Meet futurist and IoT blogger Bill Chamberlin

“I have always believed that the greatest impact from technology is that it makes our lives better in some way” – Bill Chamberlin, IBM Market Research Analyst

As 2015 comes to an end, we’re closing out the year with a bang! This month’s featured blogger in our Blogger Beat series is a top digital contributor and part-time fortune teller who has amassed a large following of fellow IBMers with his intriguing focus on how technology is shaping the future.

Meet Bill Chamberlin. As a lifetime IBMer and Principal Analyst with IBM Market Research, his passion is focused on helping IBMers and IBM leaders understand emerging technologies and the potential impact of those technologies, particularly in key areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and analytics, cognitive computing and social business. He founded IBM Horizonwatch, an IBM community and research program that looks at understanding current and disruptive trends. He’s also interested in social media, marketing research, strategy assessment as well as strategy development. Bill has an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management. In April of this year, he was inducted into the IBM Academy of Technology.


Tell us a bit more about yourself – Who are you? And what do you do in your spare time? I live in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago with my wife, two daughters and Bliss, the family dog. In my spare time, I love spending time with my family. I’m an avid golfer, having learned the game at an early age. I also enjoy fitness activities, doing household projects, watching movies and reading for pleasure. I support a number of local causes, including Food For Friends, a small charitable organization that supports those in need of food in the Chicagoland area.

Venn diagram of three intersecting circles: Internet of things, analytics and big data, and cognitive computing , with big changes at the center.What are you currently working on or are most excited about? I’m excited about the intersection of the IoT, analytics and big data, and cognitive computing. When I think of future scenarios of these three, I think of intelligent devices and smart machines that’ll assist us in making better business decisions and significantly change our lives. This includes robots and driverless vehicles.

Why do you like to blog about the Internet of Things? I blog because I love to share my expertise with others and, hopefully, help others learn more about emerging trends and technologies. I blog about the IoT because it’ll really be a game-changer for business. The IoT will truly transform business models, competitive ecosystems and whole industries. To fully leverage the IoT, companies need to make sure they have implemented the “third computing platform” of cloud, big data, analytics, mobile and social business. And that platform must be secure and private. Once a company implements that platform, the IoT, along with cognitive computing, is the next phase.

How would you explain the Internet of Things to a kid who knew nothing about it? Our body’s seven senses and nervous system provide information to our brain so we can interact with our environment and make better decisions. Think of the IoT working like the body’s senses and the nervous system. Sensors and chips embedded in any physical device become the “nerve endings,” and the Internet network then communicates information to computers to help us understand our environment and enable improved decision making. An example would be the IoT allows us to understand weather conditions (temperature, wind speed, humidity, precipitation, etc.) anywhere on the planet via an app on our smartphone.

Are there other experts, bloggers, articles or books that you find interesting in this space, or that you have drawn inspiration from? I guess you’d say that I’m an old school researcher. By that, I mean I get inspiration by listening to the entire market. I think it’s very important when researching not to limit oneself by learning from the influencers, but to “listen” to signals from the entire marketplace, too. To help me do this, I find information I need by using search engines. For example, when I’m looking for information on the IoT, I develop search keywords and then use search engines (mainly Google and Twitter) to do my research. Sometimes, I add in an influencer’s name, a company name or a product name to filter my research.

Because of the work I do for IBM, I regularly end up reading what IT industry analysts are saying, including companies like IDC, Gartner, Frost & Sullivan, Markets & Markets, TBR, Forrester and others. In addition, my searches usually end up returning results from media sites like Wired, Technology Review, M2M Magazine and more. I also make sure I understand what companies in the IoT ecosystem are saying. There are so many companies involved in the IoT, but the ones I regularly check on include companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Cisco and Accenture.

If you’re looking for published IoT influencer lists, you can check out one of the following:

I must mention here that I do have a favorite Iot podcast. It’s called Farstuff (https://twitter.com/Farstuff) hosted by Andrea Borcea (http://twitter.com/AndreeaBorcea) and Charles Wiltgen (http://twitter.com/CharlesWiltgen). They deliver a great podcast about once a month and I have been a fan since their first podcast.

Where do you see technology creating the greatest impact? I’ve worked in the technology industry my entire career and have always believed that the greatest impact from technology is that it makes our lives better in some way. For businesses, the future impact of information technology is the same as it’s been the last 50-60 years: it helps employees at all levels of the company do their jobs better and faster so that the company can deliver the best products and services to customers. Technology also helps companies survive…and thrive. For individuals, technology will have a tremendous impact on our lives over the next 100 years – and that impact will come directly from the IoT and cognitive computing systems that we’re building today.

Can you share a personal AHA moment about the value of an emerging technology? I’ve had so many aha moments about emerging technologies… I think I experience them about once a week! My thoughts go back to 1986 when I was a young IBM employee selling computer systems to manufacturers on the north side of Chicago. I had a broad sales territory that required me to be away from the office for long hours during the day. I raised my hand to participate in a pilot study at IBM on the use of mobile phones by those in sales positions. I was issued a Motorola DynaTAC mobile phone for a 30-day pilot. The aha moment came quickly as I learned I could get work done while I was away from the office. I used it to call back to the office or call other clients in between sales calls. Needless to say, the pilot went very well and IBM management quickly expanded the pilot. Today, it’s hard to imagine someone in a sales position without the ability to communicate while away from the office.

Can you share a funny story about when you’ve been “incredibly wrong” about a technology trend? (e.g., didn’t initially see the value, thought market would head a different way, etc.) I wouldn’t say this is a funny story, but I’ve been wrong about the pace of adoption of alternative energy and sustainability technology, including green IT. I thought businesses would address this issue much faster than they have. I think we’re all aware that we have limited resources on planet Earth. I’ve been disappointed in the lack of business and political leadership around the world, which we need in order to protect the availability of our resources for future generations.

What’s next for you?  I’d love to teach a college level class on the topic of emerging technologies at a local community college. I’ve also always wanted to write a book on emerging technology trend research.

Anything else you’d like to add? Over 100 years ago, in December of 1913, Henry Ford implemented the first assembly line in a manufacturing operation. Think of all the amazing technological advancements of these past 100 years, including landing a man on the moon, the invention of the personal computer, and the mobile phone. Many more innovations have happened just in the past 10 years, thanks to technologies such as cloud, mobile, big data, analytics and social business. Now, fast-forward 100 years to the year 2115 and think of the number of technological advancements that will come over these next 100 years. While it’s hard to predict the exact products and services that’ll emerge, there’s no doubt we’re on the cusp of tremendous technology achievements and change. It’ll be an amazing ride!

Read Bill’s posts on the IBMCAI blog and connect with him on Twitter @horizonwatching, LinkedIn, Slideshare, and his personal blog


Originally published on the IBM Center for Applied Insights blog Mar 2016

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