The Internet of Things (IoT) is much more than fitness tracking, AI toothbrushes and targeted discounts when you walk by a coffee shop. Put simply: the opportunities arising from ubiquitous connectivity and access to data will bring about the end of many of today’s industries as we know them.
For some, this new IoT-enabled world might mean a slow and painful end as they fight to remain relevant. But many others will grasp the opportunity. They’ll innovate, reinvent, redefine. And succeed. This is not speculation. It’s happening today. Let’s consider some examples from travel & transportation, as we watch the development of the nascent Mobility Industry.
Ford’s 2017 Superbowl advert presents them not as a car company, but a mobility business. It’s no longer about engine performance to get your heart racing or TV screens in the headrests to keep the kids quiet. Now, Ford can get you where you need to be, when you need to be there and in the way that suits you best. It’s not about features and functions. It’s about removing obstacles. And serving your needs.
While the Ford example is mainly about business-to-customer, the story is little different in the business-to-business world. Today, Siemens Mobility don’t present themselves as a personal mobility provider in quite the same way as Ford. But they do present themselves as the intelligent infrastructure provider that can guarantee trains run on time; city traffic flows efficiently; and metro services become more flexible to meet changing passenger needs. Siemens aren’t selling rolling stock any more. They’re selling mobility. Hmm…not so different to Ford after all.
It is true that some will see this redefinition of today’s industries as a bad thing. Especially those that can’t adapt quickly enough to ride the wave. But remember, disruption in industry is nothing new. In manufacturing, The Industrial Revolution may have started it all (at least from a European perspective) but today, we’re already on the way to Industry 4.0. Change is inevitable. And it is constant.
At the top of this blog, I cited the IoT as the key enabler for this massive disruption in how 20th Century industries will serve their customers in the 21st. And that’s true. Things that can connect to each other and exchange information are critical to all the services I’ve discussed so far. Without all those remote devices being able to communicate with each other and with the mothership, everything kinda falls apart. But it’s also clear that just communicating is not enough.
How can Ford create a seamless travel experience for you, from home to office to social event to leisure weekend to…wherever? Just having a fleet of connected cars, buses, bicycles and…eh… gyrocopters isn’t going to cut it. Though the gyrocopters might be quite cool. I might bring that up with them. Anyway…Ford also needs to know about you and your needs; your preferences; your habits; your budget and so much more. They need to know where their fleets are; their schedule of availability; their state of repair and time to next maintenance. And that’s just on the operations side of the business.
Thinking more strategically, Ford, Siemens and others also need to learn from the equipment that’s out there so that they can remain competitive, relevant and profitable next year and next decade too. They must understand which design features have been successful and improve upon them in the next product release. They need to learn what mix of their services works in particular market conditions and predict what those conditions might be in the future. And most importantly, they need to be prepared for further disruption in what is very obviously an immature industry.
To deliver on all these promises needs more than the Internet of Things. It needs the Analytics of Things. Data and analytics are fundamental to everything that a modern mobility provider must achieve. From knowing where a customer is likely to be, who they are with and what services they are likely to call upon, to predicting the remaining useful lifespan of a braking system and scheduling repairs at a time that best suits all parties, providers must be able to analyse all their data, at a speed and cost that meets a very broad range of requirements.
Sometimes, this will mean making real-time, data-driven operational decisions. But not always. At other times, it will mean storing, then analysing massive data sets over significant time periods to identify strategic indicators that lead to policy changes. It will also mean exchanging data – and insights – efficiently with other parties. That might be to influence a connected supply chain, based on new analysis of equipment reliability. Or it might be to provide analysis to Governments and Local Authorities with interest as diverse as city congestion and, say… national security.
It’s clear: getting the data and analytics right is at least as important to the future success of companies like Ford and Siemens as any other aspect of their business. It’s not just about new gadgets. It’s not just about marketing. It’s not even just about fundamentally redefining operating models. And it’s certainly not just about the Internet of Things.
21st Century change is data driven. Embrace it, or fail.