Don’t Panic—the Internet of Things Isn’t Going to Change Your World: An Interview with Jonathon Wright


In this on-site interview from STARWEST 2016, Jonathon Wright, the director of software engineering at CA Technologies and a speaker at the conference, joins Josiah Renaudin to discuss the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, scaling for load, and virtual reality.

Josiah Renaudin: So many people in software worry that when something new like the Internet of Things or artificial intelligence debuts, they have to undo all the work they’ve done up until this point. They need to change how they look at testing, development, QA, and everything else along the lifecycle. For those people who are dealing with change, what advice would you give them?

Jonathon Wright: Don't panic. Digital is going to change things, but now, those challenges are going to be the same as what you did before. You'll still be using classification trees; the difference is you'll be applying them in a sense of testing an IoT platform or a new banking API. You have to still use your skills.

Josiah Renaudin: Same concepts, but in a different way.

Jonathon Wright: Exactly. People will be scared. People will go, "How do I test something I can't physically see, or how do I know the machine learning algorithm is right? How do I train it so that I can use huge amounts of data in a big data set scenario?"

Josiah Renaudin: So what you can do now is prepare them for that, so when it happens, they won't freak out, because they realize it's similar.

Jonathon Wright: It's exactly the same. That's the great thing. That's why I was trying to bring things down to do the node left thing. I was told when I started college that everything was just a node. I thought they were just talking a bunch of crap. Then I thought, actually, if you take it down to just nodes, it's very simple. Whether that node's an IoT device or sensor, or it's just an API, it doesn't matter. Part of it is you're proving a path through an application with some data and you're getting confidence, the more you learn, the more you repeat through there with different sets of test data and try different negative exhaustive testing mechanisms. You're getting more confident.

That's where part of me talking a higher scale of whether it be smart homes, solar power, nuclear power stations, it doesn't matter. The challenge sounds difficult, but in actual fact, it's the same as what you've always ... Business as usual. Just don't panic, is the big message. A lot of the tools that we've got now are really to support how you go about doing this in a very simple way. That's a lot to do with visualization.

If you're able to visualize something, you can understand the model. I think the days of coding have disappeared. Someone from the business has got to understand the value of what you're doing, and understand the model and what you're proving. It has to be in a very simple format, whether it is a very complex mission critical system, or it's just another app. You need to visualize that.

A lot of data visualization and pipeline visualization is making it simpler for people to interact with very complex systems, but in a way that everyone can understand what we're doing and what value we're adding, not just build another thousand tests. Why another thousand tests? What does that mean? What confidence do you get from doing that? This then leads into the whole digital assurance side of things.

There's a whole stack of stuff I could talk about for days and years and months. It is really exciting. It's been an eye opener for me for the last few years, of how much of big digital has suddenly changed. Like you said, it's when someone starts trying to come into and disrupt in an industry. Take FinTech for an obvious thing. I spoke to somebody here who's attending STARWEST who said that in the US, they're thinking about this, creating banks which have a coffee shop built into the bank, so that people can hang out and there's a really good vibe. It's like a coffee shop and a book store.

I was thinking, wow, that's very different culturally to what they're doing in the UK, where we're actually closing banks down, and we're replacing them with BlockChain and FinTech organizations that let you use ... Mining blocks of data. It is very different to encouraging people to come in and socialize, and as a new disruptive way of getting into your bank.

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