Tuesday, February 14, 2017

IoT Event Causes Alarm Police Investigate

IoT Data, Risks, Liability all identified from an IoT Device

IoT Data, Risks, Liability all identified from an IoT Device
As devices shift to 'the edge' there are many new and unforeseen implications concerning data, security, legal liability, and overall management of IoT devices. My recent experience with an IoT Vacuum got me thinking about some of the unintended consequences from the IoT epoch we are now living in. These implications go beyond just IoT and could also apply to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices as well. One thing for sure, the Internet-of-Things will not only change the tools we use but will also how we think about and use them, forcing us to think ahead to think about risks just as much as we reflect on the benefits. And while this little vacuum is one of the many devices, it among other devices will be a forcing function for IoT thought leaders to take into consideration when developing their solutions.
One weekday after finishing up a morning meeting I pulled out my smartphone to check for messages, to my surprise found that I had multiple missed calls, voicemail messages, and dozens of text messages. One of the missed call phone numbers of particular interest was the Burglar Alarm Company - theirs was the first phone call I returned. I dialed the number and immediately got an agent on the phone.
Agent: "Based on the number you are calling from is this Mr. Hawkins?"
Me: "Yes, this is he, what's going on? I've received multiple calls from you."
Agent: "There was a glass break alarm that went off at your house this morning, we have notified the Police - they are on their way."
Fearing the worst I did what any rational person would do, I quickly repacked my work bag, which I had unpacked only a short time ago. I shouted down the hall to my coworkers; “I have to leave, my home alarm went off, and need to take care of this, bye,” I rushed to my car and headed back home.
At about the halfway point on my drive, I called the alarm company back and got another agent back on the phone.
Me: "What's the status of the Police probe, is everything ok?"
Agent: "Mr. Hawkins, the Police have been to your house, I am issuing an all-clear - I’ll reset the alarm, what’s the passcode?"
Me: “What does that mean?”
Agent: “It means that they have physically been on premise at your home and found nothing that looked suspicious, no broken windows, the doors were secure - so we reset the system.”
I had a decision to make, do I proceed home or head back to work? My overactive imagination had gotten the best of me, and I was worried about the family dog - so I decided to proceed home and investigate what was going on.
As I entered the door the alarm rapidly chirped, this was much different noise than the typical one chirp, and there was no dog there to greet me. The chirping indicated to me that the event was real and that I needed to proceed with caution.
Stanley, as the children affectionately call him, is our IoT Vacuum and he was not in his charging station where he usually is. Every day he starts vacuuming at 8:00 AM, and by the vacancy, in the charging station I saw that Stanley most likely went out for his daily assignment - however, he did not return - this was not like him.
I proceeded to the living room, as I entered the room, everything became apparent and the chain of events that must have happened. I saw a glass vase laying on the floor with its contents scattered.  The crash of the glass vase must have set off the alarm. Stanley probably became tangled with the phone cord located adjacent to the glass vase that was sitting on a glass table. Oblivious to his circumstance he proceeded with his job - as he moved away from the table he pulled the phone cord, the phone and ultimately the glass vase off the table and onto the floor. I moved from the living room into my home office and saw Stanley stuck on an area rug only a few yards from the scene of the crime - case closed, I’ve caught the perpetrator!
I do enjoy the benefits of having a nicely vacuumed home, and I see some effects from the experience that got me thinking. What can I learn from this IoT device occurrence? For starters, Stanley was just doing as he was programmed, but something else dawned on me. I now see this seemingly good little helper in a new light, and I see that there is a much greater potential for him to do harm than I had first thought.
