Why It’s So Hard to Predict Internet of Things’ Full Impact: “Collective Blindness”

I’ve been trying to come up with a layman’s analogy to use in explaining to skeptical executives about how dramatic the Internet of Things’ impact will be on every aspect of business and our lives, and why, if anything, it will be even more dramatic than experts’ predictions so far (see Postscapes‘ roundup of the projections).

See whether you thing “Collective Blindness” does justice to the potential for change?

 

What if there was a universal malady known as Collective Blindness, whose symptoms were that we humans simply could not see much of what was in the world?

Even worse, because everyone suffered from the condition, we wouldn’t even be aware of it as a problem, so no one would research how to end it. Instead, for millennia we’d just come up with coping mechanisms to work around the problem.

Collective Blindness would be a stupendous obstacle to full realization of a whole range of human activities (but, of course, we couldn’t quantify the problem’s impact because we weren’t even aware that it existed).

Collective Blindness has been a reality, because vast areas of our daily reality have been unknowable in the past, to the extent that we have just accepted it as a condition of reality.

Consider how Collective Blindness has limited our business horizons.

We couldn’t tell when a key piece of machinery was going to fail because of metal fatigue.

We couldn’t tell how efficiently an entire assembly line was operating, or how to fully optimize its performance.

We couldn’t tell whether a delivery truck would be stuck in traffic.

We couldn’t tell exactly when we’d need a parts shipment from a supplier, nor would the supplier know exactly when to do a new production run to be read.

We couldn’t tell how customers actually used our products.

That’s all changing now. Collective Blindness is ending, …. and will be eradified by the Internet of Things.

What do you think? Useful analogy?

Why the Internet of Things Will Bring Fundamental Change “What Can You Do Now That You Couldn’t Do Before?”

The great Eric Bonabeau has chiseled it into my consciousness that the test of whether a new technology really brings about fundamental change is to always ask “What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?

Tesla Roadster

That’s certainly the case for the Tesla alternative last winter to a costly, time-consuming, and reputation-staining recall  (dunno: I must have been hiding under a rock at the time to have not heard about it).

In reporting the company’s action, Wired‘s story’s subtitle was “best example yet of the Internet of Things?”

I’d have to agree it was.

Coming at the same time as the godawful Chevy recall that’s still playing out and still dragging down the company, Tesla promptly and decisively response solved another potentially dangerous situation:

 

“‘Not to worry,’ said Tesla, and completed the fix for its 29,222 vehicle owners via software update. What’s more, this wasn’t the first time Tesla has used such updates to enhance the performance of its cars. Last year it changed the suspension settings to give the car more clearance at high speeds, due to issues that had surfaced in certain collisions.”

Think of it: because Tesla has basically converted cars into computers with four wheels, modifying key parts by building in sensors and two-way communications, it has also fundamentally changed its relationship with customers: it can remain in constant contact with them, rather than losing contact between the time the customer drives off the lot and when the customer remembers (hopefully..) to schedule a service appointment, and many modifications that used to require costly and hard-to-install replacement parts now are done with a few lines of code!

Not only can Tesla streamline recalls, but it can even enhance the customer experience after the car is bought: I remember reading somewhere that car companies may start offering customer choice on engine performance: it could offer various software configurations to maximize performance or to maximize fuel savings — and continue to tweak those settings in the future, just as computers get updated operating systems. That’s much like the transformation of many other IoT-enhanced products into services, where the customer may willingly pay more over a long term for a not just a hunk of metal, but also a continuing data stream that will help optimize efficiency and reduce operating costs.

Wired went on to talk about how the engineering/management paradigm shift represented a real change:

  • “In nearly all instances, the main job of the IoT — the reason it ever came to be — is to facilitate removal of non-value add activity from the course of daily life, whether at work or in private. In the case of Tesla, this role is clear. Rather than having the tiresome task of an unplanned trip to the dealer put upon them, Tesla owners can go about their day while the car ‘fixes itself.’
  • Sustainable value – The real challenge for the ‘consumer-facing’ Internet of Things is that applications will always be fighting for a tightly squeezed share of disposable consumer income. The value proposition must provide tangible worth over time. For Tesla, the prospect of getting one’s vehicle fixed without ‘taking it to the shop’ is instantly meaningful for the would-be buyer – and the differentiator only becomes stronger over time as proud new Tesla owners laugh while their friends must continue heading to the dealer to iron out typical bug fixes for a new car. In other words, there is immediate monetary value and technology expands brand differentiation. As for Tesla dealers, they must be delighted to avoid having to make such needling repairs to irritated customers – they can merely enjoy the positive PR halo effect that a paradigm changing event like this creates for the brand – and therefore their businesses.
  • Setting new precedents – Two factors really helped push Tesla’s capability into the news cycle: involvement by NHTSA and the word ‘recall.’ At its issuance, CEO Elon Musk argued that the fix should not technically be a ‘recall’ because the necessary changes did not require customers find time to have the work performed. And, despite Musk’s feather-ruffling remarks over word choice, the stage appears to have been set for bifurcation in the future by the governing bodies. Former NHTSA administrator David Strickland admitted that Musk was ‘partially right’ and that the event could be ‘precedent-setting’ for regulators.”

That’s why I’m convinced that Internet of Things technologies such as sensors and tiny radios may be the easy part of the revolution: the hard part is going to be fundamental management changes that require new thinking and new questions.

What can you do now that you couldn’t do before??

