Real Leaders

New Leadership And The Internet Of Things

We are leaving one age and entering another. The information age is waning and we are entering something new. Something beyond social, mobile and the cloud. The great synthesis perhaps. Between virtual and physical. Digital and analog. Silicon and carbon. Maybe, through the intelligent, intentional instrumentation of the physical world, we will create new ground truth. About water. Arable land. Energy. Population health. Nurtition. And with that ground truth, perhaps we will create more trust? And leadership. And meaning.

Some parts of this age need leaving The current, dominant instance of capitalism is marked by a mis-reading of Milton Friedman on the sole function of a private corporation being profit maximization. He thought, wrote, taught much more. And better. But a myopia about profit – particularly short term – limits some of the most talented people in the world to hedge, or turn away from their potential to create more and better for their customers, teams, and communities beyond shareholders. The current, advertised-as-most-advanced instance of governance is marked by a mis-reading of Darwin and the survival of the fittest that has arrived us at winner-take-all politics.

This has spawned the shaming of compromise that has cored out some of the most important local, regional, national and global institutions we have yet created. And this has severely limited the potential for our best and brightest to create systems that shed historical baggage, honor core values and leverage new insight.

The current instance of identity, marked by so many labels, likes and hashtags, has arrived us at a moment when a perception of a post in a distracted split second can be turned into reality for a product, a brand, a community, a segment of the population. This limits some of the most well intentioned people’s ability or ambition to connect deeply with the real world – including the people in the room, at the table, sitting beside them.

Who Says We Might Be In A New Leadership Moment?

Roy D Spence, Jr, is one of the planet’s greatest living ad-men. But, what a world this would be if they were all as inspired and intentional as Roy. I first met him in 2011, when we shared the stage at ScanSource’s annual partner conference. Suffice it to say, I did not belong in the same hall with the man. His primary thesis is much deeper than his pithy book title, Its Not What You Sell, Its What You Stand For. But that is a good start. Robert D. Kaplan, in his 2012 work, The Revenge of Geography, reminds us that despite the power of global tech, media and finance to obliterate many barriers, the physical world still has something to say about population health, culture, government, economy, security.

What is IoT if not the instrumentation of the physical world? Walter Isaacson, in his most recent work, The Innovators, homes in on a number of emerging themes that could likely be central to our success in selecting which systems to honor and invest in, and which to target for creative destruction, or something new. Among the arguments he hones throughout his work, is the cause for a re-elevation of the social and physical sciences. An homage to the mystery that is our creativity, our inventiveness, our unpredictability and our resilience. Great synthesis anyone?

The concept of leadership is undergoing a massive redefinition as we speak.

Our next great cadre of leaders is being forged in part by these ideas as expressed in the instrumentation of the physical world. These are the people defining, developing and deploying Internet of Things, or IoT solutions. They are doing it with intention, intelligence and a keen eye toward mitigating unintended consequences. We will benefit in many ways, especially their willful destruction of the false choices in too many systems. Following are a few examples of how they are going about conceiving and delivering their work Three maxims, three tactics, three examples of the new leadership expressing itself in IoT

During our TEDx talk on IoT last year, we were thrilled to share three maxims of emerging leadership in IoT. These are elements of a vision that we see over and over again in some of the most compelling IoT startups in the world.

  1. Grand challenges before small conveniences
  2. People above machines
  3. Faces more than screens

In an INEX post recently, we defined three ways that the new leadership in IoT is creating a new class of products, services and experiences, based in part on a new set of technical, commercial and social values. These are a core set of common tactics evident in some of the most powerful IoT solutions deployed today.

  1. Human-centered – or accessible analytics for anyone
  2. Persistent sockets – or the rise of reliable hardware
  3. Transparent business models – or the rise of authentic value over edge

And here they are. Three IoT companies with approaches that map – at the conceptual level with the maxims, and at the tactical level with the development approaches – to a number of elements of an emerging new leadership. In IoT. In national security and public safety. In resource management. In agriculture. Blueforce Development. Mike Helfrich’s team enables remote teams from multiple entities to rapidly stand-up manage and tear-down secure networks of people, proximate sensors and remote services. Securely. While the business began in the Tier 1 SOF (Special Operations Forces) and Intelligence communities, versions of these capabilities are now available to first responders and enterprises deploying mobile workers across a number of vertical markets.

Clearly a human-centered approach to IoT, Blueforce is a brilliant example of the faces more than screens maxim by delivering a single pane of glass common operating picture that enables operators to see only what they need to see quickly, accurately, actionably. They can get in a screen, get what they need, and get out quickly. Wellntel. Marian Singer and Nicholas Hayes have been bridging the mechanical engineering and geohydrology worlds, the real time control and extreme remote telemetry domains for nearly 20 years.

Their work made them global experts on pump equipment and machinery management. Their IoT company Wellntel goes beyond the pump to instrument the groundwater BEFORE it is consumed. Two of the strongest value propositions in their solution include: The design of their device, optimized to operate at the wellhead for years, and their focus on creating a business in profitable sustainability for them, well owner/ operators, and a number of other interested stakeholders. Farmobile.

Jason Tatge and his partners brought commodities markets to farmers on their hand held devices in the last decade. His new company aims to bring precision agriculture to the mid-sized, family and small scale agriculture operations. From application- specific sensors for ag equipment, machinery and ambient environments, to a cloud-based electronic farm record suitable for delivering regulator-authenticated intelligence, Farmobile is enable another revolution in ag, food, nutrition, population health and rural economic development.

There are a number of things unique about the Farmobile model, but, two map most closely to the maxims and tactics checklists: People above machines, and transparent business models. Each Farmobile client secures a licensing agreement that enables them to define the authorization of the re-exploitation of their data to 3rd/ 4th/ 5th parties – and share in the revenue from those subscriptions.

Chris Rezendes is responsible for leading client and partner engagements and new research initiatives at INEX Advisors, LLC. In his current advisory engagements  Rezendes focuses on helping clients define, select, and prosecute their most promising growth and investment opportunities in internet of things, M@M, and related kill enabling technologies markets. Rezendes has nearly 22 years of experience analyzing, advising, or operating in mission critical, real-time, embedded, mobile, and wireless technology businesses.

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