24 Hours Putting the Internet of Things Under the Microscope

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Phil Baxter, the UK boss of Autodesk, had a group of people to sanity check his ideas and provide data points to demonstrate where he might be going off the rails. In my opinion it shows great maturity to take steps to ensure you’re not starting to believe your own PR.

In my professional life I’m really fortunate to have some very talented women and men to call upon. They are a diverse bunch and range from entrepreneurs and financiers, to technologists, scientists and management consultants. You might say that an indicator of diversity in such a group is whether or not it includes a marine biologist. I’m happy to say we have that box ticked!

Recently we got together for a 24-hour workshop to try and understand better how the Internet of Things may open new opportunities for our livelihoods, as well as providing a catalyst for changes in our everyday lives. The IoT has quickly a real thing and is growing quickly; Gartner says that 4.9 billion connected things will be in use in 2015, and forecasts 25 billion by 2020. The IoT, they say, has become a powerful force for business transformation, and its disruptive impact will be felt across all industries and all areas of society.

Prior to the event we asked all participants to share their thoughts on the IoT – if you’d like to add your thoughts, why not add YOUR voice to our IoT survey.

To kick things off at our event, we’d invited along Joern Larsen, the CEO of Trifork to share his experiences in bringing digital business transformation to the financial sector. His company provides the technology for Danske Bank’s MobilePay app, which has grown from simple P2P payments to providing solutions for small businesses, online shopping and third party applications. Currently MobilePay has over 2.5 million users, many of whom are not actually Danske Bank customers. It’s a cool story and Joern’s passion and persistence really comes through when he tells it.

We then went into a series of sessions, brainstorming ideas and making presentations to share our ideas, gradually honing them over a twenty-four hour period. As we got to grips with what digital transformation might look like for us, it also led to some quite creative concepts. We wanted to see what that meant for companies like Schneider Electric looking to harness the possibilities of the IoT to provide more value to our customers and partners. In doing so we covered a lot of ground, and recorded most on video – resulting in a short film that encapsulates the event, the energy and the discussions:

  • Connecting things – what does it really mean? Each of the workshop participants was given an everyday object and asked to consider the possibilities of having it instrumented and connected, and then present a new, smart object to other members of the group. Straightaway we began to see the benefits; from a smart clothes hanger helping to sort out todays’ outfit, to a connected racquet helping track the metrics of each shot as a training aid.
  • What can the IoT do for our customers and what value does it bring? We thought about Schneider Electric’s heritage and how its footprint in the whole energy supply chain could be harnessed to understand and optimise the whole way that data is created, analysed, stored and delivered as information to improve decision-making.
  • How can it enable benchmarking and KPIs? By aggregating and analysing anonymised data, it’s possible for anyone to judge how their data center is doing in comparison to other, similar sized and similarly located and resourced facilities. Gamification might be one way to engage people who were not particularly driven by stats.
  • The need to make bold moves It seems like a long time ago, but first mover advantage used to be prized in the software market. The value of getting a product to market first was considered higher than the cost to business of missing the window of opportunity. Apps are a great way of problem solving in a relatively low cost and timely way, but it’s important to identify the need and get the solution out there quickly.
  • Creating technology that benefits customers The days of doing it because technology makes it possible are gone. Today we need to focus upon solving identified or suspected pain points. Then do that thing and do it with excellent execution. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the benefits that technology brings.

There is no doubt that the IoT is happening all around us. I guess that by the time is reaches peak penetration, we’ll no longer be using the acronym because it’ll simply be business as usual. In the meantime, and more than ever, we need to be thinking about the things we don’t know. Groups like the one I’m privileged to engage in help to bring fresh perspective from outside our industry. As such, it’s oxygen to innovation.

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