IBM has formally created an Internet of things business unit on Monday and appointed Harriet Green, the former CEO of Thomas Cook Group in the UK, to lead the new division. Green, 53, has been named vice president and general manager of the new IoT division and will soon oversee a unit that will eventually comprise more than 2,000 consultants, researchers, and developers that take advantage of IBM’s Watson, analytics, and cloud.

In March, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty announced that IBM IBM would invest $3 billion over the next four years in this new unit, working with partners and IBM’s cognitive technologies to help clients understand data in the emerging Internet of things space. Green will also head up IBM’s new education unit, which will formally launch later next year.

When it comes to the Internet of things, IBM has never let the chance to issue a press release slide. Big Blue has been helping clients take advantage of data generated by connected sensors for quite some time, and has for years had several projects focused on the Internet of things. Last year it created a cloud service called IoT Foundations that acted as a sort of data escrow service, where two companies could store and then share their data online in a secure environment. Two years ago researchers at IBM introduced a graphical user interface for programming the Internet of things called Node-RED that is still in use in organizations today. IBM also released a physical gateway and a protocol for the Internet of things in 2013 called MQTT.


Earlier this year IBM teamed up with ARM to make it easy for engineers to connect any device using ARM’s embedOS operating system to the IoT Foundation service with just a few lines of code. This means that developers building physical products can now send data to IBM’s cloud for analytics with little effort, whether they are making a few prototypes or selling millions.

Clearly Green, as the new hire, is going to take on a well-established practice when it comes to IBM’s Internet of things efforts. Big Blue hasn’t been sitting on its hands, but I still can’t wait to see how it brings Watson into the fold. There is a lot of opportunity to add more intelligence to the Internet of things once more devices are connected to each other. In many cases, that intelligence should be local and on the ground, where real-time decision-making is crucial.

For example, if a sensor sees a sudden rise in temperature, a local computer needs to have the ability to signal the machine to stop in order to avoid overheating, as opposed to simply sending that data back to the cloud, waiting for the decision to be made, and sent back to the machine. As IBM delves deeper into the Internet of things, it will be interesting to see how Watson AI affects developments in both the cloud and in local settings.

Green is the third high-profile hire of a former CEO by IBM in recent months. Last week, former Philips Healthcare CEO Deborah DiSanzo was named as General Manager of IBM’s Watson Health unit and last year, IBM hired Jeff Smith as the company’s CIO to lead IBM’s internal digital transformation. Smith was CEO of Suncorp Business services in Australia.

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