Expert Insight: The Application Possibilities Of IoT Are Endless

Interview with John Gordon, Chief Digital Officer of Current Lighting & Intelligent Solutions at GE


John Gordon is the Chief Digital Officer of Current Lighting & Intelligent Solutions at GE. His long career has seen him take up a number of roles within the IoT space, including roles as Vice President at IBM Watson Solutions and Director of the tech giant's 'Smart Cities' division.

We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Internet of Things Summit, taking place this September 8-9 in Boston.

How did you get started in your career?

I’d say I started preparing for a career in technology even before I could drive! I began programming in elementary school and was fascinated by the idea of solving problems through this digital language. That interest stayed with me through college and graduate school, and I remain passionate about introducing STEM learning opportunities to students at a young age.

I’ve been fortunate to work on a number of terrific projects through my career that focused on empowering people to do more and reach their potential. This included 16 years at IBM, where I was responsible for growing a business partner program, launching a Smarter Cities initiative and incubating first-of-a-kind innovations with the Watson program.

Since joining Current, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on building intelligent infrastructure for enterprises and cities, and every day is different. I believe this is the biggest opportunity in the world to help people of all experiences participate in the emerging IoT economy. This is really exciting.

How do you see cities integrating IoT?

In the first wave of 'smart cities,' big companies and city hall collaborated to build projects FOR people. These were great solutions that certainly added significant value, but they didn’t engage the larger community to participate in the solution.

Now we’re helping enable what I call the the 'smart city 2.0 wave' -- where digital infrastructure is open to all for use by multiple users for multiple purposes to truly unlock vast potential. We believe the conduit for that potential lies in something that forms a ubiquitous network across cities today – lighting.

We’re using LEDs to sense an environment and serve as the analytical brain of an urban network. Sensors embedded through this lighting network pull data, and we make it actionable through GE Predix, the operating system for the industrial internet, specifically designed for the secure collection and analysis of metadata from real world sensors.

Cities retain control of what kind of data and how much of it is shared with different groups of users, but once the infrastructure is in place, creating new solutions from the metadata can be done much more quickly.

Imagine a city where smart street lights direct drivers to open parking spaces, measure air quality for pollen and pollution, detect seismic activity, and report automobile accidents to emergency responders the instant they happen. And imagine that those solutions are created by lots of different groups within the city. This is starting to happen now.

Do you foresee any potential problems regarding the explosion of IoT - when it comes to dealing with the amount of energy required and so forth?

One of the biggest potential issues for all of us is the proliferation of narrowly usable IoT sensors. Today there are already millions of sensors deployed around the world that are each tied to a single application. Imagine that every application company that wanted to work on parking, or traffic, or retail problems had to redeploy new sensors to get the same information. Not only would this be extremely wasteful, but it would create incredible barriers to innovation.

At GE, we are focused on creating horizontal, multi-use senors that collect and share metadata that can be used by many people in the economy. I believe this will be critical to unleashing the innovation of the next wave of entrepreneurs and will help drive job creation, investment return, and better quality of life for many more people.

Where do you think are the most exciting applications for IoT likely to arise?

Truly, the application possibilities are endless. What I think is most exciting is that on these open platforms, anyone can develop a solution. That’s where we are headed. From business coders to university students to regular residents – anyone can develop a solution to any problem on an open platform like GE’s Predix cloud platform. An animal lover might develop an app to track lost dogs. A foodie might develop an app to find an open table at the nearest restaurant. A business might develop one to share specific deals with customers as they pass the front door. Truly, there is limitless potential. Our job is to lower the barriers to innovation by removing the requirement to deploy custom sensors in order to participate in this economy.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

The proliferation of the Industrial Internet: By 2020, there will be 50 billion “things” connected to the Internet—not just smartphones, tablets and coffee makers, but devices that power our world, including core energy components like light fixtures, HVAC units and other operating assets. This evolution means digital infrastructure that allows us to see, hear and learn from data to solve real challenges—but only if that data is effectively captured, analyzed and turned into actionable outcomes. We’re helping customers harness the Industrial Internet with intelligent, multi-purpose LED lighting sensors to shift the way they collect metadata and open the door to Intelligent Environments.

You can hear more from John, along with other industry-leading executives, at the Internet of Things Summit in Boston. To register your interest, click here.

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