Enabling the collective intelligence of things

By Raoul Mallart, Vice President Imagineering at Sigfox

Nature provides some amazing examples of collective intelligence. Take, for example, an ant. As an individual, it has very limited intelligence, and follows a small set of standardized behaviors. In a colony, however, a multitude of individuals taken as a group demonstrate a rather robust level of intelligence with the ability to build complex architectural entities.

The same crowd effect is seen in social networks. For example, in Waze, the individual contribution of any given user is almost insignificant. However, taken as a whole, the contribution of millions of users provides a robust road information service.

The future of the Internet of Things brings similar promise.

Up to now, IoT has been about transforming objects into better versions of what they already are: smart street lights that are more energy-efficient, self-monitoring devices that track the continuity of the cold chain, and so on. In short, IoT has been about using smarter objects to optimize a business process.

This is just the beginning of a new era in which minute bits of information emanating from billions of things will be gathered, analyzed and repackaged to provide new, rich and actionable data to billions of users. As in the ant analogy, individual sources of data need not be very complex, nor the information they deliver accurate. The massive amount of data and the variety of the data sources will more than compensate for these shortcomings and will ensure high quality output (didn’t Midas say “Garbage In Gold Out?”).

Of course, to make this vision a reality, all things, even the cheapest and smallest ones, shall be given the opportunity to share whatever data they are collecting. This is precisely our mission at SIGFOX.

We are deploying and operating a network with a massive capacity, able to gather tiny bits of information from billions of things. It is a stepping stone towards the emergence of the collective intelligence of things.