BTW: Musk’s argument that its software upgrade shouldn’t be considered a traditional “recall” meshes nicely with my call for IoT-based “real-time regulation.”  As I wrote, it’s a win-win, because the same data that could be used for enforcement can also be used to enhance the product and its performance:

  • by installing the sensors and monitoring them all the time (typically, only the exceptions to the norm would be reported, to reduce data processing and required attention to the data) the company would be able to optimize production and distribution all the time (see my piece on ‘precision manufacturing’).
  • repair costs would be lower: “predictive maintenance” based on real-time information on equipment’s status is cheaper than emergency repairs. the public interest would be protected, because many situations that have resulted in disasters in the past would instead be avoided, or at least minimized.
  • the cost of regulation would be reduced while its effectiveness would be increased: at present, we must rely on insufficient numbers of inspectors who make infrequent visits: catching a violation is largely a matter of luck. Instead, the inspectors could monitor the real-time data and intervene instantly– hopefully in time to avoid an incident. “

Capgemini Report: dramatic proof most big companies lag on IoT strategy!

In writing the SAP “Managing the Internet of Things Revolution” i-guide to IoT strategy for C-level executives, my research led me to believe that most big companies were still clueless about the IoT and how it would revolutionize every aspect of their operations.  Now a great report by Capgemini, “The Internet of Things: Are Organizations Ready for a Multi-Trillion Dollar Prize?” seems to answer its own question with a resounding “No!” It’s a must read, whether you’re late to the game, or if you’re looking for entrepreneurial opportunities. Let’s start with the conclusion:

The IoT represents the next evolution of the digital universe. The speed at which nimble startups and Internet players are capturing IoT opportunities should serve as a wake-up call to larger, traditional organizations. Analyst estimates point to a world where startups will dominate the IoT market. Fifty percent of IoT solutions are expected to originate in startups less than 3 years old, by 201732. They may be less nimble, but bigger organizations need to step up to the plate. As with all digital disruptions, being an organization that is in catch-up mode will be a deeply uncomfortable place to be. ” (my emphasis)

Earlier, it emphasizes that success will require both a paradigm shift and mastering new technologies such as big data analysis:

The IoT prize will be won by those who achieve a change in mindset, from a product world to a service world. However, that fundamental mind-shift is not the only requirement. Organizations need to get the right IT infrastructure in place, quickly acquire capabilities in analytics, and strengthen a whole host of functional capabilities. “

Got your attention yet?

The report was most emphatic about an aspect of the IoT that I don’t think I’ve emphasized enough in the past, the shift from products to services. Once again, I look to GE as one big company that “gets it” about the IoT transition, building sensors into its products that rotate, then monetizing the investment by offering real-time data about the products’ operations to customers so that they can optimize their operations — and charging for that data.  The study said that within a year after GE began offering its “Predictivity” line of IoT services in 2012, it generated $290 million in revenues.

One of the reasons why I really like the analysis is that it zeros in on a range of management issues that executives must address to capitalize on the IoT.

The study of more than 100 US and European companies reported that most don’t have the in-house expertise to make the switch from selling products to offering services:

“They now need to be able to envision new services, develop commercial models and design service contracts that result in continuous revenue streams. Our discussions with senior executives revealed that these are not areas of strength for many product- centric organizations.”

In particular, it targeted salespeople as a problem area: “For IoT solutions, a sales force needs to be comfortable in articulating the value proposition and potential benefits, which is critical to convincing often-reluctant customers to pay for a new class of services.” Customer support will also need to be beefed up — and delivered faster to customers who come to expect real-time data.

 The research showed that most companies were only in the early stages of IoT implementation — if at all. Fewer than 30% support remote operation of devices, and fewer than 40% use sensor data to offer customers the kind of performance improvement insights that GE gives.

One major gap that jumped out to me is that most of the big companies just don’t get my “Essential Truth” that you have to begin asking “who else can use this data”?,” and begin opening up proprietary systems so that third parties will enrich your offerings by creating new combinations and complementary offerings. Fewer “than 15% of organizations offer IoT solutions that integrate with third-party products and services.” (my emphasis) If mighty GE can team with Quirky and Electric Imp, what’s your excuse? On the more positive side, the research revealed that nearly 60% use partnerships to develop IoT solutions, so there’s hope.

The gaps are technological as well as human. 67% of the respondents said they don’t have the technology (shout-out to SAP’s HANA) to handle the massive amounts of big data the IoT will generate.

Another obstacle that the report identified was one I’d not come across before: resistance from within. “An executive at a medical technology company outlined how resistance can come less from the customer – and more from within the organization, explaining, ‘We only have 20% resistance from the customer and 80% from our own organization. Consequently, it is a significant challenge to align our existing business processes with new IoT-based service offerings.’”

The final section is an action agenda to get companies up to speed on the IoT:

  1. Put the Right IT Infrastructure in Place and Acquire Data Analytics Capabilities.
  2. Strengthen Functional Capabilities across Product Management, Sales and Marketing and Customer Support
  3. Use Trainings and Incentives to Prepare the Sales Force to Sell IoT Solutions. Augment Product Management Capabilities with Services Expertise and Emphasize Ease-of-Use in Product Design
  4. Develop Customer Support Capabilities to Drive Real-Time Issue Resolution.

Bottom line, Capgemini concluded that a shocking 42% of all companies don’t provide any IoT services. That, in my mind, is a clarion call to action!

You simply must read this report — then act on it.

http://www.stephensonstrategies.com/">Stephenson blogs on Internet of Things Internet of Things strategy, breakthroughs and management