Humans-In-Loop – Part 3 of Kinaxis & Cognizant Series


Trevor Miles and I have been having a healthy discussion on the Internet of Things and how these technology changes are shaping the way we work.

This is part 4 in our series.


As the IoT (Internet of Things) unfolds across multiple aspects of human life, we should expect an exponential increase in human connectivity. Relying on a shared computing environment to having more than 2 computing devices per person and counting- Computing and Connectivity have come a long way for Supply Chain professionals.  As the graphic below suggests, the Analytics velocity is also increasing with time.

Consumption of the Analytics output in Supply Chain can both be human centric as well as an automated control action.  We know that operations environment demands an Agile and Effective Fulfillment which requires individuals in the Supply Chain organization to make fast decisions in real time.  There is ample scope of automating several of these decisions with multi-dimensional information input and in Memory Computing based engines. However, not all scenarios can be modeled even with the availability of perfect information. Thus posing a limit to this automation and paving the way for human intervention. These limits are being challenged as new paradigms emerge.

human involvementWhen we speak about IoT, our focus is on the Automation of 3C’s – Communication, Control and Computing – in a network of “things”.  How will the Automation thrust from IoT a.k.a. Cyber Physical Systems impact the organizational roles in the Supply Chain function particularly planning and execution?   How will the shifting locus of Industrialization from physical to cognitive workload impact the human involvement? (See graphic)

In Supply Chain systems, we are always trying to create efficient closed loop feedback systems for achieving higher performance levels.   I found the comprehensive construct of Cyber Physical Systems created by UC Berkeley particularly useful in analyzing and designing systems with Humans- In- Loop.

The design thinking with H-I-L can be applied to the Demand side (where human sensing due to large scale device proliferation and ubiquitous communication creates better information flow) and on the Supply side (reconfiguring organizational roles with real time analytics and information consumption possibilities to automate and aid human decisions).

While the sensory network of physical things is going through its adoption curve,  proliferation of “human sensing”  is almost viral–a billion+ people on Facebook and twitter- generating a context that can be useful in varying degrees in Supply Chain planning – from Consumer demand  preferences to the outbreak of a deadly virus presenting a logistical hazard and risk.  A multidimensional Humans- in –Loop design approach to IoT leveraged Supply Chain paradigm?

Prof Tarek Abdelzaher talks about the Cyber Physical Systems with Humans in Loop

cyber physical




  1. Very thought provoking! This is a complex subject, because humans, unlike machines, can adapt in different ways to the environment around them. That is why a teenager today is so comfortable with a really advanced computing device called smartphone and doesn’t have to worry about the technology architecture, hi bandwidth networks, under-sea cables, acres of server farms, hundreds of factories and thousands of engineers and production workers that make that service available to him or her. So the humans that will be in the loop tomorrow will probably be ‘different’ from the humans of today. One can postulate that it will be a symbiotic man-machine relationship. At the same time, there is a risk of losing human intuition and ingenuity is solving real-life problems when devices and networks proliferate everything. There is chance of losing touch with the warmer side of the organization – the one that is built on relationships, mutual understanding, age-old wisdom and the ability to ‘sense’ opportunities and risks.

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