Digital Transformation: it takes way more than simply Digitalisation

It’s a mistake to think that organizations in Switzerland and Europe are really ready for profound digital transformation in a broad way. There are still far too many gaps with regard to the digitisation (and automation) of existing processes and the digitisation (transcription) of data from paper media. Worse: what is sometimes called digital transformation is sometimes «just» digitisation (turning paper into electronic information, into processes). The majority of C-level managers responding to the 2014 Digital Transformation survey by KPMG still equated «Digital Transformation» with simply the digitalisation and automation of business processes. Putting that aside, you still need to introduce digitisation in order to optimise your business in a digital transformation context but, and I do not apologise to keep emphasising this, digitisation does not equal digital transformation. What matters is the strategic and prioritised interconnection of data sources and the actions you take to achieve business goals through digitisation and combining data. Continue reading

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M2M and IoT: what’s the difference?

M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and IoT (Internet of Things) are two related terms that are commonly bandied around but, because of their main similarities, are hard to distinguish. In some respects, it depends on who is using a particular term: the product developer, the end user, or the network provider. Continue reading

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LBS and IoT: not just what but where

LBS, Location-Based Services, are most-widely known in association with mobile devices (e.g. smart phones) with a built-in GNSS [Global Navigation Satellite System1] receiver, picking up signals from earth satellites, or correlating and trilaterating signal strengths of known WiFi or mobile telephone networks, especially useful when inside a building where satellite signals do not penetrate. Continue reading

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Wie installiere ich Cloud Foundry lokal?

IT-Unternehmen stehen immer vor der selben Herausforderung: bestimmte Services möglichst schnell und in hoher Qualität ihren Kunden zur Verfügung zu stellen. Durch iterative Entwicklungsprozesse, die allen agilen Methoden gemein sind, werden in der Regel immer häufiger IT-Artefakte dem Kunden ausgeliefert.

Dazu müssen die IT-Architekturen allerdings erst so umgesetzt werden, dass einzelne Teile einer Applikation flexibel ausgetauscht und unabhängig voneinander ausgeliefert werden können. Es ist also wünschenswert, wenn man Anwendungen wie Lego-Bausteine ständig reorganisieren und mit neuen Bausteinen bestücken könnte. Continue reading

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What must owners do when they on-sell an IoT-enabled product?

Many products change their ownership at some point in their lifetime, and this should also be considered for IoT-enabled devices. IoT-enabled devices also inhabit a virtual dimension that needs to be either preserved, transferred, or deleted, or a combination of all three. Continue reading

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The Internet of Things: elements of delivery

What elements of an Internet of Things solution do we need to deliver (develop) to be successful? Continue reading

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Securing the Internet of Things – Fundamentals

The technology of security is ever-changing but the following tenets have emerged to guide your choices: Continue reading

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Securing the Internet of Things – so many dimensions

Like the Internet of Things itself, ‘security’ has many dimensions. A common issue in German-speaking regions is that “Sicherheit” means both security and safety, but this is perhaps fortuitous in the context of IoT. Continue reading

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Securing the Internet of Things – botnets on the rise

At the end of October 2016 we witnessed a truly sobering DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on some of the DNS (Domain Name System) servers that allow browsers to interpret web URLs and translate then into IP addresses. Not once, but twice did a wave of requests, approaching many Terabytes per second, overwhelm the Dyn DNS servers in the US. This is not typical of DDoS attacks (which usually target a specific web site) and its effect were widespread, as traffic management systems and domain name services were taken down, causing Twitter, Reddit and others to remain inaccessible for many hours, even though they themselves were not directly targeted. Continue reading

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The Internet of Things and Phenomenology

“What is phenomenology?”, I hear you ask! Compared to defining what the Internet of Things is, this is quite easy. I’ll take you straight to Google’s concise definition:


So, how do you experience the Internet of Things? How does it feel?

Data collection is unconscious, pervasive, and when based on autonomous sensors, not meant to be perceived. So how can you feel it? Well, what does it feel like to be constantly surveilled? As engineers, as businesses, is this how we want people to feel – “to be watched”?

