The first known reference to the Internet of Things dates back to Kevin Ashton in the late 1990s. Speaking, at that time, about early RFID tagging of goods throughout a distribution chain the metaphor was descriptive and compelling, but, did not generate an immediate, broad market reaction.
In recent years as the Internet has become a fundamental of life and the number of connected devices has exploded more and more attention has been paid to the idea. A very recent addition to the many written analyses of the phenomenon and its potential was published by The Economist as “The Internet of Things Business Index.” According to the report:
- Most companies are exploring the IoE (Internet of Everything)
- Two in five members of the C-Suite are talking about it at least once a month
- Investment in the IoE remains mixed
The Economist says that there is a quiet revolution underway but that many important unknowns remain. Companies are preparing for the future IoE with research, by filling their knowledge gaps, and by working with governments and trade associations on the definition and adoption of standards that will be needed to enable real leverage. The Economist believes the IoE to be, “an ecosystem play,” by which they mean networks of companies creating new industries, new economics, new value definitions. The “productization” of these networks and what they do is the biggest economic opportunity. But they don’t say how to get there.
In talking with our clients, most companies are discussing the IoE but without consensus on what it is or what to do about it. We have a suggestion. Companies should apply “Design Thinking” methods to systematically find the best targets; to increase your chances of achieving disruptive success. Design Thinking describes the orchestration of a group of well-known techniques (see below), with some adjustments, to find those opportunities that are truly transformational and successful.
It is purposefully different from asking mobile phone users in 2003 if they want a camera, a GPS and a sound system in their phone, or asking the casual coffee drinker in 1983 (the year Starbucks began) if they thought paying $4.00, eighteen times per month, for a cuppa’ joe, was an attractive idea.
Instead of asking how the IoE can transform our world we should take a series of business challenges, identify how our customers actually experience them, develop an array of ways to transform the customers’ experience for the better (with the IoE in mind), select the best ones and build models and low-fidelity prototypes with customers refining and extending as we go.
This approach works for the IoE, for Big Data, for Social Business: instead of starting with the technology, start with the business challenges that are not being solved with traditional analyses and solutions; start with the “mysteries.” See how the underlying, visceral customer needs can be better served and how IoE might be part of it. Visualize and prototype as you go. Iterate, iterate, iterate.
November 6, 2013