IoT Lessons from the Blizzard of 2015

by Steve Hoffenberg | 01/28/2015


A few lessons for the IoT industry in the wake of this week’s blizzard:

  • Forecasts based on historical patterns represent probabilities, not certainties. Here in the Boston area, we received the full dumpload of predicted snowfall from the blizzard, but in New York City and regions further south, weather forecasters were apologizing for their overestimates. When big data analyses of complex IoT systems make predictions, don’t expect them to be right 100% of the time.
  • Whichever way the wind blows, snow drifts into peaks and troughs. The IoT market is not homogenous, so some categories of devices and services will grow faster than others. This is normal, but favorable wind direction is hard to predict.
  • The Snowdrift Dilemma fosters cooperation. In game theory, the Snowdrift Dilemma is a variation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, but the Snowdrift scenario is more likely to produce cooperation between parties that would otherwise have little or no incentive to work together. When digging out from a snow storm, many hands make light work. In the IoT, even competitors need to cooperate on communications standards, security warnings, and market awareness.
  • Ignore warnings at your own peril. No matter how loudly forecasters shout about an impending storm, there are always a few people who blithely ignore them. IoT users can approach warnings logically. If sensor conditions signal the need for replacement of a part that is likely to fail prematurely, evaluate the relative cost of the replacement at a convenient time vs. the cost of a failure at an inconvenient time.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. People who didn’t stock up on supplies until the snow started falling found that grocery stores were already depleted of staples like milk, fresh meat, and toilet paper. Those who stocked up when the predictions came in a day or two earlier had no problem. And those who routinely kept plenty of non-perishable foods on hand didn’t even have to think about it. In IoT systems, sooner or later downtime or security breaches will happen. Prepare your response well ahead of time. And don’t forget the toilet paper.
View the 2017 IoT & Embedded Technology Research Outline to learn more.
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