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The Internet of Things: A Few Speedbumps
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The Internet of Things: A Few Speedbumps - Executive Leadership Articles

The Internet of Things: A Few Speedbumps

Executive Leadership Articles

The Internet of Things: A Few Speedbumps

If the Internet of Things has failed to amaze you, somehow not made you jump up and down in eager anticipation of living in a house where your frying pan tells you when to flip your pancakes, you’re not alone. Although many of the emerging IoT concepts are impressive, most feel like little more than a novelty, the way new virtual reality systems are cool to mess around with at the tech expo, but are expensive, unlikely additions to our daily flow, even in the video games market where many expect the first explosion. The problem with the fridge that alerts you to an impending mustard shortage is that it doesn’t actually satisfy a consumer’s need: most of us aren’t willing to pay thousands for a new fridge when it costs a few bucks just to keep an extra bottle of mustard in the pantry.

A recent article in the Harvard Business review addresses the heart of this issue head-on, emphasizing the point that from the consumer end, IoT technology is not the goal, that the technology must be a meaningful effort that makes things that “simplify, delight, or enrich the lives of people.” For most of us, it takes just as long to open an app on our tablet in order to dim our lights as it does to get up from our recliners and dim them with the slider on the wall, and there’s no learning curve with a slider. Product design may be the heart of the issue if the IoT is to explode the way pundits predict.

Fast Company’s Co.Design suggests that the real inroad to the consumer market is first through the business market. A $2,000 unit monitoring the interior temperature of your refrigerator is clearly impractical: many of us could replace the food and the appliance for less. Even restaurants, which have much more at stake, might be reluctant to make the investment. Good employees and perhaps a service contract already minimize risk without adding a new device and then adding it to someone’s responsibilities. Yet one of the big investors in this technology is an insurance company. One restaurant may be unwilling to spend the money, but a company insuring many restaurants might certainly consider it a worthwhile expense, pushing the technology to businesses, decreasing its own risks. Success in the business realm could then conceivably lead to insurance companies providing smart technology in homes, applying the same rationale. We’re not talking about pancake-flipping anymore—now we’re talking about safety and security.

As with many emerging technologies, we’re also talking about a rapidly changing landscape on which it seems nothing is guaranteed. Last month, Nest (a provider of smart home systems) announced that it was discontinuing support of Revolv, the smarthome hub it acquired more than a year ago. Revolv’s app, which served as the command point for lighting, appliances, and other home systems, will cease to function entirely in May 2016, its app not opening and its hub not working. According to The Verge, the shutdown is “expected to impact a small number of consumers,” but each of those consumers spent $3000 on something they’ve counted on to manage systems and devices also costing them money. This brings up the recurring question with new technologies, especially when the tech is a critical piece of another product’s selling point: what responsibility is the manufacturer taking for the faith its consumers place in a continuing service? Services come and go, of course, but somebody paid a lot of money just a few months ago for something that works fine, and now that company is simply shutting it off, and Nest is one of the few IoT companies with some amount of everyday name recognition. If consumers were wary before, they should almost be fearful now.

A report by Business Insider 24 billion IoT devices will be installed by 2020, with 6 trillion dollars invested in related technology, including security, data storage, hardware development, application software, and system integration. If this is to play out as predicted, someone will need to get consumers past these speedbumps. The manufacturers have us already on phones, tablets, watches, and televisions, but compelling evidence that convinces us we have the need for other devices, can afford to spend the money on them, and can count on them to function over time simply isn’t there. Hitting those numbers in the next four years is going to require someone to come through in a big, big way.

Reference Links:
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/04/the-internet-of-things-needs-design-not-just-technology
Co.Design: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3059355/weve-been-approaching-the-internet-of-things-all-wrong
The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/4/11362928/google-nest-revolv-shutdown-smart-home-products
Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/iot-ecosystem-internet-of-things-forecasts-and-business-opportunities-2016-4-28


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The Internet of Things: A Few Speedbumps - Executive Leadership Articles

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