IoT Implications and Lessons Learned
Legal Liability
The alarm company summoned the police to my home, as the homeowner I know that I'm ultimately responsible for purchasing the device and programming the device. However am I liable as well? Was there a bright yellow WARNING label on the device that read not to use when no one is home? Raising an interesting question regarding the liability of the IoT-device, they automate and help, but should they be programmed to run without supervision?.
The Risk of Fire; What if the telephone cord was near a lighted lamp, and the light was pulled off the table and broken; this could have exposed hot electrical wires and potentially cause a fire. Should I be powering off lights before the IoT device moves throughout the house? And given this IoT device has a large battery, could it ignite itself? Now the thought of sending an IoT vacuum off seems riskier - almost as dangerous as leaving a simmering pot on the stove.
Data Security
The IoT device is 'smart,' according to the manufacturer, it captures, and stores information about which rooms it has vacuumed. In this case, the GPS coordinates are processed and stored in the cloud. The floor plan along with furniture placement is in the cloud, along with the vacuuming days and times. The Alarm company knows when my alarm is set, and can remotely reset it - there is a lot of data, any breach could give information that I may want to keep private.
IoT devices
Stanley is one IoT device, but what about the other devices that capture and send data to the cloud and elsewhere. My Alarm system with all its wireless sensors is IoT-enabled. What will become of all these sensors, how will we manage the devices? At some point, we could end up with IoT device proliferation? One takeaway for me is that while it’s good to have sensors, it’s just as important to be able to see what’s going on - perhaps a camera system would be beneficial as the next step.
At these devices go about doing their job who is going to do all the maintenance of these devices? In the vacuum's case, there is a dust collection bin that needs cleaning, a filter that requires cleaning and assists, get him unstuck when needed, software updates and more. The more IoT devices, the higher the maintenance toll.
IoT Service Costs;
The incident encouraged me to stop what I was doing and head back home to investigate; this means lack of productivity at work, it caused unnecessary work for emergency personnel and the alarm company. There is a cost to the IoT service, and this should be taken into consideration as well. The automation can help, but there may be hidden costs associated with it. Do the cost outweigh the benefits.
I am now more curious than ever about IoT devices, and I can see that there is much more work that needs to be done to ensure we are creating meaningful IoT devices that help us to reduce risk, automate the mundane, and in doing so provide a higher quality of life. And while I fully take responsibility for the programming of the device, leaving work early, and involving the police, this experience opens up some interesting complexities that I had not thought of before this incident.
I did reprogram Stanley not to run unless I am home, and hopefully, an event like this won’t happen again. As for my dog. The dog is safe; I found him sitting in a recliner chair in my office - he didn’t look too happy when he saw me. I’m sure the screeching alarm hurt his ears, and that’s probably the reason for his silent protest. I gave him a few treats, then he came and sat on the chair next to my desk - where I logged back into work and finished my day.
I’d love to hear your stories about the IoT and data at the edge, post comments below or share them directly with me on Twitter @hawkinsjohn.
John Hawkins is vice president, Corporate Marketing & Communications, Hawkins is an author, speaker, writer, strategist, and technologist with over 20 years of consulting experience to Fortune 25-500+ companies, where he provided services to many of the large cloud providers. Find John on LinkedIn John M. Hawkins (LinkedIn) or Twitter at @hawkinsjohn (Twitter).

