November 13, 2012

The Election, Digital Exhaust, and Why M2M and IoT MUST Be Different.

The world remains hungry for change.  From the Arab Spring to the financial AND identity crisis in the EU to the parallel elections in the United States and China.  Is it no wonder why so many are so anxious?

Not so long ago, elections and retail politics were purely carbon/ analog activities.  People met with people.  Votes were captured one at a time or in small groups.  Sometimes fairly, sometimes nefariously.

The process was a person (the candidate or their campaign) in direct contact (in person on through a phone bank)  with the voter (a person) who would then make their way to a polling place and pull a lever, punch a card, ink a ballot, raise a hand, shout an ‘aye’.

100 Million Votes = 100 Million Campaigns

Today, there is as much silicon/digital activity as there is carbon.  Real time wireless communications, social media and open source information and digital voter intelligence/polling systems are doing as much work to shape election as people are.

Mobility and social media are at the center of this phenomenon.  And yet, it is possible that we have seen nothing yet.  Consider the polling/canvassing applications deployed in the latest Presidential election in the United States.  No more printed XL sheets marked up with pen and pencil; turned in to the location election office for analysis after the fact to help plan the door knocking or phone-banking campaign.  These new apps enable campaigns to capture and analyze progress (results) in real time and change targets, messages and priorities in real time.  While people are out in the street.

It used to be that you would bring the bumper stickers and leave-behinds with you.  Everything printed.  Static.  Best bet messaging.  You went with the best you had at the time – meaning BEFORE you knocked on the first door.

Now, as the real time results indicate shifting sentiment, so too can messages change.  Results – good or bad – of conversations on Elm Street can inform canvassing taking place contemporaneously on Middle Street.  Pre-printed leave behinds are now displaced by PDF or JPEG files that can built out with minor or major differences, crafted in real time in the field or at the campaign office, and slotted or assigned to the canvasser/ pollster based on the voter’s just-expressed preferences.

Some analysts are suggesting that the Obama campaign’s deft application of the tools, and the Romney campaign’s clumsiness, made all the difference.  That is naïve, superficial and not helpful, but, those tools DID matter.

In retail, these capabilities are called LBS or location-based services.  And if they sound a little spooky and intrusive well …

Think about that for a minute.  Data, information and intelligence about you, from a retail transaction from 2010 might have been ingested by a campaign management tool in 2012.

Digital Exhaust Drives Many New Sources of Intelligence

These systems and their effectiveness live and die by their ability to harvest digital exhaust.  Digital exhaust is what you and I leave behind in our digital lives.  The searches, the clicks, the page views, loiter times, tweets, Facebook posts and more.  Collect enough digital exhaust, run it through enough algorithms, run enough scenarios, and some pretty smart people can learn a hell of a lot about you– in some cases, preferences that are not that obvious even to you.

The best professionals – or neophytes – in election politics have already combined a fair amount of ‘big data’ analysis, segment/ persona marketing and real-time social and mobile communications to turn campaigning on its head.  No longer static.  No longer homogenous.  No longer measured in days or weeks. Surely there is value in this, or so many would not be investing so much.  But value is fungible.  Completely and utterly contextual.  Because of that, logical, rational, wise and experienced heads should be asking a lot of those ‘Why?’ and ‘Then What?’ questions that we work through with INEX clients and partners.

One Person’s Trash …

In fact, so much of this has been so successful in certain markets that it even has its own collection of acronyms and abbreviations.  SOCINT (Socio-Cultural l Intelligence) which now includes the capture, analysis and application of social media inputs in addition to traditional methods of observation and analysis of people, their networks, habits, etc.  OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) or the capture, analysis and application of publicly available information on the web.

And soon, there with be DEVINT (Device Intelligence) or the capture, analysis and application of M2M and IoT data.  Oh yes, that too, will throw off digital exhaust.  DEVINT will make the current volume of data and information available in today’s MULTINT solutions look bare.  Sparse.

SOCINT is driven almost exclusively by people – 100 million bots in Facebook excluded.  And the max number of people we might expect on the planet by 2050 is about 10 billion.  DEVINT will be driven by tens of billions of devices.

OSINT is delivered in large chunks, most of which are static and structured.  DEVINT will be delivered in streams that are both dynamic and unstructured.

PEOPLE are the primary creators and consumers of SOCINT and OSINT.  And while we continue to create more powerful algorithms that enable machines and digital systems to PED (Process, Exploit and Disseminate) SOCINT and OSINT, at the end of the day, we, people, carbon life forms, are the consumers of the information, analysis and intelligence.

Devices are the primary creators and consumers of DEVINT.  And while the best M2M and IoT solutions will put the products of DEVINT in the hands of people, so too will they inform other systems.  Those systems will do just about any and all computation faster than humans can – with a few exceptions centered on elements of video and vision processing and semantics and context.  Fact is in most information systems having anything to do with mobility, the cloud, big data etc, the neural networks inside our heads are the primary drivers of latency, not the digital networks connecting the devices.

And in the same way that people are applying SOCINT and OSINT to create their definition of value, so too will those other systems be creating to their definition of value, or the definition of the owners and operators of those systems.  They will only be doing it faster, and more broadly, and more cheaply.  With goals that might or might not be in alignment with our best interests, needs, desires.

I love the possibilities of the value that M2M and IoT can create for people.  But, we, the people, need to be clear about our definitions of value.  We need to be vigilant in protecting, or refining those definitions, on our terms.  People.  Not machines.

See, a long time ago, long before smartphones or social media or the Internet, a man named Bernays convinced women that cigarettes were ‘Torches of Freedom’.  He and his cohort convinced men that their cars were extensions of their manhood.   They convinced our grandparents and parents that in order to be successful, happy, complete, they needed to become consumers of things that we did not need.  That our destiny was to serve our wants and desires as we would our families, our communities…our nation.  In fact, Bernays and his cohort even went so far as to convince a couple of generations that consumption was a form of piety.

And now we are waking up to these half-truths.

And Bernays and his cohort had no SOCINT, OSINT or DEVINT to make his case.

So what is my point?  Before you develop or deploy an M2M or IoT solution, define your values alongside your value propositions; minimize digital exhaust as you would carbon footprint; and  be an authentic steward of your community, their data AND exhaust.  You will then reduce the likelihood that you will be exposing your community to negative unintended consequences.

All this intelligence has the potential to improve the quality of life on earth.  It also has the intelligence to give sellers the opportunity to tell us only what we want to know, and little of what we need to learn and to grow.  Policy development matters as much as technology development.  Before we get too close to 2016, we should be asking a lot of questions about the specific application of digital exhaust in democratic elections.

Lets keep asking questions about M2M and IoT deployments as well.

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. You can contact Chris Rezendes at to continue the conversation on these topics and explore ways that INEX Advisors can help youcompany to develop and deploy successful M2M/IoT solutions that create true value for sustainable revenue growth.

November 13, 2012