Do we need the Internet of Things?

My customers often ask me whether IoT is inevitable and whether they should start to IoT. Some of them are skeptic, not to say negative, about connected solutions.
Let’s describe in a few words the IoT revolution currently taking place, the benefits of connected objects and how we get involved as human beings.

Internet 4.0

The Internet as we know it, defined as an interconnection of worldwide networks or a net of nets, was born in the early 80’s. This was what I would call “Internet 1.0”. The Internet started to connect computers (“Internet 2.0”) and more recently smartphones (“Internet 3.0”). The expression “Internet of Things” adds an important word to the expression, the word “Things”. This word highlights the fact that the Internet is now also connecting any sort of object on the planet: cars, electricity networks, clothes, coffee machines, this is “Internet 4.0”!

Digital AND smart

We know as end-users that the most interesting part of the Internet is not the infrastructure itself, but the devices that it connects and the smart applications which it enables. They make our work easier and our life better. Remember the time of the first PDA’s – the youngest between us probably don’t even know that word-. Those nice pieces of digital equipment were “smart ready” but it took a bit more time to get interesting apps and really make them “smart”phones. IoT is not different. Digital plumbing takes place at a fast pace and forms the basis for smart applications to come.

IoT benefits: business and consumer

IoT solutions benefits can be roughly organized in 2 categories: business and consumer:

  • On the business side, IoT helps companies to use cheaper and more efficient processes. The business case is often financial, although IoT can also help to improve the quality of products and services offered by those companies and therefore their image.
  • On the consumer side, IoT makes our life easier and better. In that space the most critical factor in the adoption of IoT is consumer acceptance and perception of the benefits.

Connected objects usually offer benefits on both sides, and a part of my work is to help my customers identify those . Take for example a connected soda vending machine. On the business side it can assist the vending machine manufacturer to pro-actively maintain its vending machines fleet, the soda distributor to manage its employees (filling those vending machines). On the consumer side such a connection helps to optimize the availability of soda and the soda product offering.

I have seen many times that companies, which start to connect their products, initially collect the benefits on the business side, and later on the consumer side. It takes time to “see” IoT in action, to understand the benefits and to seize the opportunities.

Factors influencing customer acceptance

Benefits
As just discussed, consumer perception of the benefits is essential. IoT solution vendors need to communicate very clearly about their products or services. A consumer easily understand the benefit of his/her car calling by itself emergency services in case of accident, but not necessarily of a connected fridge.

Ownership
It is important that the owner of the object remains in control of the data and services linked to that asset. It should be possible to opt in or opt out at any moment. The worst which can happen is for a consumer to realize in a late stage that connected services read and make use of data generated by some of his/her belongings without being informed and asked for.

Privacy and security
Consumers are VERY sensitive about those two aspects. An IoT solution and company image can be seriously damaged if for any reason their customers feel that security is not properly addressed or that this IoT service does not respect their privacy. Again, as a company, communicate clearly about your service and your usage of data.

IoT is not about connected objects, it’s about us and us making the good choices and communicating them.

I hope this short article helped you to better understand IoT and its benefits. Please do not hesitate to bring your own insight.

A question for you: what do you think will be the next step of digitalization? Once we have connected all objects on the planet, what’s next? What will we call Internet 5.0? Send me your thoughts.