Feel Good Factor

In the context of IoT, the positive marketing hype of benefits of unconscious and indeterminate data collection lead to  “good outcomes”, such as reductions in energy consumption, a responsive environment, seamless communications, and easier transactions with entities.

The Things possess a certain capacity for awareness – albeit not equivalent to human intelligence and certainly not having consciousness but nevertheless, sentient. These Things connect with each other and pass, interpret, and respond to information, and change behaviour or state, all without the participation of human consciousness. And the closer and more intimate these Things are to individuals, the more we feel them (or at least their influence).

An Ethical Issue

But the more intimate this information, the more we must look at the ethics of how this information is collected, transmitted, analysed, compared, collated, and, perhaps most importantly, owned and used. We will no longer be able to restrict this information. In the era of the Internet of Things and distributed sensing systems, both the things that you do intentionally as part of an attempt to socialise (and remembering that we all have different personas dependant on context and social circles), AS WELL AS EVERYTHING ELSE, continue to contribute to a set of conceptual (virtual) and material (physical) infrastructures that perpetuate the desire for revelation (because of the utility it affords us) and the necessity for revelation (because we need to retain that utility).

What of that implanted medical device that sends data back to your GP to help in diagnosing an issue? What if that data was passed to your medical insurer and your premiums rose based on a (perhaps outlier) result? What if you started receiving advertisements on your smart phone for a medicine related to your condition as you walked past a pharmacy, simply because that device acts as an iBeacon or Eddystone transceiver?

Parallels can be drawn from how social media platforms indulge us by allowing us to upload personal information to share but that one image from 10 years ago leads to an unwelcome revelation when a new work buddy uncovers it – do we want the Internet of Things to capture information we don’t want revealed, such as frequenting a particular venue on a regular basis? But this is just simple data mining.

When you start interpreting data, analysing it for trends, comparing it with previous data points (from other sources and individuals) that focus to their known outcome, presumptions of behaviour can affect your physical world outcome! This is what happened to the pregnant teenager Target customer: Target analysed her buying patterns and combined it with its knowledge, coming to the conclusion that she was pregnant. When she was sent baby-article promotions her father stepped in and complained to Target, only for his daughter to have to admit to him the truth, that she was indeed pregnant!

So, what is it that we are feeling?

Firstly, the scale and latency of data collection within the IoT world happens largely without our conscious consent. We enter an office and the IR sensor detects us and turns on the lights – even without providing our identity to the system, our location through time (geo-temporal data) can bind us to that event, especially if it is a regular occurence. Nest thermostats need only to be taught a few times that when someone returns to an empty house the temperature should be set and by how much.

What if the car we drive or the smart phone we carry is continually uploading our position without our knowledge, and then in the future the police receive powers to subpoena that information and issue an historic speeding ticket based on it? Fanciful? – remember that DNA technology has only recently become reliable enough for convictions, so blood traces at unsolved historical crime scenes are now able to be processed and people brought to trial.

Secondly, the indeterminate use of this data and the complex ways it can be recombined away from our direct experience leads to a form of “corrupt personalisation,” e.g. the creation of a profile that may (and most probably will) not represent us, especially in a way we want. Unfortunately, such a profile will impact increasingly on our real-world life, leading to what has been called the “colonisation of the lifeworld.”

Identity theft is nothing new, but without ever needing to meet someone in person, it is a crime that can be perpetrated anonymously online after purchasing e-mail passwords and credit card details on teh Dark web. From then on, those affected have a tainted profile that impacts their lives. Or what if we sell our smart fridge? What mechanism is in place to disassociate ourselves with that Thing without corrupting our “cyberlife” profile, or to borrow a term from Industry 4.0, our “Digital Twin”?

It’s Creepy!

The result of these two features combines to produce the paradox of creepiness, where data collection feels wrong, but in which the ability (or willingness) to protest or react is constrained, because of the utility it provides us.

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