Motes and Smartdust by

Another interesting connection at bpmNEXT – between Bosch and Vernor Vinge.

A stretch? Maybe.  But the Bosch team (Tom Debevoise and Troy Foster) presented a pretty compelling take on the internet of things-  the concept of a mote – which is the result of the proliferation of low-cost CPUs and WIFI (or mesh networking).  Which sounds suspiciously like the smartdust in Vernor Vinge’s “A Deepness in the Sky” – in which the smart dust was so small that it wasn’t visible to the naked eye.  Bosch’s devices are still a bit bigger – with software loads in the 100k to 3MB range, running Angstrom Linux.  But you can imagine that the devices, and the software, could probably be tightened up over time.

The hypothesis behind the Bosch BPM vision seems to be summed up as “the Internet of things”  -but maybe a more useful definition is “localized autonomous control” with the advent of inexpensive chips and wireless communications. And in a sense, everything else follows from that hypothesis of how to approach BPM.

There is interesting overlap with a wide range of potential competitors – because there’s a measurement aspect of the solution (National Instruments) and a process element of the solution (in which there are a whole host of competitors).  Bosch is doing BPM, it just isn’t your typical white collar processes – it is processes that involve equipment, machinery, maintenance.  Pretty interesting take on it.

Because of its applicability for Bosch’s core business, it led me to wonder in my notes if Bosch bought the BPM tools they acquired just based on the internal rate of return alone – meaning, it seems plausible that the acquisition was worth it even if no customer of Bosch ever bought this platform directly – if all they did was apply it to Bosch’s own multi-billion-dollar business.

So I’m fully expecting to see BPM pixie dust in our near future.  From Vernor Vinge’s imagination to Bosch’s R&D Labs…

(and yes, for those wondering, there’s BPMN involved in the coordination and response to the motes – BPMN is, apparently, just about everywhere)