From Jonathan Schwartz:
[Oil companies put] sensors on spinning drill bits to extract seismic data, which then guides the bits as they descend into the earth (I had no idea you could actually steer a drill bit). And they do this on offshore drilling platforms. And after they pump crude into supertankers, they use data from sensors spread throughout the ships to monitor vibration, fluid dynamics and rotational physics – to keep the ships, and their precious sloshing cargo, moving safely in the right direction.
I was similarly surprised to hear a global relief agency describe the IT challenges of managing a disaster – starting with a need to supply computing capacity to remote disaster locations without power. More painfully, without desktop system administrators.
And then there's what Disney's up to, passing out trackable stuffed dolls to kids in their theme parks, so parents can follow them (as Scott would say, "that's not Big Brother, that's Dad…"). By tracking clusters of dolls, the operator can tell parents how long the lines are for a ride, and determine where to place concession stands (in front of waiting patrons, of course)….
All of the above are examples of putting computing closest to the source of value – and responding in near real time to a changing physical world.