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Think analog to become a digital champion OR: How Quantum Physics drives IoT value


Think analog to become a digital champion OR: How Quantum Physics drives IoT value


By Franz Winterauer

I recently came across articles in the Financial Times, WIRED, arsTECHNICA and other places about Google having built a quantum computer that beats the hell out of “traditional” super computers (although they aren’t that slow, either). Some are already calling it the “dawn” and the “supremacy” of quantum computing. Is the Terminator’s Skynet finally arriving in our homes? Not quite yet, I suspect…

However, as a physicist, these articles about quantum theory reminded me of some ideas that have been cycling through my tiny human brain for awhile. First, I need to turn back the clock of science a few years:

One of the most recent important milestones in the history of physics are the so-called “double-slit experiments” (, which completely changed our thinking about the world’s true nature and became the basis for the new world of quantum mechanics. In the past, physicists tried to determine whether things (e.g. photons, electrons, atoms, etc.) are particles or waves: A particle cannot be a wave. A wave cannot be a particle. It’s either-or. This was the received truth for hundreds of years. Period.

Well, as you remember from school (I hope), the double-slit experiments led to the paradoxical but proven (!) result that quantum objects are both particles and waves.

Damn. This doesn’t fit in our binary system: 0 or 1? Right or wrong? Good or bad? Black or white? Yes or no? All or nothing? Yoda or Darth Vader? Well, you get it. ;-)

Matthias Horx, a renowned German researcher and futurist that I quoted in one of my early blog posts, suggests we should not deal with complexity by being afraid of failure, but by simulating, experimenting and – most importantly – training ourselves to recognize the value of “as-well-as”, instead of “either-or”.

This may sound academic and theoretical, but I will show you in a second why this “as-well-as” is so important when we aim to identify and harvest value from today’s IoT data masses:

Watch our visual memo, illustrating the big value in bad data:

Leaving your comfort zone and allowing yourself to indulge in a kind of “grey thinking” is the attitude you need when you start out on your IoT journey, because I often hear these self-constructed barriers to progress from our clients: This too-strong focus on achieving 100% accuracy is a major issue and hurdle in many experts’ brains: Let’s say you could exploit your “oh-so-bad” data to come to “only” 90% prediction accuracy for some blind spots you want to uncover in your grid, your infrastructure, or your assets. Why not take that 90% and use it, since you have to admit that today you might only be at 50% accuracy at max because – let’s be brutally honest – for some of these blind spots you are flipping coins and/or crossing fingers.

Take-away #1: Rejecting 90% because you cannot reach 100% is a bad idea. Something is always better than nothing!

Some papers in the literature refer to “Big Bad Data”. I prefer to call it “Big Good Data”, because you’d be surprised how much it can still tell you about your infrastructure. Or maybe we can call it “Big Value in Bad Data”?

Take-away #2: Be brave enough to admit “I don’t know” sometimes, even as an expert in your field. Give your “bad” data a chance to help you out…

Coming back to the “analog thinking” in this article’s title: Stop thinking “either-or”. Be open and try the “as-well-as” approach. Stop using only binary 0 or 1. Accept the analog values in between. Then you will be ready to become a digital champion. Cool, isn’t it?

In my last blog post, I advocated “getting your hands dirty with your data” and using a “Proof of Value” (POV) approach to understand how much value you never guessed might be hidden in your data – even in your “Big Bad Data”.

Believe me, you will be surprised! Well, and for those who still love the Yes/No-approach, I have some simple advice for you: Coming back to the POC (Proof of Concept)/POV thing from my previous article:
Take-away #3: Some decision makers will always be looking for – and finding – excuses, if they do not want to put any effort into analyzing their data (I wrote another article about this last year, I think). But, if you are not just searching for excuses, and if you are really committed, three simple rules will help you to start harvesting value from in your existing data and your future IoT data:
  1. Dismantle the “either-or” barrier in your brain!
  2. Open your mind to thinking “as-well-as”!
  3. Just do it!

Takeaway #4: In Austria, we have a saying: “You cannot be more-or-less pregnant”, because this clearly is a yes/no, either-or condition. But when it comes to IoT data exactly the opposite is true: You can have more-or-less value.

Think analog. ;-)

Of course, at this point I could start telling you about cost savings, improved efficiency, risk reduction, better maintenance, service enhancements, competitive advantage, new business models and new revenue streams – but I bet lots of vendors have already told you all that.

The question is: Did you achieve any of those benefits?

If yes: Congrats!

If no: Why not? Maybe you need to change your approach to what I am advocating here. ;-)

Well, you know how to contact me…


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