The Social Transformative Power of Technology

HGA takes an optimistic but measured approach toward the Internet of Things. Internet of Things adoption has been slower than expected*, and it's most often used to solve superficial problems, generally centered around convenience or marketing. Sometimes IoT is a solution in search of a problem. My hope for technology is that it will evolve to help create a positive social impact with benefits that are accessible to everyone. This is possible through improved access to meaningful data and data analysis, which can enrich not only the lives of individuals but the fabric of society as a whole.

Access to timely and meaningful information can be a transformative experience that informs decision making and influences behavior. In the last decade, cellular technology has enabled sub-Saharan African farmers to improve crop yield by fending off disease and compare local market prices to determine where to take their crops. The journey to market can be many miles, and insight into the most profitable marketplace can be critical to survival. Technology has shrunk our world significantly over the last decade, and these same principles can be applied closer to home.

Some early-adopter healthcare providers have begun to implement IoT. As healthcare technologies become smarter and systems become increasingly more interconnected, IoT has potential to drive down the cost of care, hopefully making healthcare more universally accessible. If a wearable or implantable device is able to predict heart failure and schedule preemptive surgery, the cost of interventional treatment will be much lower than emergency treatment, and the likelihood for survival would be expected to be greater. As preventive care techniques improve, doctors will treat proactively, anticipating illness even before the patient is aware of symptoms. With improved diagnoses, providers can target their prescriptions and treatments, enabling shorter hospital stays and reducing costs. As Cognitive Computing (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools such as IBM Watson for Health improve diagnoses and care, costs of healthcare could be brought down to help make care more affordable, and in the long term our society's quality of life can be improved as care is made more accessible.

On the environmental front, as well, IoT holds promise. HGA's work in sustainability, for instance, has an immediate impact on society. The implementation of tools such as energy dashboards provides building occupants with awareness of their energy impacts and encourages operational and behavioral change. On average, HGA's energy conservation projects reduce building energy use by 27 percent, which benefits the environment and has a financial payback for building operators.

To make the promise of the future a reality, we need to make intelligent use of the tools at our disposal to gain actionable insight from data generated by all the new IoT things. As the Internet of Things continues to evolve, we will have even better tools that will allow us to find solutions one step ahead of the problems.

*Ericcson Mobility recently adjusted their estimate of 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020 to 28 billion internet connected devices by 2021, indicating slower adoption than once anticipated.

Topics: Technology