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Smart City Sentinel

Nothing Will Keep the Midwest IoT Council from Their Appointed Summit

By Cynthia S. Artin

The IoT industry has always been a challenging one to understand and forecast, but a growing community of connected technology companies, from start-ups to large global enterprises, continue to gather once a year in Chicago, Illinois in a northern-most center of the US Midwest, to debate the issues and share their latest innovations.

Despite a blizzard that covered the Midwest at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, fans are flocking to the event, which started as a regional initiative six years ago.

The Summit has become one of the “go-to” thought leadership events, with an expanding focus on Industrial IoT, and a great emphasis on large scale implementations including those designed for smart cities – and regions.

We caught up with the non-profit Midwest IoT Council Co-Chairs Don DeLoach and Brenna Berman, to get their thoughts from the perspective two very experienced and passionate strategists and practitioners who also have “day gigs.”

“Our theme this year is ‘pilots to production,’ DeLoach said. “This is our sixth year, and we have covered a myriad of topics in that time and have seen the hype and newness associated with the market in 2013 evolve into the progress as well as frustration associated with how the market has progressed, good and bad. Nobody expects that the Internet of Things is going to go away. That said, there are an abundance of pilots in the market but far less production instances.”

DeLoach and Brennan write this off to the way Internet of Things solutions made their way into the market, primarily as silos, and the difficulty enterprises have had in translating these Internet of Things products into what might be characterized as “IoT enabled enterprises.”

“That is in part a function of lack of holistic understanding about how IOT architecture should be viewed from an enterprise level, and part a function of the organizational structure and processes that ultimately need to adapt to fully embrace this technology,” Brennan said.

“The most common challenges that companies are facing is a lack of holistic understanding about the various pieces that collectively make up the IoT, as well as the associated corporate structure and knowledgebase relative to implementation from an enterprise perspective,” Brennan continued. “The IoT, probably more than any technology wave we have seen, is a holistic opportunity. That’s one of the great challenges. It is not enough to understand sensor technology, or communications protocols, or security, governance, privacy, or even various elements of data analytics. The challenge lies in understanding enough about each of the various elements and the interrelationships between them in order to translate that into a delivery architecture that allows for maximum leverage.”

DeLoach agrees that it’s been a tough climb, saying however “as the market matures, the technology will become more accessible, the management teams will become more informed, and the organizational structures will become more adaptive.”

As far as specific industries go, the industrial markets that are heavy with capital equipment and organizations dealing with logistics are probably some of the ones that see the highest return on investment and are less affected by limitations associated with silos as opposed to holistic architecture, according to the Council.

Standards evolve to allow interconnectivity amongst heterogeneous devices of like purpose. In other words, devices that exist within a building or a home that have reason to talk to one another

When it comes to the future, Brennan couldn’t be more positive. “The IOT industry continues to evolve. While it is sometimes disheartening that the pace it not as fast as we would like, and the setbacks are more prevalent than we would like to see, the progression remains clear and the outlook remains positive. There is no turning back!”

She believes it is important to note that the increased emphasis on edge architecture is the maturing of the market. “In academic terms, we are not at the point where we are receiving our PhD, but we might be graduating from high school. Architectures that make heavy use of edge computing lend themselves well to abstracting the creation of the data from consumption of the data. This is resulting in more effective deployments and a higher propensity to move from pilots to production.”

When she is not spending time contributing to the Council and its many events throughout the year, Berman serves as Executive Director of City Tech, at UI LABS. Prior to her current position, Brenna served in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, which she joined in 2011. She served as the Chief Information Officer for the City and Commissioner for the Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) from 2012 to spring of 2017, and during that time focused on transforming the team at DoIT to provide the skills and expertise to implement the Mayor’s vision of data-driven resident services and a more efficient City government.

DeLoach, who is also a business executive (President of Centri Technologies), a published author and frequent speaker at global IoT events said, “The next frontiers for IoT track closely to an article that was published by Jim Heppelmann and Michael Porter in the Harvard business review back in November 2014. Specifically, we are moving from products to smart products to smart connected products to product systems to systems of systems.”

DeLoach admits this may sound like a pedantic progression, but being the vibrant enthusiast and futurist he is, sees this is anything but pedantic.

“Moving from smart connected products, that we would logically characterize as IOT enabled products, into products systems and ultimately systems of systems is really the evolution of the market into things like smart cities and regions. I count the growing ecosystems of smart devices that interact with one another as part of this evolution as well, notwithstanding the heterogeneous nature of these devices. It may be quite a while before we reach that point, but the progression remains clear.”

The implications of this transformation are far-reaching, DeLoach, Brennan and their team believe “The effect these ecosystems can have on access to healthcare, sustainability of the environment, resiliency of our cities, and the productivity of our businesses and quality of life on earth are so meaningful,” Berman said. “While there will remain numerous challenges along the way, the opportunity is certainly encouraging.”

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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