Introducing the New Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE IoT Newsletter
Transition happens around us all the time, and here at the IEEE IoT newsletter this is one of those opportunities. We’d like to take a minute and recognize all the excellent work done to date, to say thank you, and to progress forward with some new faces who will take the torch and continue the mission!
We at the IEEE would like to thank Dr. Raffaele Giaffreda for his outstanding work over the past 8 years. We often think in the industry of change as something that happens every few years, in this case Raffaele kept pace and excellence in his volunteer work leading the IEEE IoT newsletter much much longer. Thank you so much for all of your efforts and service. He is of course still active as the Chief IoT Scientist at Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK, Italy) should you want to collaborate further. Raffaele welcomes your comments, thoughts, and collaboration into the future! He can be reached through his social media endpoints (@giaffred on Twitter and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/raffaelegiaffreda).
Taking over responsibilities as Editor of the IEEE Online Newsletter is Christopher O’Connor. In fact, I’m the one penning this article of transition. Thank you much to the IEEE for the opportunity to contribute! I’ve always thought about the world as an Engineer. I recall assisting my father in basic home projects (he was an ambitious man who built whole homes by himself just for fun it seemed) gaining invaluable practical statics, dynamics, electric, and hydronic education as a child. I built a home solar collector in 1978 (black baffles in a black box with a simple home thermostat and fan) and won a prize in the Science fair in the 8th grade. Engineering was in my heart and I pursued Electrical and Computer Engineering degrees from Rutgers College of Engineering and Rutgers Livingston College respectively. I choose not the path of the PhD but the path of business leader from there gaining business certificates from the University of North Carolina and Harvard, this led to running successively larger strategy, engineering, product planning and sales teams my entire career at several firms, most of it being at IBM. High lighting my career at IBM was my role as the founding General Manager of the Internet of Things Division for IBM, and later applying my total business skills as the CEO of Persistent Systems. The Covid 19 Pandemic and a converging set of personal businesses provided me the opportunity to depart corporate and enter a new chapter of working with Private Equity, sitting on several boards, working with my local University, and direct consulting with global companies on the Internet of Things. In my personal time I’m dedicated to my wife and family, as well am a Airbnb Superhost, a registered real estate professional building property on family land, and with my spare time I ride a bike across the mountains of North Carolina and sail in the Caribbean as often as I can get there…
A few months ago the staff at the IEEE asked me to assist with the Newsletter as the Editor. In particular to help add to its excellent content a more “Business of IoT” flavor while keeping the ongoing communication of academic and industry technical advancements in focus. And it is in that light that I pen this first contribution from myself, as well as a first person interview I conducted this past month with Bill Nussey, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Local Energy. We at the IEEE will enjoy your feedback as we experiment with content and styles.
In this opening letter, I’d like to start with my perspective on the Internet of Things. IoT is all around us today, it's here, it's anchored in the very pillars of everything we do and everything that enterprises do around the world. There is no debate about “if IoT '', there is only “how fast” and “how much” IoT will impact industries and the individuals of the world.
It was not always this way, and like all things there are business/technology “laws' ' that guide progression, with the IoT we are moving down the road of change watching the interaction of Moore’s Law intertwined with Wright’s Law. In short, we started out big and clunky, with nothing outside the data center as how we finished the 20th Century, to being integrated, highly entwined, small and elegant in comparison just 22 years later.
Take yourself back to 1999 … computerized systems, data, storage, and network existed only inside the hallowed walls of the corporate data center with a few loose wires connecting them, over thin expensive hardwire lines that screamed (not!) at 1.54Mbps. Nothing lived in the wild from a practical point of view. Batteries, solar, chips, circuitry, storage, communications, satellites, cellular and so many other more advancements were yet to come. So many of our phones went “flip”, and there were no tablets like an IPAD.
But post 2000 the change was afoot … Moore’s Law applied itself in so many ways to the technology elements by bringing the size, footprint, power consumption, communications (BT, Wifi, cellular, LoRa) and in the technical field practicality of electronics down successively every cycle. With volume-based needs arising from this technical shift, Wright’s Law kicked in and everything became more available, cheaper, and abundant. We had broad technical advancement and abundance of components, one more ingredient was needed as a catalyst.
