In this episode of the IoT Product Leadership podcast, we discuss How IoT is Powering Precision Agriculture. My guest today is Ranveer Chandra, Principal Researcher, Microsoft.
IoT Strategy for Product Teams
Throughout history, technological advances have served as catalysts for meaningful societal changes, particularly in the industrial world. Steam engines sparked the first industrial revolution. Electricity was the major pillar of the second industrial revolution. Then, computers empowered a whole range of automation, sparking the third industrial revolution.
Every year at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the top technology companies showcase their latest products and outline the future of technology. This year’s theme was “Intelligent Connectivity,” and 5G was portrayed as THE connectivity solution for years to come.
There is no question that we are living in an era of impressive technological disruption that is changing the way we live. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a perfect example of the innovation that occurs when we leverage the latest technology trends to create solutions that positively impact the world.
The Internet of Things is possible thanks to the availability of more powerful and cost-effective components. Today, we have small and accurate sensors, powerful edge computing, cloud computing, advanced analytics techniques such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and a myriad of display form factors, including phones, watches, car dashboards, and even Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Twenty years ago, we had accurate sensors and some edge computing capabilities, though not nearly as powerful as what we have today. We also had the ability to centralize data and analyze it to extract value.
The answer is connectivity.
Today, connectivity allows enterprises to collect data from remote locations at blazing speeds and affordable costs. With systems no longer siloed, we are seeing the promise of the Internet of Things become a reality.
Ubiquitous connectivity opens the door to new products and services that can reach a wider portion of the population. Take for example the concept of a Smart City. Cities are complex, siloed systems that support the daily life of their citizens. Systems like energy generation and distribution, water delivery, waste management, transit management, surveillance, and more provide the complete nervous system of any city.
The connectivity revolution enables us to remove barriers across all of these systems and create a unified mega-system commonly known as a “Smart City.” This opens up the door for a multitude of opportunities for both enterprises and governments to deploy solutions that increase operational efficiency, reduce cost, and improve the quality of life for their citizens.
Companies can improve the efficiency of energy delivery by creating a self-healing electric grid or “Smart Grid.” Cities can save millions of gallons of water by automatically detecting leaks across hundreds of miles of “smart pipes.” These applications and many others are beginning to take hold today, and they are powered by connectivity and the Internet of Things.
It’s easy to see how this connectivity revolution enables opportunities in developed countries that already have the infrastructure and know-how to take advantage of them. But what about opportunities in developing countries?
These technological innovations have the potential to have the largest impact in developing nations, where advanced connectivity can enable cities to “leap-frog” many years into the future. Governments will be able to bypass the construction of expensive, traditional infrastructure by adopting wireless connectivity solutions, such as 5G, that will deliver more bandwidth and capacity for a fraction of the cost.
With this infrastructure in place, enterprises and governments can focus on deploying solutions like the ones mentioned above. They can even take them further by creating innovative applications such as mobile payments, remote education, and remote health.
The connectivity revolution is just beginning, so now is the time for companies to develop a strong strategy to leverage these new trends to provide better products and services to their customers.
To be successful, that strategy must be informed by an understanding of what additional value will be provided to the customers and the company with access to real-time data in their customer’s environment. If you are able to identify that value, then you are ready to start your IoT journey.
Go ahead. The technology and connectivity will be there, ready to support you.
Note: I wrote this article as part of a collaboration with Ericsson (#EricssonInfluencer). Read how Ericsson and Grundfos are leveraging the connectivity revolution to develop intelligent pumps.
5G, with its increased bandwidth and intelligence, promises to propel the Internet of Things forward. Smarter connectivity and more bandwidth mean more connected devices, which means more data. This abundance of data (or the value one can extract from it), is driving players across the IoT ecosystem toward this opportunity.
Communication Service Providers (CSP) are no exception. They are working to bring the 5G infrastructure to market while exploring ways to play a more active role in storing, analyzing, and monetizing the data that flows through their network.
As CSPs plan their product and go-to-market strategies, it is useful to evaluate the lessons learned from other companies that have tried similar models.
Capitalizing on the data that flows through a system is not a new concept. In fact, this idea has driven hundreds of companies to enter the IoT cloud platform market, allured by the possibility of accessing IoT data, many without acknowledging the immense complexity.
While there are countless lessons from IoT platform companies, here are the three most useful conclusions for CSPs.
It is important for CSPs to perform market and user research to discover how they can bring value to IoT solution providers. Let’s not forget that accessing user data is a CSP goal and not something customers are asking for.
From the perspective of IoT solution providers, the CSP is usually just a means to an end. As long as the data transfer is reliable, secure, fast, and cost-effective, it doesn’t matter which CSP they use.
What can CSPs provide to IoT solution providers to be perceived as value-added partners, as opposed to non-differentiated infrastructure?
With the recent privacy scandals, consumers are more aware than ever about how companies acquire and treat their data.
IoT solution providers are fighting the privacy fight on two fronts. On one end, they need to gain the trust of their customers, requiring tighter SLAs and clear restrictions on what vendors can do with customer data.
On the other hand, IoT product companies are negotiating with every partner and vendor across the technology stack who is also interested in their data. This includes vendors for sensors, IoT cloud platform, analytics, etc.
Everyone is looking to access the data collected by the IoT company. CSPs need to compete with the other players, providing an extra level of value to convince IoT product companies to share their data with yet another vendor.
Often, infrastructure companies pursuing a data strategy through an IoT platform realize too late the complexity and steep cost of building and operating a cloud platform. These companies have invested billions of dollars building their IoT platform offerings, only to realize they are unable to pull it off.
This is particularly challenging for companies whose core expertise is not cloud software, as the challenge then becomes technical and organizational.
Companies that don’t have a software culture find it very difficult to compete in this space. Beyond building the solution, they have to support and monetize it. CSPs would benefit from a strengths and weaknesses analysis to determine whether they are equipped to embark on this journey and what it would take to succeed.
It is true that there are lucrative opportunities for CSPs to play a larger role in the data economy. Before diving in, the successes and challenges of IoT cloud platforms and other IoT component vendors should be evaluated—saving themselves from preventable headaches down the road.
Note: I wrote this article as part of a collaboration with Ericsson (#EricssonInfluencer). Download Ericsson’s report: Realizing IoT Strategies.
In this episode of the IoT Product Leadership podcast, we discuss Building the Internet of Things.
My guest today is Maciej Kranz, Vice President of Strategic Innovation at Cisco. Maciej, a world-renowned IoT thought leader.
In addition to his work at Cisco, Maciej is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world, and he is the author of the New York Times best-selling book: Building the Internet of Things.