Apple’s Steve Wozniak Shares Thoughts on the Internet of Things

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joined the list of industry heavyweights at LiveWorx today.

The event was kicked into high gear when Wozniak appeared on stage to pick the winner of a recent PTC-driven hackathon.

The hackathon challenges were based around smart-city and smart-agriculture concepts as well as wearable technology that changes the way a blind person experiences the world.  The winners, who designed a sensor-enabled upgrade for signposts, walked away with $10,000.

When asked how he made his pick, Wozniak said he looked not only at the designs but at the competitors themselves. “It’s more about the people, how they think in life, and whether are they are going to create the next big things,” Wozniak said.

Talking to a small group of executives after he left the main stage, Wozniak, who landed his first job at HP without a college degree, said he can spot innovative people a mile off. “It’s not the ones who talk with good words,” he said. “You have to try to find the builders and engineers – the people who turn things into reality just for fun.”

Wozniak said he judges all products on their human interface and whether they add value to the user. “I love being in touch with my devices. The Nest thermostat is a good example – it watches your habits. This is the true Internet of Things, operating the way humans would want it to.”

Designing with the human being in mind was something that became critical to Apple early on, Wozniak said. At Apple, he said, a design engineer would have to explain his concept to a manual author and if he couldn’t articulate it clearly enough, the concept went back to the drawing board.

A world where machines are partners is inevitable and exciting said Wozniak. “Machines are going to make it easier – just in manufacturing alone machines have won the war. Humans and machines are working together and it’s going to a better world for human beings.”

Wozniak, who owns a Tesla – predicts the IoT will change the way we live, and create entirely new business models, some of which we are already seeing in the automotive industry. “Soon it may be illegal for us to drive our own cars,” he said.

But in this new world where everything is connected, the potential for security risk is high.

“It’s like a battle you can’t win,” Wozniak said. “You can’t build a computer that’s perfectly safe today unless you could work on a completely new operating system.”

And the current network environments are also a challenge. Wozniak, who was a network administrator for 10 years and hated it, predicts networks are going to become even more complicated in the future.

While we hear a lot about how the IoT will impact consumer products, we know less about how it will transform industry and the enterprise. Yet, this is a much bigger growth market according to Wozniak.

“I look at my own life and home and there is only a limited number of places I can put these things. The flow and delivery of materials is going to be much more important,” he said.

But in order to truly innovate with the IoT, industry needs to create a space where ideas can flow freely – preferably small innovation centers and independent groups inside a company similar to the Lockheed Skunk Works model. It’s also essential that the innovation environment be safe and free from critical eyes, Wozniak said.

“Apple was willing to take risks, but only because we could develop things in secret.”

Will machines ever have personalities?

“You won’t see the change until it happens,” said Wozniak. Machines will be as smart as us, they are going to be conscious and have feelings. We’ve already replaced a lot of what the brain used to do. Eighty percent of our financial transactions are computer-to-computer.

“But I hope machines never get smarter than us.”

Photo by Brian Smith


Filed under: People, Profiles Tagged: Internet of things, IoT, smart connected products