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Middle Class Squeeze Fuels Growth in Lower and Upper Social-Classes

Survey of 76% of the US Population Shows The Middle Class is no longer the Economic Majority

The middle-class had been the ‘bell’ in the social-class bell-curve for years, for many Americans the coveted middle-class is what the American dream is all about. As a middle-class member, this means that you are relatively financially comfortable, you can see how far you’ve come and through hard work can aspire to accomplish more and hopefully get to a top upper-class spot.

Paycheck to Paycheck
While many take top spots, the data shows that more and more people are living paycheck to paycheck – meaning they are further away from the American dream. According to Market Watch, “63% are unable to handle a $500 emergency (MarketWatch).” Others indicate they will change their spending to pay for an emergency “23%, reported they would pay for an emergency by reducing spending on other things (BankRateSurvey).” The rest must borrow to cover a $500 emergency expense.

76% of The Population Studied
The ability to pay for an emergency isn’t the only indicator of a declining middle class - according to a Pew research study, “from 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan [statistical] areas (PewSocialTrends_2016).” This study is significant because it included data from 76% of the 2014 national population, a large percent of the population, which means that we should take a serious look at this data.

If you take a balloon and put pressure on the middle the force from the pressure will displace the mass to one end or the other, in this case, the mass is shifted to both lower and upper classes – meaning that people's income is moving from the middle of the ‘bell curve’ to either end – resulting in fewer middle-class spots.

Why Should You Care?
This shift is significant because now there are fewer rungs and a greater distance between the fewer ladder rungs – just like with a ladder or staircase – the further the distance between steps the harder it is to get from one step to another. The middle class plays an important function and acts as a buffer between the two ends of the spectrum; on one end we have ‘the-haves’ and the other ‘the-have-nots.’ A lower class person can see themselves getting to a middle-class spot, but moving from a lower class to upper class is a quantum leap.

Your Choices;
Choice A) = Do nothing
Given the declining middle class, it’s not ok to assume that if you do nothing, you will get to keep your current social status. Some forces could push you lower on the social-class ranking.

Choice B) = Do something:
If you choose to do something then here are five steps to find out where you are on the social-class ladder, and also give you some ideas on how to build a plan to help you maintain your status and perhaps move to the next class.
  1. Assessment – here is a middle-class calculator (Middle-Class Calculator) that you can use to calculate which class you are currently in – knowing where you stand will help as you develop your plan.
  2. Vision development – Dealing with the day-to-day activities can put a cramp in anyone’s dreams – develop your vision by dreaming about your ideal situation.
  3. Goals development – Having big goals is good, but having goals that are too big might mean that you don’t have a realistic plan. Visualize your goals, quantify your goals, and qualify your goals – then choose to focus on the goals that align with your vision and will get you to the next rung, keep in mind it’s hard to skip a step.
  4. A Role Model – find someone who has achieved similar goals to what you want to achieve – learn from others who have already made the mistakes.
  5. Success Delivers Success – if you’ve tried and failed, it becomes so easy to just stop trying – so try achieving little successes, this might be as simple as getting up 15 minutes earlier and spending that time on your goals – that might not seem like a lot of time but over a month it will add up, 15 minutes a day over 30 days is 7.5 hours.

There is no doubt that there are fewer and fewer middle-class members and more and more people who are now not able to handle a relatively small financial emergency. Regardless of where you are currently in your life, it wouldn’t take much to move you off your plan. Those who want to preserve their place in the social-class system should be planning now to understand where they are currently, then develop a plan to either maintain their status or grow above and beyond.

If you need some guidance consider reaching out to a mentor or find a coach who can help you see a different perspective and maybe help you find happiness – with the assistance you too can change the trend and maintain your spot or grow into a higher ranking.

John M. Hawkins is a Vice President of Marketing and Communications, a technologist and the Author of ‘Building a Strategic Plan for your Life and Business” Author You can find him on twitter

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rise in Job Satisfaction Means Americans Should be Happier at Work – So Why aren’t you?

63+ Million Americans are unhappy with their current job if studies are to be believed

2016 job satisfaction numbers continue to buck a ten (10) year unhappiness trend in the workplace. Now 49.6% of employees claim to be satisfied with their current jobs, according to a 2016 Conference Board Report (, this CBR report largely attributes this increase in happiness at work to the economy and a declining unemployment rate, which leads to increased hiring and more opportunities.

Other studies show an even much rosier picture, a 2016 SHRM ( study looked at engagement in the workforce, the study indicates that there is an improvement with engagement. People are now more engaged at work at 3.8 (1 lowest 5 highest), which is an increase from prior years. Additionally SHRM reports that approximately 88% of US Employees reported overall job satisfaction, an increase from their last year’s report of 86%. In comparison to the SHRM report, this is a much higher percentage than the 49.6% from the CBR report.

In the US there were 124 Million full-time working Americans in Sept 2016, according to Statista ( Based on the CBR Study and SHRM study this means that roughly 50% of survey participants are happy at work – the flip side is that 50% are not entirely happy. Regarding numbers of workers, there might be anywhere from 60 Million to 110 Million satisfied full-time employees. This seems confident right? Not entirely, the downside to this is that this leaves tens of millions of Americans who are unsatisfied with their current job – as many as 15 Million to 63+Million UN-SATISFIED workers.

So what makes a worker satisfied or not? The studies both indicate the areas that are key to happiness in the workplace are related to the treatment of employees/managers, compensation/pay, benefits and job security. Each individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own job happiness, meaning that we all need to take responsibility for our own career and ultimate job satisfaction.

Here are five tips to increase your job satisfaction, which might just make you happier at work.
  1. Engagement - By increasing your engagement at your work with management, coworkers, and others can help you better appreciation your job - those who are engaged at work tend to feel better.
  2. Accountability – More responsibility comes to those who demonstrate that they can be trusted and are accountable – do your job and always ask for feedback and look for additional ways you can help.
  3. Networking - Networking inside and outside of your organization, can help you to develop the perspective on the market and your situation - you might think the grass is greener elsewhere, when that may not be the case.
  4. Volunteering – Volunteering puts others needs first, forcing you to not focus all on the issues you have and provide focus on ‘greater good,' an hour or two once a month at a food bank, shelter or school can really add perspective.
  5. Hobbies/Exercising – No matter what your roles are; either a business owner or employee, everyone needs some downtime from work activities – having a hobby and getting enough exercise can give you a break you need.

Polls and studies can give us a glimpse into the employment situations with broad-brush strokes – but as you can see from the two studies cited, each shows a very different percentage of happy folks.

Regardless of what the polls indicate, the reality is that for millions who are in an unhappy situation they are not a statistic or percentage. Those who are struggling to find happiness can and should take steps to make a change. The first step should be to discuss with your boss. If that’s not an option, consider reaching out to a mentor, or finding a coach who can help you see a different perspective perhaps helping you find your work happiness – with help you too can buck the unhappiness trend.

John Hawkins is a Vice President of Marketing and Communications, a technologist and the Author of ‘Building a Strategic Plan for your Life and Business” Author You can find him on twitter

Friday, September 2, 2016

Some Change is Good, But Too Much Change Can Create Chaos!

Percent change might just be the best way to predict when change is good or too much!

A little change can help you see things in a new light, or from a different perspective – but change that happens too quickly, or even not enough change for that matter, over a period of time can lead to unrest and chaos.

If my assertion that change can cause confusion is correct, then why are many successful leaders quoted for their change statements. Winston Churchill was attributed as saying; “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Does this quote contradict my opinion that too much change can cause chaos?

Or consider Maya Angelou’s statement on change; “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” This is an interesting position on change; perhaps we need to change our attitude so we can accept change.

One of my favorite change quotes is attributed to Charles Darwin; “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

These quotes are all taken out of context, to truly be able to determine if the quotes apply in a given situation we would need to understand the ‘current situation’ of the organization (or entity), the ‘future situation’, and the time frame of the change - otherwise the quote at face value may or may not apply in every situation. And if it doesn’t apply, then perhaps change would hurt, not help.

An Exaggerated Example 
Imagine that you wake up every morning then follow your standard routine on your way to work.
  •  Daily you stop by your favorite coffee shop.
  • One day you walk into the coffee shop and find that an unfamiliar face greets you, after a few questions you find the coffee shop is now under new ownership.
  • Day two; you find that the coffee shop hours have changed, they now open 30 minutes after you typically get there.
  • Day three the menu items change to include more lunch items
  • Day four they remove the classic espresso machines for an automatic machine
  • Day five they increase their prices, and in addition to the price increase went to a lower quality coffee bean.

An unlikely series of changes, but in this case:

Change too quickly created CHAOS!
Many of us have expectations, but when change happens too quickly we notice! If this happened to the coffee shop that I frequented, then I would be the first to vote with my dollars and find a new coffee shop – one that provided the coffee experience that I wanted.

Organizational change that causes unrest can be significant such as a key leader change, a policy change, cutting off key programs; even some seemingly insignificant change can have a dramatic impact. Without action from the organization's leadership team, the organization can loose it’s compass as members develop a sense of apathy, disengagement, or even resignation from the organization, which can lead to a chaotic feeling amongst organizational members.

As a business owner or leader of an organization, it’s incredibly important to keep in mind that change can be good, but we want to be careful that there is not so much change that it creates fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the members who are part of the organization.

Percent Change Can Help Predict Chaos
Thinking about change, I thought to myself how one could quantify when a change might impact an organization either positively or negatively? It dawned on me that we could quantify it regarding Percent Change. A 10% change isn’t really a lot of change. If you’ve got a dollar and get 10% more, you’ll have $1.10. 90% of a dollar is $0.90. Imagine 200% of the dollar, then you’ll have significantly more money – you’ll have $2.00, double the money.

Mathematically Speaking, The Percent Change Equation
There is a programmatic way we can simulate if a change will have a negative or positive impact to an organization or entity. By taking the Percent Change formula and plugging in two variables, it’s theoretically easy to determine if folks would be happy or unhappy just based on the percentage of change.

We can calculate the percent change by taking the ‘Future Situation,' subtract the ‘Current Situation’ and divide that by the ‘Current Situation’ – then multiply by 100, and you’ll have the percent change. If Percent Change is positive, you might want to think about ways to maintaining the new situation.

Percent Change = ((Future Situation – Current Situation)/Current Situation) X 100

Percent Change    = is the percent increase or decrease
Future Situation   = the situation desired state or wanted state
Current Situation = where we are today, our current situation or current state

For Example
Assuming a ‘Current Situation’ as represented by 100 (I just picked a number for the sake of the model). And the future ‘Future Situation’ potential values could be 40, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150 and 175. We could then calculate the percent change, which I’ve done and is represented in the table below.

Probability of Chaos
% Change
Future Situation
Current Situation
Higher Probability Chaos
Higher Probability Chaos

We may seek more change

Higher Probability Chaos
Higher Probability Chaos

The larger the percent change (or deviation from the current situation) will be the situation with the greatest potential for chaos. Here we see that negative change at -60 might also lead to chaos, on the flip side a +75% change could also lead to pressure and potential chaos.

Additional Complexity is like increasing variables in a Math Equation
When sitting down to solve a math problem with one unknown variable, it can be simple if you have something like (4 + X = 10). You don’t need to be a math wizard to take the X and replace it with a ‘6’ – and fairly confidently you’ll have the answer.

Organizations typically have many variables in the equation - and this is what can make decision making difficult. Now, imagine that you have got your percent changes formula and instead of plugging in two numbers you have an expression you need to figure out first. The sample math problem, like a changing entity, can get more complicated when we modify or add variables.

Exponential Change Factors
There are weighted factors, these types of changes are much higher weighted, such as:
  • Leadership Changes
  • Change in Values
  • Market Changes
  • Reduction of Programs
  • Revenue Changes

Now imagine trying to calculate the more complex future situation of ((2+Z) + 2Y = 10) and adding in the leader change (perhaps a power of 2) – the formula gets more complicated ((2+Z) + 2Y = 10)2.

The more complicated the problem, the less confident we are that we can quickly solve it, so true is for organizational change.

  • I think that it’s probably fair to say that many people enjoy change, but the changes we like best are the ones that impact us in a positive way.
  • When the percent change between the ‘future situation’ and the ‘current situation’ becomes too drastic, it can put stress on the organization or entity.
  • Making policy, organizational or leadership changes might seem innocent enough. However, these changes can have a great impact.
  • If you don’t like the chaos created by the change, the simple answer is to just take yourself out of the equation by disengaging with the organization or entity.
  • Alternatively, you can choose the ‘current situation’ that you want to be a part of, essentially putting yourself into an equation that you’d prefer.
  • If you’d prefer not to leave the organization, then engage and become part of the solution, or just wait and given enough time things will change.
  • I think it’s fair to say that we all want ‘positive’ change, which is human nature.  However, I suspect that if we had all the change we could hope for, then odds are we would still not be happy.
I stated earlier my favorite or the three quotes was Charles Darwin’s; “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Let me know your thoughts on the topic of change, I’d be particularly interested to hear about case studies or other insights into how you think about change.

John Hawkins is a Vice President of Marketing and Communications, a technologist and the the Author of ‘Building a Strategic Plan for your Life and Business” Author You can find him on twitter

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