Already, 1.9 billion devices are connected, and that number is expected to exponentially increase to 50 billion by 2020. “If you don’t take advantage of [the Internet of Things],” says Kevin Ashton, “your competitor will, and it will put you out of business.”
Ashton knows firsthand what the Internet of Things (IoT) can do for an organization, having coined the term more than a decade ago when he was what he calls a “fairly junior manager” at Procter & Gamble. As he explains, they couldn’t keep certain products on the shelves; they needed computers to track items. The solution, radio-frequency identification (RFID), is now mainstream technology. But the processes related to IoT aren’t, and that, the experts say, is where the danger lies.
“It’s not the devices,” stresses Frank Burkitt, senior executive advisor at Strategy&. “It’s the change in business model, and that’s not something you want to be behind on.” In fact, he goes as far as to say that “the companies that gain the right to win in this market are the ones that understand how truly disruptive the Internet of Things will be and develop a value prop today to compete.”
Burkitt talks about “actionable business opportunities” and using IoT to improve inefficiencies all around us, such as knowing when a pump in an oil field is going to fail and being able to send a technician ahead of time with the right device to fix it. “It’s not just devices. It’s the actions you take.”
IoT is a “Niagara Falls of information,” but it’s a gradual, step-by-step process. It’s not the Big Bang.
Ashton agrees, citing retail as a classic example. “The more real-time data you get into a business like retail … the more process improvements you have. You do things you do now better, and stop doing things you do now in favor of something completely different.”
The one thing both experts emphasize is the importance of starting small. Ashton acknowledges that IoT is a “Niagara Falls of information,” but it’s a “gradual, step-by-step process. It’s not the Big Bang.” He suggests illuminating focused areas of your business for the first time, in real time, and seeing what you can improve. The process will enable you to learn how to deploy IoT technology.
Burkitt recommends identifying your company’s unique value proposition and how you can play in the space. Begin with a trial to start the learning process and enable your company to reflect on how IoT can change business. He uses the cautionary tale of banks thinking they could hold off on digital banking. “I don’t think you can afford not to do that.”
In what Ashton calls “the wild frontier of IoT,” the best advice he can give is “Begin.”
“There’s too much sitting around in meetings, staring at PowerPoints, waiting for someone to tell you the answer. When someone else knows the answer, you’ve already lost.”