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Dell World 2015: 6 lessons learned about our connected future

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By Megan Anderle, Editor and Contributing Writer

Dell World 2015 ended with a keynote about the Internet of Things and all the ways our future world will be affected by connected devices and big data.

The keynote featured reputed people in the tech industry from a range of verticals. Michael Raynor, director with Deloitte Services LP, works with companies to grapple with strategy and innovation in the realm of IoT. Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, was there to speak from the perspective of entrepreneurs. Aneesh Chopra, co-founder and executive vice president at Hunch Analytics and a former U.S. chief technology officer, discussed regulations and laws around IoT. Geoff McGrath, chief innovation officer at McLaren Applied Technologies, talked about health care tech and transportation. Joyce Mullen, vice president and general manager for Dell OEM Solutions, spoke about what Dell is doing to further IoT devices. Lastly, Paul Rogers, president and CEO of Wurldtech and general manager of GE Industrial Cyber Security, revealed industrial IoT trends.

Aarti Shahani, a tech reporter on NPR’s Business Desk, moderated the session.

What trends are shaping our connected future? Read on to find out.

1. Transportation: We need self-driving cars to talk to each other

Panelists discussed Tesla’s self-driving cars, as Tesla owners discovered last week that their semi-autonomous vehicles can now drive themselves.

“It’s so cool to see smart well-funded people solve this problem to make our roads safer and our lives a lot better,” Ohanian said.

Self-driving vehicles get smarter when they communicate with other self-driving vehicles and connected infrastructure.

“It’s crucial for creating value,” Ohanian said. “It’s one of the defining characteristics of this space.”

2. Health care: Preventive care can be vastly improved with IoT

There’s a critical opportunity for preventive care in the realm of telemedicine, especially with elderly people who are at risk for common health issues, such as heart attacks and strokes. More importantly, the government is supporting it, Chopra said.

“The punchline is this is a business model,” he said. “Doctors get checks for keeping people out of hospitals and keeping people healthier.”

As far as connected devices that are saving patients trips to the emergency room, Mullen mentioned Health Net Connect’s connected pill boxes, which monitor whether patients are taking their medications regularly.

“The condition we’re in is changing, and the sooner we can identify problems, the sooner we will be able to intervene before we’re at the hospital with a few seconds left to live,” Chopra said.

3. Industrial automation: Big data analytics makes perfect business sense

A very small amount of the data collected is actionable. According to a report by IDC, in 2013, only 22 percent of the information in the digital universe would be usable for analysis, and less than 5 percent of that is actually analyzed. By 2020, the useful percentage could grow to more than 35 percent, presenting a dire need for smart analytic systems.

“When you go after the data first, there’s an overwhelming amount out there you don’t use,” Rogers said. “When you start with a problem first and then look for the data, that’s where the business value is.”

But once solid analytics systems are giving business owners actionable insights, the cost savings is significant. Rogers said that in his experience at GE and Wurldtech, when an automated industry increases its efficiencies by just 1 percent, it leads to billions of dollars in cost savings.

4. Interoperability and machine learning are key across all industries

Connected devices need to learn from each other, whether it’s a self-driving car reacting autonomously to a car that stops short in front of it, wearable devices that give doctors a fuller picture of a patient’s health or machinery interacting with other machinery to speed up industrial processes.

“If we have to intervene as humans to get something done, then the efficiencies we’re counting on have disappeared,” Mullen said.

It’s machine learning that allows connected devices to become part of a bigger system and run at optimal levels.

“You need to optimize the system as a whole, not optimize it locally,” McGrath said. “You shouldn’t take a measurement just because you can. It should lead to actionable intelligence.”

The result is “with machine learning, we move from actionable to predictive to prescriptive,” he said.

5. There are not enough regulations in place for consumers’ data

One of the problems that legislators grapple with is how to build a framework that gives individuals control over their own information. This framework has to protect citizens’ privacy and security in such a way that doesn’t impede upon companies’ right to collect data and use it to make smarter business decisions and also offer consumers better products.

There is no such framework, Chopra said, but it’s at the forefront of President Barack Obama’s agenda.

“Part of the standard is the individual has control over the use of data collected on their behalf and the organization is going to use it minimally,” Chopra said. “We don’t have any universal laws or baseline protections, which we need the same way we need HIPAA.”

In every industry, with all the data that is collected, data breaches pose a serious threat, with nearly 70 percent of companies experiencing at least one breach in the last year.

“But you don’t hear about this because of the lack of regulation,” Rogers added.

And with companies sharing data, there are many access points for a malicious hacker, which bolsters the need for heightened security for connected devices. And companies having different security standards allows hackers to be successful, Mullen said.

“Every chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and you might not always know where a breach comes from,” Raynor added.

6. ‘Keep humans in the loop’

As for millennials, the most-connected generation, there’s a misconception that young people don’t take privacy seriously, Ohanian said.

“Just because we’re willing to tweet our location doesn’t mean we don’t care about privacy,” Ohanian said, speaking on behalf of adults between the age of 18 and 34. “A big part of why Snapchat is successful is the morality of it. Yes, I want to seamlessly track all things about my life, but as a consumer I want to feel control.”

Across the board, making consumers feel in control is vital to the success of IoT in the future. “Keep humans in the loop,” McGrath said succinctly. “You’ll get the benefits of their judgments, experience, plus the benefit of the collective intelligence of the recommendation engine.”

Check out the video below for insight from experts on the remote future.

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