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Who are you calling a geek?

Sept. 8, 2017
A resource for anyone who wants to get a handle on the vast IoT ecosystem.
SAS recently unveiled its “A Non-Geek’s A-Z Guide To The Internet of Things,” a 
resource created by Tamara Dull, director of emerging technologies, for anyone who wants to get a handle on the vast IoT ecosystem.

We chatted with Bill Roberts, director of SAS global IoT practice, to peek inside the guide. Take a look…

Smart Industry: Why the title? Do geeks have an easier time understanding the IoT?  

Bill: I think “geeks” have an easier time understanding IoT in terms of the technology ecosystem. What geek doesn’t love sensors, devices, protocols, data and machine learning? This is great stuff. The geeks have had an advantage because the technology has been developing over a longer time horizon, so they are generally comfortable with their perspective. IoT, however, can also be viewed in terms of business transformation—this is the realm of the “non-geek” or the business leader, and this is a more recent development. Non-geeks focus on outcomes—the
transformation, the value that goes beyond the technology. They are looking at process, engagement, skills, investment, and they are measuring the results. They are not typically well versed in technology—and to be fair most geeks are not well versed in business outcomes. To really get to an impactful application of IoT—an initiative that drives a valuable outcome—the two perspectives need to work together. The non-geeks guide, in my opinion, provides a bit of context for business leaders who are responsible for the valuable outcomes of IoT. They don’t need to become technologists or geeks, but they don’t need to be completely in the dark either. Perhaps there is a “Geek’s Guide to IoT” in the future?

Smart Industry: You celebrate the different ways to view/interpret the concept of the IoT. Why? What's is gained by maintaining a broad definition?

Bill: The broad definition facilitates innovation, which is a cornerstone of transformation. I believe that IoT as a concept has a lot of range. In the “Non-Geek’s Guide,” we offer five different high-level definitions of IoT. There are countless terms like Industry 4.0, smart cities, connected healthcare, smart industry (see what I did there?). These terms can easily be associated with IoT and generally represent big ideas. What is a smart city anyway? It means different things to different people, just like IoT. However, for each of these ideas, you can work your way down to a single use case—a specific initiative that has with it a specific outcome or value statement. Smart cities, for example, can be taken all the way down to smart garbage receptacles—monitoring the amount of garbage in city trash cans to ensure cans never overflow and are maintained optimally to reduce cost, smell, rodents, whatever. That specific use case includes a range of IoT technology, business processes, and people in order to capture the value. Recognizing the range in IoT even across seemingly different industries and sectors, I think, frees us to take experience and learnings from one project and apply them to others. Put in practice, IoT will become specific and measurable. But as a concept, it holds limitless potential. 

Smart Industry: The guide includes a glossary of 101 terms related to digital transformation. What is the most important term? What is the least-understood term?