Of all the trends that will shape data science and analytics over the next few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to have the most profound impact of all.

In keeping with the publishing tradition of saying goodbye to one year, and hello to a new one, with top prediction lists, I have complied my thoughts on what is in store for the IoT in 2016 (and beyond). By my reckoning, data professionals and IT leaders can expect the following:

If today is cloudy – tomorrow is foggy

Right now, we are all busy trying to adopt 'the cloud'. But if we would have to talk about cloud in terms of the ‘80s we would call it timesharing on something that represents a distributed mainframe. With the processing capacity still growing and the need for intelligent things to operate independently even if they are disconnected from the central brains, we will see intelligence and decisioning power moving to the edge. We will call this fog-computing.

Say hi to your digital twin

On an abstract level you can describe the movement of IoT as the need to create digital twins of things that are present in the physical world. The first step is to create a, as true as possible copy (life like) using real-time data to have an up to date view as possible. We will call that the digital twin. The next step will be to add more intelligence to the digital twin. We will give it attributes that the real physical thing doesn’t have -- like an agenda -- allowing it to take part into real world processes without the intervention of humans.

Imagine all the robots – sharing the entire world

As with all technology it can be used for a good cause or a bad. When will we see the first robot terrorist? And how will we respond?

Robots in disguise

While many people are afraid that robots will take over the world one day, the true situation is that they are already under us, we just don’t recognize them. Are we are brainwashed by Hollywood how robots should look like (Terminator, R2D2, Chappie)? In reality they look like ATM’s, washing machines, dishwashing machines, and slowly they start to emerge automatic lawn movers, vacuum cleaners and -- of course -- drones.

Resistance is futile – you will be disintermediated

Disintermediation will be the word of 2016, as the tipping point has been reached and companies start reaping benefits of the investments in automated decisioning systems which will evolve in AI (yet another way in which robots will emerge). By removing human touch points from especially administrative processes, massive layoffs will make headlines. And public debate will rise on the ethical aspects of robotization in our society.

Slavery in the Industrial Age

Imagine a labourer that doesn’t have any rights, is not paid (and doesn’t have to pay tax), never ever has a holiday, and can change hands by paying coin? You probably don’t think like that, and it might seem comical at first. But with adding more and more intelligence to robots, we might envision a future in which robots become more our equals, becoming a participant in our society. There might come a time when they will demand more rights and fair wages. To make the point, I think robots that replace people should pay income tax in order to get a level playing field. As long as robots are slaves it will be cheaper to replace humans with robots.

Kind regards your Robo-manager

Many people think that higher level jobs will be safe from automation and that robotization will go on at lower levels only. Think again. Smart algorithms will be ideal to manage people for services that can be monitored (into the extreme). Gartner predicts that by 2018, approximately 3 million employees will have a robot as a manager. Proof the point: there is already a trading firm that appointed an algorithm to the board.

(About the author: Bart Schouw is director of industry solutions, IoT at Software AG)

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