Friday, May 12, 2017

Reflections on CYPHER-2016

Connected Devices.  Artificial Intelligence.  Machine Learning.  Cognitive Computing.  Semantic Web.  The Internet of Things (IoT) & the Internet of Everything.  Being at the CYPHER 2016 India Analytics Summit was like spending a few days at an all-you-can-absorb technology buffet, with discussions spanning all things analytics.  Equally impressive was my precursor to the summit, a day at the mu sigma Innovation Lab.  However, after returning from the Summit which was held in Bangalore last week, two thoughts are top of mind.  First, there is an amazing amount of potential and enthusiasm in India and elsewhere around the prospects associated with connected devices, which can lead to dramatic economic, social and environmental benefits.  Second, as some real definitions are finally being formed around what I will call the basket of IoT technologies, the need for domain experts in the above mentioned technologies is now more clear than it ever has been.  Realization of this need will determine the course that guides the evolution of IoT technologies over the coming decades.
As I noted in my pre-conference interview, I am excited about the potential of IoT and the prospect for connected devices to improve lives.  And by this I mean the majority of lives, who up to this point, may not even be part of the connected economy.  I stressed this point numerous times again in my talk, as I do elsewhere.  The same behavioral and location-based methods that can be used to better understand group consumer behavior can also be applied to situations involving pollution prevention, contagion modeling, urban planning, market development, and disease transmission, among many other things.  The more domain experts that participate in open science and collaboration from a variety of backgrounds, the more that methods will be shared, which will in turn benefit science, business and society.
Not this is not to say that technical competency is overemphasized; in fact, it is just the opposite.  Having technical expertise in topics under the analytics umbrella is a prerequisite for doing something useful in this space, whether it be machine learning, quantitative modeling, commercial feasibility analysis, or infrastructure engineering.  But those who have have technical fluency in one or more areas coupled with an appreciation of how the technology can be applied in different commercial and social settings, which comes from a domain expertise, will be driving the agenda.  I heard far too many discussions of technologies and approaches with an ‘analytics will solve all’ mantra.  Digging a little deeper, many of these ideas are not commercially feasible or they are so specialized that they will have a hard time finding a significant market, which is ultimately needed to prove out a concept.  It should be noted that this is not something that is unique to this particular conference - it only underscores what seems to be driving the discussions I hear elsewhere.
Again, I am bullish on IoT.  And by IoT I am more inclined to envision a world where technology is always active but is more seamlessly integrated into the background noise of our lives.  Robots performing repetitive tasks is one thing, but think a little bigger and imagine how connecting people all around the world and giving them access to participate in global markets, with price transparency, will change commercial activity for the better.  This can serve as the catalyst for real supplier-to-consumer trade, which is by definition the foundation for a market. And doing this in a way that it is less intrusive to participants by providing access to information, rather than prescribing advice, will allow for the continuation of regional and subregional markets to flourish.  Sidenote: It was fitting that I picked up Parag Khanna’s Connectography at the airport for the flight home, which seems to resonate with many of these views embracing technology and informatics, with an optimistic and participatory vision for the future.
Informatics and analytics will continue to play a larger part in our lives, and this is a good thing.  However, it is important to balance the development of the tools and technologies with an appreciation for the markets where they are intended to operate, and this includes placing the evolution of IoT discussion in its’ appropriate historical, economic and social context.

No comments: