The Electronic Skin of Earth

Last Updated: October 22, 2018By

IG is the Heart of the Matter

In a 1999 Business Week article, journalist Neil Gross offered a prediction that sounded like it came straight out of the latest science-fiction blockbuster: “In the next century, planet earth will don an electronic skin.” Gross was part of a team that published 21 ideas they predicted would be part of the 21st century’s technological footprint. Gross predicted there would eventually be enough devices connected to each other and to the Internet to cover the earth in an electronic skin. He noted that as of the close of the 20th century, “millions of embedded electronic measuring devices: thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones” were already collecting and using electronic information.

We live in a world driven by Internet-enabled electronic devices that allow us to connect to each other in ways never thought possible. For instance, many wake up in the morning and put on their Fitbit or IWatch and head out to exercise. Meanwhile, refrigerators throughout the world send shopping lists to retailers as the family car sends a message to the dealer that a routine oil change is due, sending still another message back to the phone of the car’s owner that an oil change was scheduled. Although the information that travels around the IoT is invisible, it should still be monitored and managed, which presents challenges to IG and RIM professionals. An IG framework is like a heart, in that it controls the flow of information and makes sure it reaches the proper connections.

Gartner predicted that by 2020 there will be 20.8  billion devices connected to the IoT.

While twenty years ago tech journalists such as Gross informed our Y2K-focused world that technology and biology would one day merge, it was (and still is to some degree) science fiction. That such predictions would be in a business-focused magazine was telling. Modern business depends on electronic connections between devices, and these connections represent ribbons of information streams that spread throughout the business.These streams are essentially the lifeblood of the business and they should be managed in an Information Governance framework. However, this can be challenging because IoT-connected devices use machine language to talk to each other. Standard recordkeeping practices still apply. However, retention, deletion, storage, privacy, and destruction are problematic because it is unstructured.

As these unstructured information streams are utilized in the business world, they present incidental information that itself can be valuable information. In the tech world, this is known as metadata. This data is largely unstructured and unmanaged, and at times moves around a network that has come to be known as the Internet of Things (IoT). As the IoT’s skin gets stitched together, “it will combine the global reach of the Internet with a new ability to directly control the physical world, including the machines, factories, and infrastructure that define the modern landscape.”

recent posts

About the Author: IGW Staff

InfoGov Thought Leaders