Internet of Things…… doing what, exactly?

In 10 years time, no-one will buy dumb kit.  Intelligence will be embedded, everywhere.  It will be taken for granted.

The consumer potential is already clear, but industrial processes and applications are a step behind. ‘Industry 4.0’.  The Internet of Things.  The new industrial revolution.  There’s rhetoric and spin, a buzz of excitement around concepts that are not yet clearly defined but where there is clear potential.

There will be many concept failures among the huge successes.  In spotting the winners, the question for industry seems to be around the distinction between what could be done, technically, and what should be done, commercially.  It’s about how intelligent devices can create profit.  Intelligence has a limited value in itself; real value comes from improved actions based on intelligence.

There is a distinction, with any major technology change, between applications that enable an improvement in an existing approach and those that enable a new approach altogether.  Retail websites that merely provided an alternative shopfront have generally failed. Entirely new retail models enabled by the internet have thrived.   Email transformed our lives, as a communication medium. But it’s social media, an entirely new medium of communication, that has made vast fortunes. Successful media websites recognised that the game was replacing newspapers, not replicating them.  Uber and Airbnb aren’t just a way for promoting existing service providers; they turn us all into potential service providers.

There are no direct parallels for the new industrial revolution.  There will be markets for technologies that improve the current industrial processes and systems, such as conditioning monitoring or performance management.  But the real winners will be applications that enable entirely new business models, new businesses, new ways of thinking and, critically, new ways of doing.