The Plumbers of the Cryptocosm [Part 1]
Posted April 13, 2021
Today’s Daily Prophecy comes from one of the Lead Analysts of my Gilder’s Moonshots.
Keep scrolling to read what John Schroeter and his guest Dr. Timothy Chou have to say…
Our guest today is Dr. Timothy Chou, whose remarkable career spans academia, startups, and large corporations. He has been a leader in the move to enterprise cloud computing, by serving as the President of Oracle’s cloud business, authoring the book The End of Software, and launching the first class on cloud computing at Stanford University.
He is today focused on the development of a new edge cloud service designed to connect all million healthcare machines in all the children’s hospitals in the world, which will enable AI software to transform healthcare for kids whether they are in Palo Alto, rural California or Rwanda.
In short, Dr. Chou is amazing. As my number one resource on all things cloud and IoT, I was delighted to invite him to contribute an essay to the book, After Shock, which marked the 50-year anniversary of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock.
Is Dr. Chou a professional futurist? Not exactly. But his vision of the future is more acute than many who brandish that title. In that spirit, I hope you’ll enjoy his insightful essay, presented here in full.
Rereading the text of 1970’s Future Shock, I realized the word “computer” appears only 54 times, the word “software” appears only once, and “artificial intelligence” never appears.
In many ways the world has changed much more than Mr. Toffler would have guessed, largely driven by the decreasing cost of computing, the ubiquity of networks, and the increasing sophistication of software. So, while trying to predict the future is best left to futurists, I’ll attempt to highlight some themes that I believe will be increasingly important.
Not just MRF (Media, Retail, and Financial Services)
In 2015 the World Economic Forum released a report that said, “During the past 15 years, the internet revolution has redefined business-to-consumer (B2C) industries such as media, retail and financial services… In the next 10 years, the Internet of Things revolution will dramatically alter manufacturing, energy, agriculture, transportation and other industrial sectors of the economy which, together, account for nearly two-thirds of the global GDP.”
So, what is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Most software has been focused on us — people. Software has been built to help us buy a book, issue a purchase order, track sales leads, recruit more employees, or communicate with others. I’m going to call these IoP (Internet of People) applications.
But People are not Things. This may seem obvious, but let’s discuss five fundamental differences.
There will be many more Things connected to the internet than people
John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco, has projected there will be 500 billion Things connected by 2024. That’s nearly 100 times the number of people on the planet. I recently heard from the CIO of a large healthcare provider, who said that in their hospitals more Things are connected than People. United Rentals has 10 times the number of construction machines connected than employees.
Things can exist in places where People aren’t
Things can be in your stomach in the form of a smart pill. Things can be a mile underground in a coal mine. Things can be out in the middle of the Australian outback. Things can be where people aren’t.
Things have more to say
People talk to IoP applications primarily through a keyboard, mouse, or touch screen. Things, on the other hand, have much more to say. A modern-day wind turbine has over 500 sensors, delivering information such as wind speed and direction, blade rotation, speed, power generated, component temperature, vibration, noise levels.
Things can talk much more frequently
An average person can type at 200 characters per minute, three to four characters per second. In the coal mining industry, there is a machine called a longwall shearer. It’s three football fields long and 30 meters high. As it digs through a coal seam, a mile underground, it forms what they call an artificial roof.
Every once in a while, the artificial roof collapses, so they have to dig out their $100 million machine. In order to try to predict roof collapse, they mounted vibration sensors on the machine that operate at 10,000Hz. That’s data arriving 10,000 times per second — and by the way, much larger than an 8-bit character.
Things can be programmed, People can’t
We can, of course, debate this, but Things and machines can be programmed, People can’t. Increasingly machines are being software defined. Many of you are familiar with a Tesla, sometimes called a smartphone with four wheels. What you might not realize is the Porsche Panamera in 2016 had 2 million lines of code. In 2017 it jumped to 100,000,000 lines of code. Things can be programmed, People can’t.
So, if Things are not People and People are not Things, why would software built for the Internet of People work for the Internet of Things? We are still at the early stages of IoT software. Advances in autonomous driving and the associated societal and economic impacts are just the tip of the iceberg. And unless we’re all moving to Mars, operating the infrastructure of the planet (power, water, food, etc.) is going to be non-optional.
More on this tomorrow…
- Dr. Timothy Chou
Senior Analyst, Gilder's Daily Prophecy