“We always overestimate technology in the short-term, but underestimate the impact in the long run.”
That’s how Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker opened his keynote today at LiveWorx in Boston. But Baker is in it for the long haul, and he’s not underestimating the potential of the Internet of Things.
Massachusetts has a rich history of innovation and pioneering new frontiers, and the IoT is set to be the next big thing for the state, said Baker, in large part because of the concentration of IoT-related technology that both established companies and startups bring to the area.
Baker highlighted Harvard Pilgrim Health Care—a once-struggling program that he’s credited for turning around—as a prime example of the connected world. Pilgrim lead the way, he claimed, in on-lining self-service relationships between providers and insurers.
“We got the medical world into the digital world,” he said.
And the Mass. governor couldn’t get away without mentioning the record snowfalls that hit Boston this winter. While nine feet of snow hit Boston residents hard and complaints about the city’s transportation system hit the headlines, Baker was deep into talks with car-ride companies Uber, Lyft, he said. Hashing out regulations around this new business model was a priority for him.
“I would like to see them thrive, they are a disruptive technology – I have three kids who use them,” he said.
And a networked transportation system has an added benefit, said Baker. Affordability. “That’s something we don’t talk a lot about, but it’s a collateral benefit.”
Regulation was a strong theme in Baker’s keynote. In a world where everything is connected, even small and mid-sized businesses have to worry about regulation. Baker promised he would work to create “the right kind of regulatory infrastructure” that supports rather than hinders business growth.
Baker also drew attention to other Boston area companies founded on IoT technology. Newton-based Big Belly Solar provides a smart, connected way to dispose of trash.
“If you can determine how often you need to collect trash you can reduce the municipality spend,” Baker said.
Building on that note, the IoT will enable us to manage the use of electricity and energy “room by room and apartment by apartment,” reducing the carbon footprint through efficiency savings, Baker continued.
Even agriculture, something you may not readily associate with Massachusetts, will benefit from the IoT and change the way we think about what and how we grow, Baker said.
“There are a ton of very small farms that do business with local consumers here, and the IoT will allow those businesses to be more customer-centric.
The Commonwealth, which has a large share of world-class colleges and research centers, may well have a leg up in the IoT land grab. With 1150 colleges, many of them focused on STEM, the area has a tremendous infrastructure for IoT growth.
Baker noted two colleges in particular, Boston University and Northeastern, which have smart-city and cyber-security initiatives respectively.
Massachusetts, has the best pickings when it comes to education, human capital and risk takers, Baker said, and that will allow it to “build the next generation of the interesting ideas”
And that generation of idea-makers might want to focus its attention on the State House, where, Baker admitted, there is currently no wi-fi access.
“We have a long way to go with our own institutions,” Baker concluded with a smile.
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Photo by Brian Smith