That catalyst was software … With software, we now had data, we had the ability to locally, at gateways, and in the data center gain insight and intelligence. Software provided us with new key focus points such as the ability to think about operations, analytics, prediction, artificial intelligence and so much more in new and exciting ways. Software enabled us to no longer “watch” your systems work, but to in real time interact with those systems, anyplace, anywhere, anytime. The Internet of Things now had its perfect storm of technical advancement, abundance of cheap components and software, and the game was afoot!
At IBM during this time, I was a key executive leader in the purchase of a company called “MRO Software”. MRO Software had a piece of software called Maximo, which provided the ability for the first time to link the data center to the “assets” of an industry. They had exemplary clients who moved beyond the application of ERP principles (a financial discipline) to actually enabling the business executive owners of production, quality, manufacturing, and operations to actually interact with their software for the first time. The division at IBM that bought this was the Tivoli Systems Division which owned the classic data center systems management software products. Our vision was that Inside the Datacenter software would over time be seamless with outside the data center compute capabilities attached to “non computing devices”. We didn’t know it, but this was a neanderthal age approach to the Internet of Things. This was 2005.
While it took us at IBM 10 more years to make a business division called the “Internet of Things”. The world took off around us driving more and more exciting use cases, and for IBM, Maximo was at its center. Across the software industry, everyone developed methods to connect their software to “things”, whether it was building control systems, manufacturing control systems, airline control systems, operations control systems, smart cities or more. Advancements in the convergence of software, hardware rooted technology, and business affordability drove exciting changes in every industry on the planet. Your dishwasher could request service, your car could “think” about driving itself”. In big business inventories could shrink, manufacturing could be more global, shipping more exact, outages could be predicted and so much more.
Today, this change is cemented in place while advancements continue. The Data Center is now a semi permeable wall with sources of information being “everywhere”. The ability to secure these devices has taken a strong root in our thoughts, and industry and government regulations have arisen that didn’t exist before. Thoughts on how to protect national interests, your device user's privacy, and yet fuel industry growth all are paramount on our minds as Moore’s Law and Wright’s Law march onwards every day. Yesterday my car which was made in Germany received its software update over the air and I had new features I didn’t have before, last night I unpacked Starlink satellite and was up and running with my home in the North Carolina mountains connected to my phone in a matter of minutes at speeds I never dreamed of without wires. My phone says 5G on it, and we’ve yet to start to tap into what 5G speeds will do for us as the items connected to a 5G line have only just started to change.
In my approach to the IEEE IoT newsletter, we’ll explore many many of these items and more. I hope to bring a broad perspective of not just devices and pieces of technology, but of the issues of the day that confront businesses, governments, and individuals as we continually advance the integration of the IoT into our social and business fabric. We will introduce a new format to add to our traditional method of reporting, the direct interview. If you’d like to be interviewed with a consideration of that discussion being a newsletter item, please just reach out to us with your topic, credentials, and desire.
Thank you very much for your time to consume my thoughts.
I look forward to your input and our interaction.
Christopher O’Connor is a 30-year software and services technology leader, strategist, and CEO. He received his engineering and computer science degrees from Rutgers University and management certificates from UNC and Harvard. He’s led everything from startup R&D to large company balance sheets as a General Manager of the Internet of Things for the IBM Corporation. Chris added to his achievements in 2019 a stint as the worldwide CEO of the public company Persistent Systems LTD from Pune, India, where he led a successful turnaround of a declining business. Chris is an experienced software and services operator, having occupied all C-level chairs from Sales to R&D to CEO throughout his career. With the pandemic, Chris has focused more on Venture Capital advisory roles by providing strategic leadership in Healthcare, Financial Sector, and Industrial Sector software and services. This includes extensive work in the field of the Internet of Things and Enterprise Asset Management, where he excels as a thought leader.
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