Autonomous Systems, IIoT, Interviews, Smart Manufacturing, Smart Services

Jeremy Geelan – Starting the new technology cycle


Jeremy Geelan
Conference Chairman, Industry of Things World 2015

British by birth, upbeat by nature, intercontinental traveler by choice, anthropologist and explicator of Internet technologies by trade, Jeremy Geelan is an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences and a domain expert on what he calls “the future of the future”…with a current special focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and communication & collaboration technologies. Educated at Cambridge University and trained at the British Broadcasting Corporation, he served 2008–13 as Conference Chair of Cloud Expo® – widely acknowledged to be the largest Cloud Computing & Big Data event in the world.
Jeremy Geelan was last year’s Industry of Things World’s Conference Chair. With his years of experience in the field of future technologies, as well as being a renowned speaker and moderator, Jeremy guided the Industry of Things World audience through an intensive learning and experience exchange program over two days at the event.

Where do you see the IoT and its technologies creating the most impact?

Manufacturing, Transport, Smart Cities and Healthcare are the four big areas where anyone genuinely able to execute on using – or enabling/supplying – “insight-as-a-service” currently has a huge competitive advantage. But there are countless up-and-coming new initiatives with equally unlimited potential for impacting all our lives, around the so-called “Internet of Food” for example (IoT-enabled food supply chain management). Likewise environmental management – there too the scope is by definition global…and therefore massive. Smart Sport has already become a sub-industry all of its own and it can only become bigger and bigger as well as more and more world-wide.

Given that you are a domain expert on what you call “the future of the future” – how do you see the next 5 years evolving in the IoT space?

The low-hanging fruit seems to be in the automotive industry, with autonomous vehicles in the vanguard. The motor insurance industry is about to be seriously disrupted as car owners become financially incented not to drive their own cars by insurance operators whose actuaries calculate that fewer accidents will occur as Smart Traffic rapidly becomes a reality – in industrially advanced nations, anyway. There will be incidences of malicious hacking, for sure, and in the worst case scenario there will maybe even be cyber-carjackings, but I expect the motor industry to rapidly address any such security anomalies just as fast as they appear. Once everyone feared that heart pacemakers were going to put patients at risk as they passed by electromagnetic fields, but nowadays no one gives that a second thought.

In the context of IoT, if you had to pinpoint and then help showcase the most promising and productive technologies and opportunities for businesses, what would they be?

As I said earlier, if data-in-motion can be transformed into insight-in-motion, then the sky is the limit! “Big data” can now be parsed at near real-time speeds, providing industrial and commercial opportunities hitherto simply not possible. That’s why Smarter Sport has already taken off – from tennis to motor racing. Athletics (and of course gyms around the globe) will for sure be further disrupted by innovations that to me are more Industrial IoT than they are ‘merely’ Consumer IoT. The sub-verticals within Smart Cities are many and various: from Vertical Agriculture and Smart Utilities to Intelligent Transport Systems and Smart Parking. In fact, there isn’t really an industry that isn’t ripe for disruption: from payment systems to e-democracy.

What are the most critical pieces missing today that will be needed to support this sort of computational ubiquity?

Ubiquitous sensing puts demands on ubiquitous computing that were not perhaps foreseen even by the most visionary of visionaries. Infrastructure geniuses have become modern demi-gods, since anything that can increase the capacity of the Internet is the highest-priority R&D of all just now. IPv6 for example is a key communication enabler for the future Internet of Things, and universal adoption is just a matter of time. Other IoT protocols and standards that are still emergent will, over time, stabilize – as has happened in any other Internet sea-change of this magnitude.

Where do you see the biggest challenges at the moment in terms of adoption of the Industrial IoT?

Governments clearly need to get actively involved if the full promise of the IIoT is to be achieved. Smarter Cars need Smarter Traffic Signals, Connected Health needs Connected Billing, and so on. That said, the private sector has developed tremendous momentum already and it will surely not be long before, for example, no commercial airliner can or will ever go missing like Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The more educated we all become about what sensors and connectivity can do, the higher we can set the bar in terms of our expectations as passengers, as patients, as customers, as employees, as citizens, and so on. I see Industrial IoT as almost a re-booting of the entire aims and scope of Internet technologies. In my view we are at the end of a technology cycle that has lasted 80 years…and we are at the beginning of a new cycle that will last the next eighty.

Shout-outs: Any sites/people/articles or books that have inspired you lately?

I’m a great believer in trying to bring a little long overdue focus back to the Forgotten Heroes of the early Internet, folks like Vannevar Bush (the Father of “Memex”) and J. C. R. Licklider (a.k.a. “Lick”). The latter was instrumental, from his desk in the Pentagon, in funneling huge resources into the R&D which eventually gave rise to the ARPANet, the precursor to the Internet. Without prescient individuals like Bush and Licklider in the early 1960s, none of us would be meeting in Berlin in September because there would never have been a globe-girdling network-of-networks. They paved the way for the 21st-century emergence of truly ubiquitous computing and helped put cybernetics and AI on the map.

The Industry of Things World team thanks Jeremy Geelan for his insights!

Interview Partners: Jeremy Geelan and Elise Orhan