Although there are many definitions of what Knowledge Management (KM) is, it can be practically defined as “the process of capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organizational knowledge. It refers to a multi-disciplined approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.”This approach, as it is now, is typically a very manual process of humans organizing knowledge in a taxonomy structure that makes it easier for the knowledge consumer to find—although there are ways to automate this process. Although there are really good search engines out there, much of this knowledge is consumed through the use of a portal or SharePoint.
But what if that organized information can be leveraged to create a user experience based on other inputs of “who” the user is and “what” other information can be acquired from other systems or devices an organization may have? What if the user experience can also be shaped with other technological concepts such as the Internet of Things (“IoT”). This article looks to explore the possibilities (i.e. “what-ifs”)of using other inputs to define user experience and deliver relevant user information based on the commonalities of the inputs.
So what inputs may be useful for a user experience? Are users consuming information on their smart devices? Are users consuming information from a PC or Laptop? Are they in the office or outside of the office? If users travel to another location would it be nice to know what network printers are available in proximity to their visiting office? This is all possible with explicit knowledge gained from IT systems—assuming systems are put in place to query and transmit the information. Other pieces of information that would be useful, assuming it is gathered and updated, might be items like descriptive job titles, department, geographic location, real estate location and so on (for a good list see what Microsoft Outlook is capable of tracking). This is all useful information that can be queried for the “who/what/where are you” part of this equation.
While exploring what systems and devices an organization may have, some thought may be needed to data that could exist by a configuration change, what data already exists and what the organization may need to do to gather more or create a central repository that is the well from which all other enterprise systems drink. Depending on one’s organizational business, this central repository (a/k/a data warehouse) of data may be different from organization to organization. For instance, for sales organizations this central repository may be their Contact Management system (“CRM”) (e.g. Sales Force) while others may revolve around an inventory system, and others may revolve around an accounting system.
The Internet of Things
Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company defines the Internet of Things (“IoT”) as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment” but what does this mean? This means that technologies and items that were not communicative become communicative by some type of communication technology. As a simple example keys have been used to gain access to locks for centuries. In recent times, proximity badges have been used as keys and even more recently smart phones are now being used. The IoT is poised to be the greatest technology speciation of all time and Gartner estimates that the IoT will grow to 26 billion “things” by 2020. We are already seeing devices talk to each other such as an iPhone and iWatch or using Amazon’s Echo.
"Explore the possibilities (i.e. “what-ifs”) of using other inputs to define user experience and deliver relevant user information based on the commonalities of the inputs"
What’s a Thing?
The simplest concept and makeup of a “thing” is an operational device (mobile phone, remote control, access key, thermostat, refrigerator, etc…) and a communication vehicle. The communication vehicle then takes instruction from the device to make a communication either sending or receiving information. Sometimes this communication is simply, “I’m here—I’m an iPhone” for other enabled devices to know about or “I’m a certain type of device and I have trouble to report”. An example of this might be even as simple as using an iPhone to control iTunes on a computer on your home network to play music—or to control a DirecTv set-top box to records your favorite programming or may be a water detection device that says I have incoming water. A more complex example may be the new Samsung or LG smart refrigerator. Basically, these are a typical refrigerator with cameras that can scan the contents of the items within. These devices can connect to the internet and email you a grocery list or reach out to Food Network and create menu suggestions with the items you already have.
Oh, but then there are the business possibilities…
Most of these examples are consumer related, but business purposes are sure to be created. So what can we do? The question should be what can’t we do. Imagine if you will, you are on your way to work, your car crosses a toll tag booth, this triggers a receipt to your email, your email has a rule that executes, your computer determines you are on your way and opens documents to be worked on, serve up any news or articles relating to the contents of the documents, get personal and business relevant news and sends your admin an email you will be arriving shortly.
Imagine again, a phone call from a customer, your computer searches through your contact management system for the phone number and displays all of the contact information as well A/P or A/R data from your accounting system and displays it all on your screen to discuss with the customer. Additionally, this phone call could also deliver new news about that customer for conversation, or serve up any new knowledge articles that relate to this customer’s industry or about the customer specifically.
How is all this possible? Using technologies like “If This Then That (ifttt. com)”. These types of technologies aren’t the end-all-be-all, but they certainly help. Essentially what they do is take inputs from multiple places and create triggers that do “stuff”. There are hooks into a lot of cloud-based systems, local systems and IoT devices. Additional technologies also exist for machines to directly communicate with each like protocols that the Oasis Committee is developing such as AMQP, MQTT and oBIX. This is the Interworld.
The “what if” mentality today is creating quantum leaps in technology advances as well as creating and providing information at unprecedented levels. The miniaturization of components also allows smaller cheaper devices that once didn’t seem possible and are now allowing manufacturers to build smart “things”. These “things” are allowing manufacturers to embed them into other objects to create smart devices such as refrigerators with internal cameras or monitors with facial recognition for computer security. When we combine these things with an organization’s knowledge library it develops a user experience that is unprecedented, personalized and automated. What if?