Here, Barry Aldridge MCIM and Head of Marketing for Derby-based Tidyco talks about the subject matter of IoE (Internet of Everything).

The concept of IoE isn’t actually that new. I recently met with Victoria Walker in Southampton. Victoria is an ex-colleague and friend who I used to share a great deal of ideas with regarding the next wave of digital evolution.

Victoria is currently making great progress within the realms of cryptocurrency. It was a gloriously sunny evening and we were enjoying sitting outside sharing a meal with supporting drinks. At some point within our multitude of excitable conversations, I politely reminded Victoria that I am Generation X.

“You cannot be, Barry!” Victoria gasped;

“It is uncommon for Generation X to be so accepting of all these happenings.”

“I think I am on the cusp” I replied;

“Besides, when I was at University the internet was just beginning to explode. I feel as though I have grown up with it!”

“You have convinced me that this isn’t a generational subject matter, Barry. You grasp the digital explosion with far greater depth and understanding than almost all of the millennials that I currently work with. It is more a state of mind and you have always been open minded. You are an exceptional thinker, Barry.”

There are three main phrases that have been floating around for some time now, which include; M2M, IoT and IoE. Almost becoming a cliché, these ‘buzz’ words are very much active and do hold substance worth investigating:

M2M stands for machine-to-machine and is typically found within commercial, manufacturing and industrial environments. Machines can range from small desktop devices all the way through to large scale manufacturing equipment. The machines typically communicate within internal networks.

IoT stands for the Internet of ‘Things’. Relatively late to the game, IoT first captured my imagination during a digital conference organised by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce in November 2015. A presentation was delivered by Amy Kate Nicholson whereby she demonstrated a wearable device connected to an online dashboard retrieving real time big data directly from the gadget.

I absorbed the information being presented and subsequently began conducting out of hour’s research as the topic was rapidly becoming a passionate hobby. In December 2015, I attended a marketing meeting whereby the team was encouraged to present recent work activity as well as share ideas so as to nurture continuous departmental improvement.

My theme was ‘Big Data’. Aware that I was talking to a much younger audience regarding potentially ‘frightening’ subjects, I broke my presentation down into bite-size, relatively light pieces further supported with links to additional sources of information should anybody show particular interest.

First on my agenda was the rise of big data and how this theme would rapidly transform overall marketing function, combined with the ethical considerations regarding data management. I was effectively future-proofing for GDPR.

Next on my list of discussion was IoT. Finally, I demonstrated how I had applied the concept of IoT within a live commercial tender opportunity. The purpose of my presentation was not to dictate; more to open younger marketers minds to the somewhat complex concept of an impending digital explosion.

When making comparisons between M2M versus IoT you will typically find that the application of IoT is wider reaching; spanning multiple devices, machinery as well as vehicles.

IoE or the ‘Internet of Everything’ was an evolution of IoT and attempted to add intrinsic value to the original concept by applying the following four core pillars; people, data, processes and things.

IoE does add tangible value to overall business operations. Tidyco integrates IoE within its commercial activity. For example, the company utilises real time vehicle tracking so as to allocate work to the engineer closest to proximity of the client call out request.

The integration of such technology lowers carbon footprint, maximises response time as well as dramatically reduces business critical downtime for our clients. Furthermore; whilst on-site the fleet of mobile engineers all have access to a bespoke Tidyco app, accessible via allocated smart devices. Engineers can log works activity in real time.

A Tidyco secure cloud based portal is made available to all customers whereby they can view completed work, request call outs and much, much more!

Assets; by which I mean physical product items such as rolling stock braking hoses are all tagged using a sophisticated Tidyco asset management system. Capitalising upon IoE delivers complete product traceability as well as app based re-ordering solutions. The Tidyco Climate Control Division takes full advantage of IoE within its planned maintenance service provision. Assets are tagged and service requests automated, eliminating the risk of clientele incurring a fine due to non compliance with HVAC maintenance legislation.

Tidyco’s application of technology maximises IoE’s four core pillars.

