As the IoT world develops, many people are focused on creating connected apps that solve a problem and improve the device experience. In my view, users and enterprises are both better served when, instead of merely creating an IoT app, we create an IoT app with a monetization and an ecosystem-building API so incremental revenue can be realized throughout the ecosystem.
Successful ecosystems for incremental value and monetization have been around for ages. Consider a brick and mortar business such as Home Depot, one of the largest players in the home improvement retail industry in the United Kingdom. The customer’s shopping experience is better because customers are offered options that add value to their purchase. For example, when building or re-modeling your home, carpeting and flooring tile is available online or in the store. You can install it yourself or take a Home Depot DIY class that’s conveniently offered in the store. Home Depot’s strategy of building complementary ecosystems of services and products ensures continued business growth and has proven highly profitable.
As hardware engineers who cut our teeth on building pre-IoT systems for industrial, manufacturing and telecom companies and are now building systems for the IoT world, we know just how relevant the “Pre-plastics world” example is. But are we past that inflection point now with IoT devices creeping into every aspect of our work and personal lives? Turn on a light with. Wait: why bother? No need to actually get up if the motion-sensing bulb knows you’ve entered the room or if you’ve programmed your home-lighting sub-system (notice how I said “sub-system”) to run a staggered lighting pattern to simulate that people are actually in your house while you are away on vacation. Intrusion-detection systems, water-leak monitors… the examples are sitting on the store shelves. And new SKUs are arriving daily.
So the time of wondering IF our appliances, our cars, our watches or anything into which we can embed a processor will be smarter than us is past. That time is now. We are clearly on the ascending line of the IoT’s hockey-stick graph. Strap yourself in because the ride is just beginning. Autonomous cars: in-the-works already. What about autonomous lawnmowers, or playground equipment or truly useful things like building-navigation systems for the visually impaired? When clients come to us with their use cases for product development, we don’t think they are ridiculous. Those engineering directors and CEOs are just riding the hockey stick. The demand is out there, and in a consumer-driven society, it will be satisfied.
From a product company’s perspective though, what are the factors driving the new-product introduction? For the vast majority of consumer companies, that factor is competition. For every company that brings a truly innovative solution to market, twenty others will always develop their me-too products. Beyond competition and for the truly innovative companies across all sectors, the reasons to invest in IoT enablement or product development are: driving efficiencies; reducing risk, enabling innovation and most importantly, improving customer experience.
The usual concerns about emerging technologies hold the vast multitude of our potential clients back though: security, lack of standards, a distrust of the hype, the complexity of the technology, the need for more or better analytics, and again most importantly, a lack of skills. For the un-initiated, the world if IoT is intimidating. But it needn’t be that way.
For all of these companies, from banks to consumer electronics firms to manufacturers, to service businesses, the market has one thing to say: move forward and be pragmatic about your go-to-market strategy. Don’t have the talent internally to build out your concept? There’s no need to go big if this is your first market entry. Start small to accelerate your time to revenue. Whatever you do, build fast and design-in for an extensible product or service experience. Let your customers use your platform to provide you usage data for re-engineering on subsequent iterations. Lastly, build a standards-based IoT solution so that you can minimize risk and achieve profitable ROI and growth.
IoT technology will continue to democratize the user experience and enable faster product development and services delivery. By definition, the IoT is an ecosystem, one where devices and equipment are networked to transmit and receive data for tracking, analysis and action. For those companies who haven’t yet taken the action to begin their IoT journey, the time is now to become a point on that IoT curve.