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Business-Driven Architect

Brenda Michelson

@ MIT CIO Symposium: The Internet of Things

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I’m at the MIT CIO Symposium today.  Currently, I’m in the Internet of Things Panel.

Moderator: Dr. Michael Chui, Sr. Fellow McKinsey Global Institute


  • Mr. Robert LeFort, CEO Ember
  • Prof. Sanjay Sarma, Professor and Former Chairman of Research and Co-Founder of The Auto-ID Center at MIT
  • Mr. Bob Metcalfe, Partner Polaris
  • Mr. Mark Roberti, Editor RFID Journal

Sanjay Sarma – Started in 1998, vision similar to Internet of Things today.  Given early stage of internet, ambition was to replace barcodes with RFID.  Problem was price point.  Barcode is a few cents.  RFID target was 5 cents.  Brought cost of tags down.  Made the tags cheap by not putting data on tag, but only a number.  The data would be on the Internet, accessible through cell phones.  This brought about the Internet of Things.

For example, redo HVAC on this building (MIT Kresge).  Lots of resistance, jobs at risk.  However, big sustainability gain.  The people are most affected by Internet of Things.

Mark Roberti – Heard about RFID accidently.  Was covering supply chain tech, Manugistics and i2.  Software wasn’t delivering value.  Why?  Data in was bad.  Forecasts ended up bad. 

Heard about RFID at a conference, DoD was using on battleships.  Energized about space.  Began RFID Journal. 

Now, tremendous innovation going on.  Most impactful application: main application is asset tracking.  Applications are exploding: tracking babies to prevent SIDS.

Robert LeFort, Ember – company provides chips and software to actualize vision.  RFID value for last 10 years.  Now, innovation such as clean tech.  “Unbelievable the power of convenience? – Shell Executive. 

Utilize RFID for energy, utility usage controls in way that is simple and convenient.  Use the proper amounts of energy at the best savings.  Get big payback.  Don’t want notification to turn off appliance.  Want smartness in appliances and reduced energy bill.

Bob Metcalfe – Now an investor.  One investment is Ember.  Looking for opportunities: education, energy and healthcare.  Embedded (Internet of Things) is space across those. 

10 – 15 billion microcontrollers being shipped every year.  Not tags.  Most are not networked.  Humorously infers to Metcalfe’s Law.  Needless to say, there’s an opportunity here.

Invested in node and tag companies, including Sticky Bits.

Mark – Term Internet of Things is very valuable, but has outlived usefulness.  Allows us to see track and manage things we haven’t been able to see, track and manage previously.

Sanjay – dealing with the data deluge – enterprise systems today, such as RFID, aren’t designed to receive feedback.  What happens when have wrong number of pallets of toothpaste? 

Most important thing to do with RFID data is “use it or lose it?.  Data rots.  Short shelf-life.  Can fix pallet before truck leaves.  Otherwise, data is forensics.

Robert LeFort – Role of CIO and IT in Internet of Things.  Convergence on Internet is a good thing.  CIOs know how to manage, exploit Internet.

From here, the discussion went into a lightening round.  Next areas of opportunity are health, vehicle, and managed home. See big uptake in US and China.  Of existing companies, only Cisco mentioned as having opportunity to lead/exploit RFID.  See RFID as both B2B and B2C play.

The audience Q&A is focused on implementation characteristics (data processing and passive tag range), use cases (food lineage) and future advances. 

For more insights from MIT CIO Forum, check out the twitter stream #mitcio


Awesome summary of the IoT panel! Thanks much for putting this out.

IoT Panel Captain
MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

You are most welcome! It was a very interesting and entertaining panel. Nice job putting the session together. -brenda

Brenda Michelson, Principal of Elemental Links, shares her view on architectural strategies, technology trends, business, and relevance.

Brenda Michelson

Brenda Michelson is the principal of Elemental Links an advisory & consulting practice focused on business-technology capabilities that increase business visibility and responsiveness. Follow Brenda on Twitter.


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