Within my role as Member of the Board of Directors for Rail Forum East Midlands, I see a great deal of IoE technology advancements within the wider rail industry. Trackside, OEM and TOCs are massively investing in smarter ways of working. I discuss the benefits of technology integration within my publication; ‘Thinking down the line.’

The explosion of such technology presents an abundance of risk factors to be considered at Board level. In my simplified way, I tend to break down threats into two very basic categories; the protection of data and the future of humanity.

The first threat is relatively simple to address whilst the second is very much open to debate. I personally addressed the protection of data by obtaining the Government fuelled Cyber Essentials certification.

Fortunate to have a highly skilled web developer by my side who fully understood my vision towards addressing potential IoE threats, Tidyco overhauled all online platforms, upgraded necessary IT infrastructures and approached 2-Sec to support the Group in obtaining certification. From a commercial perspective, many Government and Public Sector bodies require suppliers to be Cyber Essentials approved.

Recent global cyber attacks demonstrate exactly how real the threat to big data is.

The second risk factor is incredibly subjective. I am currently reading ‘The Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford which warns of a rise in mass unemployment. In his book ‘Industries of the Future’, Alec Ross suggests that the near-future ‘human’ job market may be more focused upon the creative fields such as performing arts, art, music and literature.

Interestingly, there may be an opportunity for the human race to embrace more traditional creative processes. Alec also proposes cyber defence as an increasingly important career path.

I highly recommend these two books as a great introduction into an exciting world of what has been, what is currently happening as well as near-future advancements.

I consider data management, cyber defence and the integration of technology so important that it now forms part of the Tidyco CSR statement of intent.

‘Industries of the Future’ was very much at the forefront of my mind when activating the Cyber Essentials project. My focus was to be proactive as opposed to reactive whilst also gaining a deeper understanding of cyber defence so as to open up windows of opportunity regarding personal career development.

Personal advice given to younger marketers is to be flexible enough to rapidly evolve within a highly volatile time of change. For example, marketing faces imminent changes via an eclectic mix of differing threats. Is your online content managed system genuinely fit for purpose regarding data protection? Just because it is a popular platform requiring little technical expertise to input content does not mean that it is secure enough to protect the vast amounts of sensitive data being collected.

Furthermore, what about rapid developments within the field of marketing automation? Marketing automation is a fantastic tool for me in its present guise as it frees me up to attend B2B networking events as well as work on the inwardly facing marketing strategy. People often ask me how I ‘appear’ to be ‘everywhere’ and the answer lies within automation. Marketing automation greatly increases productivity.

But; if ai continues to self learn at an ever increasing pace it is not too far fetched to imagine that marketing will be fully automated within the next few years.

Social media itself may imminently evolve to a point whereby a platform can self generate content. Channels quickly change and as such, I am always reluctant to 'imprison' myself within specialities such as; social media. I prefer to be a much more rounded marketer. The fact that I can develop highly engaging social media content forms just a small percentage of a much wider marketing function.

Automation is a rising concern for most professions. Finance, manufacture, sales and marketing are all under threat of becoming redundant job requirements. I encourage the younger generation to research the digital explosion so as to consider future careers within the fields of cyber security or pursue more creative routes. Cryptocurrency investment also yields exciting potential.

As I write this, I consider the fact that organisations must become less departmentalised in order to survive. Facing the same threats, technological advancements and cyber attack must be flat lined within overall corporate objectives.

My neighbour is a plumber which leads me to wonder; could this be the type of career that technological advancements will never be capable of threatening? However, will the market one day become overly saturated with too many plumbers?

The truth is; we do not yet know, not for sure. The digital landscape is currently shaping ‘itself’. One thing is certain; the horizon is digital and we as a species must adapt. Interestingly, ai self learns and evolves at a much faster pace than the human mind.

A few Weekends ago, my parents invited me over for Sunday lunch. Later in the afternoon, I sat with my Dad in the back garden, enjoying a glass of red wine together. I posed the following question; “Is this actually progress, Dad? Or; are we just making ourselves redundant?”

Dad replied; “We’ve gone too far down the road, son.”

Interesting times ahead…

About the author

Barry Aldridge MCIM

Head of Marketing at Tidyco Limited and member of the Board of Directors for Midlands Rail Forum.