution emerging right now at the convergence of affordable devices and tech and widespread broadband network connectivity. The Internet of Thing health revolution, will empower developing nations with more affordable, accurate and accessible healthcare than ever before, but also must allow the developed nations to guarantee better healthcare for all citizens.

Healthcare have a long way to go to prepare an infrastructure that could actually make use of the enormous amount of data that will be available, but many barriers like local policies should be removed, Implementation of IoT in healthcare can be expected to be slow and painful.

Democratization of Industries like Retail through the Internet of Things

With seemingly unlimited access, knowledge and power, connected consumers dictate and control the terms of retailer engagement. In this distributed, disruptive and democratized operating environment, retailers must effectively extend their unique brand experience beyond their physical and virtual four walls to wherever and whenever consumers demand.

Can the Internet of Things be democratized?

In the last three years, we have seen IoT escalate into the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, and American Tech Giant companies have been quick to take advantage of their leading positions in the digital world to rush into the IoT. The IoT promises a profound impact on individuals and society and none of Tech Giant companies and Old Industrial firms, with power and influence do not want to be out.

Can we avoid that a handful of American companies can dominate the Internet of Things?.

Until now despite the regulation it has been impossible prevent a few companies have dominated information technologies and later the Internet and Social Networks. Looks like that it is impossible compete against their price wars and its ability to attract talent or acquisitions of Start ups.

The only serious challenge to U.S. domination comes from China where the government has invested heavily in Internet of Things technologies and made them a part of its overall policy and planning.

Why IoT need to be democratized? – The Risk of Surveillance states

“Talking about IoT sounds futuristic. And depending on your point of view either dystopian or utopian.”

The recent largest DDoS attack ever delivered by botnet of hijacked IoT devices reinforces the ideas and recommendations expressed in my post “Do not stop asking for security in IoT” . Even with the current limited state of connectivity, similar incidents will be a regular feature of the emerging Internet of Things and even supporters worry that security issues may slow its development. Similarly, privacy and security concerns rise exponentially as greater connectivity increases opportunities for technical breakdowns and criminal hacking. One tech journalist referred to the IoT as “the greatest mass surveillance infrastructure ever”.

How can avoid that data-hungry businesses and governments collect data on the behaviour of people and the performance of objects. These offer opportunities for an enormous expansion in both surveillance capitalism and the surveillance state, with businesses refining targeted advertising and product development well beyond the crude systems that even today’s Internet makes possible, and governments deepening tracking and control of citizen behaviour and attitudes.

Consider the commercial benefits to insurance companies that will be able to continuously monitor the health of customers, their driving habits and the state of their homes; or to governments that can adjust benefits and other services based on citizen behaviour registered in their actions, as well as their interactions with one another, and with the things that fill their lives.  Scare isn’t.

Read more at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/can-internet-things-be-democratized

Will Blockchain be the solution?.  Maybe, but at least we need to convince ourselves and persuade others not to allow our personal data from falling into the hands of a few BIG companies and surveillance states.

The impact of IoT on jobs

It is a topic that fascinates me. I have written several posts “Will Machines replace our White Collar Jobs?” , and be assured that I will continue writing.

Why democratizing IoT is essential for its survival

In this interesting post, Ryan Lester (Director of IoT Strategy, Xively by LogMeIn) alerts that IoT feels only achievable to those companies with unlimited resources to make it happen.

We can not afford to leave out of the IoT revolution 90% of the companies out there. I agree with Ryan that in order to deliver on the true promise of IoT.

“It’s up to the vendor community to democratize IoT and make it more available and accessible to companies of all sizes.”

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