The Internet of Things and the Cloud CIO of the Future

The ease of cloud computing and the explosion of computing devices means that the nature of IT and the role of CIO is going to change dramatically.

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As the cost of computing, driven by Moore's Law, continues to plummet, this mode of computing will explode. How big an explosion?

Well, the CEO of Ericsson believes that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. But that pales in comparison to the estimate of Cisco's CTO, Padmasree Warrior, who believes there will be 1 trillion Internet-connected devices by 2013. Warrior may be overly optimistic in terms of timeframe, but if one were to make a bet on accuracy, it's likely that Warrior's number will be closer to the truth when we get to 2020.

The simple fact is that everyone — and that includes (perhaps especially includes) those of us in the technology industry — underestimates the growth of ever-cheaper computing devices. To quote one industry luminary, later hoisted on his own petard, Ken Olsen, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Olsen now is laughed at for such an attitude, but the fact is, for the reality of the market as he saw it at the time, it was completely appropriate. But he completely missed how the market exploded once the reduced cost of personal computing enabled entire new uses for computers — I mean, after all, who could have imagined collaborating with people spread around the world in competing with other teams in a role-based graphical online game?

So I'm not trying to criticize Sperling as much as acknowledge that all of us fail to understand the implications cloud computing will bring to IT. He is dead on with respect to the looming cascade of data IT organizations will confront. I do disagree with him, however, in his prescription for how CIOs should respond to that data cascade.

I don't believe the role of a CIO is to design business initiatives that leverage that data. It's unlikely that a CIO can have anywhere near the daily interaction with the market that people placed in sales, marketing, and product development can. They're the ones who can create new business initiatives that leverage data — once they comprehend the possibilities that data offers.

Rather than design business initiatives, what the CIO should do is to make that data available and help those other organizations understand what can be done with it. While it is difficult for CIOs to have the market sensitivity that those organizations have, it is near impossible for their members to appreciate, without assistance, what can be done with the data resources becoming available. What are some ways that CIOs can assist their colleagues in understanding and leveraging that data?

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