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October 31, 2012

Activity and Event-Based Intelligence – Why It Matters in Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things Markets

Among the areas of focus for INEX ADVISORS is national security implementation of new capabilities at the mobile edge of tactical networks.  Users of these networks include a wide range of defense, intelligence and public safety personnel.  The new capabilities include exploitation of a multitude of open-source intelligence feeds, social media, still and motion imagery, and machine to machine (M2M) and Internet of things solutions.

It was in this capacity that we had the opportunity to participate in GEOINT 2012 in Orlando, Florida at the beginning of October.  GEOINT is the annual conference sponsored by the National Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).   Imagine a couple of hundred technology and service providers trading ideas with a couple of thousand operators and analysts from the five principal US intelligence agencies, every major branch of the Department of Defense, select other Federal, State and Local agencies in the US, as well as a handful of international allies.

There were many people with exceptional operational experience, deep functional domain expertise, and rare technical capabilities.

These experts are addressing some of the most important missions, by managing some of the largest and most diverse datasets, across nearly inconceivable environments, in their narrowest definitions of real time.  The bleeding edge nature of a lot of what this community does necessitates balance of creativity with security; performance with reliability; and perfect fit with scalability and portability.  Their work at the mobile edge involves a broad collection of attended device user cutouts and unattended device profiles.

Their work is focused on Activity- and Event-Based Intelligence (ABI or EBI).  For these communities, ABI or EBI are critical elements of the future of real time intelligence in mobile environments.

I think the M2M and IoT supplier community can learn a thing or two from these folks and their conception and pursuit of ABI and EBI.  I did.  And I would like to share a few high level technical trends here that are helping them get there:

  1. As global internet traffic moves to (has moved to) video, so too does the share of RITE (Relevant ISR at The Edge) move to video.  In these markets, the video feeds could come in the form of still or motion imagery, driven by infra-red or electro-optical sensors, delivered in 1 to 60 frames per second or more. The foundation for this work is the mapping platform that underpins all of the geolocation intelligence.  Machine location matters.
  2. Geospatial and imagery intelligence feeds could be satellite, aircraft, UAV (drone) or remote instrument sourced.  In fact, most of it is driven by unattended sensors, platforms, systems.  And within some of these systems, the demands are so extreme that certain applications can ONLY be achieved through a form of M2M supervision, monitoring and control.  M2M motor and motion control matters.
  3. As more people, assets, inventories, transactions, events are networked – our ability to glean intelligence about … everything … is enabled not only by real-time surveillance but by mining the archives of ‘digital exhaust’ that the planet leaves in the wake of its connectedness.  But in order for these galaxies of data to be valuable, they must be entered into one or a multitude of repositories and accessible to many different analysis tools and methods.  Sensor fusion and data management matter.

In parallel, there are a few commercial trends that I see could benefit M2M and IoT developers in their pursuit of ABI and EBI solutions if they were addressed deftly:

  1. Rapidly evolving mission requirements drove – and continue to drive – demand for new tools, methods and approaches to legacy and emerging tasking.  Many of these new tools and methods are coming from new companies.  Many of those new companies are small.  As such, we are witnessing the continued fragmentation of the supplier community, funding sources and centers of gravity in these markets.  Primes matter – a lot.  However, there are more than a few new companies with an invaluable, if narrow, capability that are capturing market share even as they grow the market with their new capabilities.  Agility in M2M and Internet of things development and deployment matters.
  2. All of the above – and more – have spawned a number of new delivery models in these markets.  From cloud-based situational awareness applications to content as a service imagery platforms and multi-domain open API-enabled app stores, Program Managers are exploring and experimenting with suppliers as aggressively as ever before.  New content and capabilities delivery business models matter.
  3. But with so much capability, there is bound to be confusion, overkill, paralysis and the potential for waste, failure, and the ultimate consequences.  One way that the market is trying to improve – and many say it needs to – is in the area of managing the technical equipment of mission creep, and that is function creep.  They are doing this by investing in a new set of skills around use case development that take their cues from the big scenario planning and war gaming exercises that advanced military planning is known for.  Use case scenarios matter.

Above all else, I urge my friends in any M2M or IoT market – national security or national retail chain – to get intimate with the concepts of activity- and event-based intelligence.  For as we move forward, activities, events, and  time-based transactions will be the currency that drives the global economy in the coming millennium.  We will migrate from individual/ asset/ inventory identification, to location and status, to events and transactions associated with the individuals/ assets/ inventories and ambient environments.

Finding your application of the technical and commercial take-aways from GEOINT will go a long way to positioning your firm to help your clients realize their activity and event-based decision support tools in the future.

Christopher Rezendes, president of INEX Advisors, a technology intelligence and advisory firm based in New Bedford, MA, has nearly 22 years of experience analyzing, advising or operating mission critical technology businesses. Rezendes’ firm, INEX Advisors, focuses on helping clients define, select and prosecute their most promising growth and investment opportunities. The firm concentrates in Machine to Machine/Internet of Things/Connected Devices, and a cluster of related enabling technologies critical to transforming mobility, cloud and big data solutions into a semantic web.

Throughout his career, Rezendes has worked with some of the largest and most respected companies in the industrial, embedded, defense, infrastructure and information technology industries.  His clients have included nearly 75% of the Electronics Business Top 100 OEMs, most of the Information Week 100, and every tech-focused member of the Fortune 500.

October 31, 2012