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10/27/2009
04:26 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Global CIO: What CIOs Can Learn From Kindle

The real lesson is in the growing power of machine-to-machine wireless links.

When Amazon deleted copies of Animal Farm from Kindle e-reader devices this summer, we all freaked out a bit. Literally overnight, it hit us just how powerful a constant wireless connection could be between a device and the company that controls it.

CIOs would do well to spend time thinking about that power, and looking for ways inside their companies to take advantage of machine-to-machine wireless connections. While technically possible for decades, and widely used in a few industries, machine-to-machine wireless connections are getting a fresh look--and a major push from the wireless carriers. Hopefully, it'll all go better than the Animal Farm incident.

Machine-to-machine connections, from consumer gadgets to business devices like a natural gas meter, represent the next tsunami of wireless data. And it's one big reason CIOs must pay attention to wireless telecom network capabilities, as they help their companies size up new opportunities. Our magazine's cover story this week delves into wireless networks, exploring the performance limitations and key issues for CIOs to watch. (Download it from our Recommended Reading list at the end of this article.) FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warns of a "looming spectrum crisis," and our story describes how IT leaders should manage for that risk, including deciding the best applications to mobilize over smartphones.

Yet adapting apps to smartphones is the easy wireless opportunity for CIOs. IT is expected to take the lead on that one. It's a different story with many machine-to-machine ideas, which won't fall neatly into any one team's job description. That's why IT leaders need to go searching for these opportunities.

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Consider something like Coca-Cola's Freestyle, an experimental fountain drink dispenser we've written about before. Freestyle, among its many innovations, wirelessly sends consumption data back to Coke headquarters. Coke shares the consumption data with restaurants, which might make it a more valuable partner without putting any demands on the restaurant's network. That project took collaboration across marketing, engineering, IT, and other groups.

IT leaders could be the ones to spot opportunities like that in their businesses. They can start by asking, "Is there data we've always wanted, but haven't been able to get? Is there data our customers have always wanted, that we haven't been able to give them?" Wireless data might make it possible.

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