The IoT Mindset
By Vincent Lefebvre – August 2015
The Internet of Things is getting real. IoT is an infrastructure of connected devices with distributed or back-end computing capabilities. From now on, it is no longer business as usual. We have seen the staggering projections for 2020 and beyond: tens of billions of additional “things” to be connected and many trillions of dollars in economic impact in all industries. Regardless of the suggested figures, the projections tell us two things: it is only in the early stages and it is going to get bigger. IoT will impact how business is done inside and outside the technology value chain. The mindset that businesses adopt in the face of this growing phenomenon will be a key factor to their success over the next few years.
To illustrate, let’s start with an example. Earlier this year, Tesla shook the automotive world with the announcement of an over-the-air software update for their automobiles. This software update offers a significant improvement to their car’s driving range which is a specification change to a basic function of the car. In a 100-year old industry, where manufacturers are not accustomed to re-working their already-shipped products beyond normal maintenance, this is disruptive. It is a substantial paradigm shift in the business-to-customer relationship – the business model has changed. The customer can now perceive their automobile as a platform with the expectation that improvements will be made by the manufacturer over the vehicle’s lifetime.
The Internet of Things is about pervasive data collection and processing. IoT brings: a) Interlinking possibilities to other systems, and b) Access to powerful computing resources (primarily cloud-based.) Major advances have occurred in the technology of the hardware and software required to collect and process this data. These advances are allowing a corresponding increase in the capabilities of “connected” devices and machine-to-machine connections. These devices can sense the world around them, make decisions, and take action. Due to cost reduction of these new capabilities, many areas of people’s personal and business lives are being, and will continue to be, affected.
Sensors provide data and data is the raw material of IoT. Through the magic of combination (the network effect) and clever processing (analytics and machine learning), data can be transformed into “insights” that can lead to actionable information. Such insights can also lead to increased knowledge of system behavior and even to derived wisdom such as educated guesses for the system’s future behavior. These data-derived insights may become new products or services (“offerings”) in and of themselves. Insights are becoming increasingly sought after commodities that provide value beyond the very offerings from which they are derived.
An example of such new offerings can be demonstrated with vendors of video and presence technologies. Because video cameras are sensors that collect data, processing this data can yield insights that vendors can take advantage of to provide greater value to their customers. Consider a camera at a customer’s front door. Lighting conditions or movement can translate to actionable information. If it is dark outside and there is movement, a light can be switched on – nothing special there. However, because of more powerful “connected” data processing capabilities, detecting object or facial recognition can yield higher value insights such as: my child is at the door, let’s unlock the door.
Moreover, applying further intelligence as part of the built-in algorithm to generate higher quality information, the system can learn which objects or faces really matter at a given time. This enables a more compelling application such as, my child is at the door looking sad, and some unknown person is behind him or her; let’s keep the door locked, and please alert me!
With this ever-growing focus on data, adopting an information-centered mindset is becoming more necessary. In an IoT world, every business is now also an information business. Information-centered business models will become more and more significant, either as additions or as replacements to the traditional business model, such as the Product-as-a-Service model. Although to some businesses these changes will be a bit uncomfortable, keep in mind that IoT is disruptive and resistance to it may not be a winning strategy.
The information-centered mindset asks two key questions: What data will allow improvement of existing offerings? What data will allow improvement of current business models or creation of new ones? The answer to these questions will determine how new and existing offerings will need to be (re-)designed to provide greater value to the customer.
This information-centered mindset is the IoT mindset. As a business leader, you will want to become aware of the types of data that are already associated with the offerings of your business. This will allow you to exploit possibly unknown data-driven insights that can be used to provide new value to your customers. The extent to which businesses adapt to and prioritize this way of thinking will differentiate those who will thrive over the next decade and those who will not.
Now is the right time for every business to take action:
1) Research and understand how the IoT phenomenon is evolving, (visit IoT World Event Conference for example.)
2) Assess the potential impact to your industry and your specific business.
3) Get into the IoT mindset – you and your entire business team.
4) Proceed with experimentation.
5) Integrate IoT into your product planning and product evolution.
Having done this, you will walk with confidence in this brave new world, viewing the Internet of Things not as a threat but as a powerful ally that will boost your success. Is your business ready for the impact of IoT? It all starts with mindset.
Vincent Lefebvre is a business-oriented senior engineering leader with solid networking industry experience leading teams and projects to create sophisticated network devices and mobility solutions. His expertise in the development of embedded software, wireless products, and technology partnerships has led him to a passion for the Internet of Things (IoT). Contact him at email@example.com.
(For publication on VideoTechnology.com)