Da Vinci and the Internet of Business Things

When Leonardo da Vinci philosophized about life in the 15th Century, he could just as well have been talking about the Internet of Things today.

Consider two of his best known quotes: “Everything connects to everything else,” and “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” These ideas are, arguably, the drivers of the biggest trends in IT for home and business -- shared connected experiences that make previously complicated interactions fast, easy and cheap.

The Internet of Things is a catchphrase that’s been around since the 1990s. These days, it means more than including a smart interface to the Web in everyday devices. It means replacing some of those very devices with virtual equivalents in the cloud. Technology is already at the point that connecting with other things (and people) has become so easy that users often don’t have to think about how it works.

The current media darling for home technology and connection is the Nest thermostat. This device replaces the tried-and-true wheel we’ve all known since birth with a smart version that connects to home automation, Google, even your local electric provider. Providers in some cities offer contracts for people with these devices, that will allow the power to the home to be lowered at certain times -- with a discount to the customer.

On the business side, the connected experience enabled by The Internet of Things is shaking up the way we even think about technology expenses. On-premise IT infrastructure, a notorious drain on the bottom line, is no longer the only choice for business applications like collaboration and conferencing. And the introduction of Internet and cloud technologies is simplifying the way connections are made by users in a collaborative context.

If you’ve had an audio conference recently, you know the hassle of bridges, special dial-in numbers and passwords. You know it’s really not much of a collaboration tool, and it connects people in only the most rudimentary and superficial ways. Video conferencing is considerably better at those things, but even if your organization was forward-looking enough to invest in hardware, making the connections could be more annoying than even a teleconference. The simplest tasks, like adding a caller, were needlessly complicated.

The Internet of Things for business has changed what success looks like in communication, collaboration and connection. Technology is finally working around users, rather than the other way around. And these advances let users forget about worrying how the technology works, ever again.

Business communications is simpler and more effective now. Video conference callers can be added ad hoc, with point-and-click simplicity. Cloud solutions allow a matrixing of users, where multiple virtual bridge ports can create group calls of a size that would have been wildly expensive using conventional infrastructure – if it were possible at all.

Of course, cloud-based solutions have limits on the number of direct calls that can be added from a single endpoint, but the number is larger than any video conference typically needs. All this and the added collaborative benefits of file sharing and meeting recording, too.

Dozens of endpoints can be in use at any one time, and with guest accounts hundreds upon hundreds of potential users can easily watch a live streaming of a single event on their PCs and mobile devices.

It has all served to make collaboration simpler, faster, more scalable and more affordable, bringing the costs down to a point that will allow users from businesses of all sizes to get involved more easily.

With the Internet of Things in business, everything and everyone can truly be connected collaboratively to everything else, with a simplicity that is the ultimate in sophistication.

That da Vinci was one smart guy.

This piece first appeared in Wired Magazine June 2014