It is not my thing, really, to join strangers for dinner – I tried a couple of times and did not want any part of it. Yet, when my financial advisor sent me an invitation to the annual client conference to be held at Four Seasons Hotel in Denver, where the topic would be Rise of the Machines, after reading the description it was clear we should not miss it. “A new wave of disruptive innovation is upon us. Intelligent machines – from driverless cars and commercial drones to medical robots – have advanced enormously in sophistication, and falling prices make them increasingly accessible, the promotion said. “Join us to hear what we think they will mean for the markets, the economy, and your portfolio.” I sent a RSVP promptly to let them know Richard and I were in!
The IoT buzz started some 18 – 24 months ago, riding on the cattails of the Big Data. Of course IoT in reality is way older, as we all became aware when the plane that wasn’t found yet was sending engine information to its manufacturer. Closer to home? A conversation with our friend who had a pacemaker installed and who was called by the hospital while she was going home – they asked her to get right back as her pacemaker was sending disturbing messages. WTH! She had no idea she had a talkative device planted inside her!
Just this week Apple came out with its watch – and if you read AARP magazine (yours or your parents’) you will see at least 4 ads in each issue for the life saving medical alert devices. Apple will eat creators’ of these devices lunch, so I think it is only fair that I’ll eat my financial advisor’s dinner while listening to the talk! As I wrote this, my phone rang – somebody offering a free life saving device – just sign in for the monitoring program! It’s been only a few days since Apple announcement but already near-panic is setting in!
All I can think about is who is going to process, store and act upon the information all the things are providing. Most of the applications that my financial advisor mentioned, and most that I’ve encountered so far, are critical in nature, and it is unthinkable that the data could get lost, action delayed, or even worse, be compromised by the criminal or terror-minded person or group; the scenario of someone tapping into a pacemaker has been played countless times, by various folks, petrified of the power that is being unleashed. Yes, it’s all on the Internet! Almost every hospital went ahead and added a power generator so as not to be caught out by power outages in the middle of the medical procedure; have they all got a live backup system for the medical data they are collecting?
The presentation at the dinner last night did not deal with the processing of all the information machines are generating. Nobody wanted clients to get upset, so there was no discussion of risks. Most of the audience wasn’t technically inclined anyway, and I thought the level of the presentation was quite appropriate – we got an assurance that the researchers at the firm are aware of the trends and analyze to their heart’s content over the impact these trends have on clients’ portfolios. As dumbed-down as the presentation proved to be, it spoke of the specter of even greater volumes of data yet to come.
The topic of Rise of the Machines brought a little smile, though, as I recalled recent videos by Martin Fink – you will need The Machine to process all the data the machines produce, won’t you now?