This is the 3rd segment in the Postscapes Interview Series with some of the top people influencing the Internet of Things.
Philippe Gautier the founder of Business2Any discussed a few topics with us including:
- "Unstructured or non-deterministic” open supply chains
- How the IoT is making fundamental shifts in our old models of working and acting.
- The emergence of new value chains and ecosystems.
Who are you, and what do you do?
I am the main author of the book (with Lawrence Gonzalez) called The Internet of things: Internet, only better. This book is actually an essay on the Future Internet and points out why the contributions of both sciences of complexity, systemic approaches and cybernetics are necessary in the conception and realization of information systems to meet the new challenges of sensory technologies - such as NFC, RFID, Barcodes, GPS, etc. - and fully open value chain. This essay revisits the question of the information systems in the complex organizations (such as IoT ones) and also discusses the particular impacts on economics, sociology and governance, with a philosophical conclusion. I am also the founder and managing director of Business2Any, a company specialized in the programming of complex (Complex systems), decentralized and distributed systems and software (Distributed computing) for the Internet of Things.
Some of my other background includes being a former Chief information officer, helping to implement EPCglobal standardized technologies in Europe (including RFID/UHF/GEN2, EPCIS and an independant ONS root(Object Naming Service) in a pilot and at an operational level and was a founding member of the SEI (Société européenne de l'Internet/IES France). I also regularly write articles, present at conferences and act as a consultant for companies.
How do you view the term “Internet of Things”?
The Internet of Things is something similar to some others modern concepts such as the Web 3.0, the semantic Web, the symbiotic web, etc. Actually, it all could be merged into a single approach and could be considered as a “threshold” between:
- a former functional and analytical vision of our organizations which makes that information systems are living in parallel of the real world and cannot easily open to each other’s.
- and a new paradigm in which human beings and automated entities (such as information systems, robots, cyberobjects, ), all autonomous (but not necessary at the same level) are all considered as parts of a same complex organization (whenever a common finality can be settled) or pars of a chaotic environment (whenever no finality can be found). In such a scenario, analytical approaches are no longer useful in themselves (essentially top-down). Additional ones such as systemic (sciences of complexity), cybernetics and decisional (both top-down and bottom-up but mainly recursive) become also highly relevant.
An illustration of this: In the Internet of Things, the “cyberobjects” – i.e. the physical objects associated with their individual virtual intelligence (can be a “software avatar” which can be hosted in the cloud, embedded with the object, centrally managed, etc.) - are gradually becoming full actors in our complex organizations, just as the human beings already are in the current Web 2.0.
Those “object-actors” become then able to react - as processing management operators - to contextual events at very subsidiary levels, whatever is the considered process. Nevertheless, the Internet of Things clearly raises the question of our ability to develop ever more powerful tools in complex environments such as information systems. Either objects, with their associated software intelligence, become tangible "actors / partners" acting under our control: that is to say not only assistants but especially counselors, policy makers, organizers or economic agents... Or we must prepare for the digital chaos. The recent financial crisis is a perfect example of those “crazy IT systems”: they just amplify small and insignificant decisions at the lowest level to make them catastrophes at the overall stage (butterfly effect). Actually, this revolution in progress, deeply calls into question our “old” social, economic or technical models (mainly functional): we must be ready for a change of the same nature as that which took place between the vision of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein (relativity) or Max Planck (Quantum), but also the consequences of this change (moving from the gun to the atomic bomb).
To tackle those challenges and avoid chaos, we must change the way we both conceive and realize our information systems: cybernetics, sciences of complexity and artificial intelligence are matters that will be critical to make the IOT a success. We, at Business2Any, are working that way.
Where do you see the Internet of Things and its technologies creating the most impact?
Everywhere: “controlled value chains” (supply, manufacturing, etc.) but also “open ones” such as merchandising, home automation, geolocalized services, marketing, recycling, etc. The main stakes are about new ecosystems: new value chains will emerge that we cannot precisely predict today: strong capacity to adapt will therefore be necessary. In the IoT ecosystem, adaptability is key… “small & smart” are competitive advantages.
What are you currently working on or are most excited about?
We are realizing brand new innovative software in the field of the Internet of Things with a specific focus on “unstructured open supply chains”.
I can best explain this concept with an analogy:
NEWTON: Space is already organized, time is a linear dimension, common to everything and objects which are populating space are studied with a prior understanding of the unique organization of the universe.
In that scheme, a WMS (Warehouse Management System) problem is: how to organize space then how to populate it accordingly - then how to find things in it - then how to realign the virtual idea of the reality (information system) with reality (since it always diverges!).
EINSTEIN/PLANCK: Space isn’t organized a priori. It changes and becomes organized with the auto-organization of the objects which are populating it and time is a dimension that can change, depending on the objects, the organization of objects, etc. But organization isn’t always the same!
In that scheme, the problem of a WMS becomes: how to model the dynamic organization of objects, considering their autonomous behavior and the interoperability between them? The problem of finding them is then different: when we need to find an object, we just ask the object itself...
At Business2Any, that's the way we are thinking (and building) the future of the Internet...
Shout-outs: Any sites/people/articles or books that have inspired you lately?
Every systemic approach is relevant, whether it is in economy, science, sociology and philosophy!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.