5 myths about the Internet of Things

How we will get the most value out of IoT

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Although vendor-written, this contributed piece does not advocate a position that is particular to the author’s employer and has been edited and approved by Network World editors.

For all the hype, the Internet of Things (IoT) is also very real and will impact how we work, live and play.   In working with customers to develop connected businesses, we’ve learned a thing or two about the IoT.    Some of the most impactful lessons we learned helped reshape how we look at the IoT.  Here are a few of the myths we’ve successfully debunked:

* It is a connected world.  When talking about IoT, one of the first questions I ask people is whether or not they believe we currently live in a connected world.  Most people answer, “Of course it is – I’m connected through my phone, tablet, laptop.  I can’t escape if I try.”  But I would argue the opposite is true.  It’s really not a connected world – at least not yet.  While today the average household has five Internet-connected devices -- a number that is expected to skyrocket to over 500, according to Gartner -- chances are those devices don’t really talk to each other.  The true vision of IoT is when literally everything is connected – when your lightening system can talk to your security system which can talk to your garage door opener, which you control with one singular app.   And of course the promise of IoT extends way beyond connected smart homes to healthcare, manufacturing and everything in between. 

So why aren’t we connected today? Mostly because fulfilling this potential means overcoming immense challenges, such as scalability, interoperability, bandwidth and security. While we as an industry are getting better at all of these things, we’re just scratching the surface. 

* The Internet of thingsis all about the “things”.  The true innovation of IoT comes not from simply connecting products, but rather from what we do with the data the “things” create.  The companies that really come out on top will leverage this data, developing strategies around what this new connectivity allows them to do, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing business processes and product development.

Why is this so important?  Believe it or not, most companies have no idea who their customers are.  A garage door manufacturer, for example, might sell product to Lowes or Home Depot and once that product is out the door they have no idea who actually purchases it. IoT will fundamentally change this scenario by providing the manufacturer with the ability to connect directly to the person who uses the product to provide a personalized customer experience, support and service offerings. IoT will give products a voice and will help manufacturers have a direct link to their customers to better understand who is using their products and how. 

* It’s all about creating new products. Despite all the new gadgets we saw coming out of CES this year, innovation won’t be about invention but about re-invention.  Taking products that already exist and connecting them for a new approach to an old business or market.  While there will always be room for the inventors, it’s the “re-imaginers” that will make the biggest business impact, as companies across categories re-imagine legacy products through the lens of connectivity.

* It’s all about time to market. The days of “ship-it and forget it” products are over.  In addition to learning who your customers are and how they use your product, you can also take the data from your product to continually make improvements.  We experience this phenomenon every day with our smartphones where we regularly receive operating system and application updates that take care of bug fixes and add new features all in an effort to evolve the product.  The “constant improvement” model will hold true for any connected product company and those that make the effort will find that time in market yields more essential feedback than pre-launch focus groups ever could.

* The IoT will turn every company into a software company.  We’ve all heard the idea that every company will become a software company.  Tech luminaries have been saying that for years.  While that is definitely true, I’d argue that IoT will actually turn every company into a software as a service company. 

This distinction is more than a semantic nuance. Being a SaaS company means focusing on things like uptime, security and customer support. It means having a robust cloud infrastructure and customer-facing helpdesks.  It means focusing not just on the device and software, but also on the service(s) they deliver.   

As a SaaS company, a lighting systems manufacturer can also become a service provider with all the inherent business upside (recurring revenue, new revenue streams, customer relationships) and demands that entails. In this way, the IoT can help existing manufacturers of consumer and industrial products accelerate their growth and create more value for shareholders.

We have learned countless lessons through our work in IoT and I’m sure there will be many more to come.  However, if there is a single, broad takeaway so far, it’s that IoT fundamentally disrupts every aspect of product research, development, manufacturing, service and support. It won’t be ignored and it shouldn’t be. 

Paddy Srinivasan is Vice President and General Manager of IoT at LogMeIn, one of the world’s leading SaaS companies and developer of the Xively IoT connected product management platform.

This story, "5 myths about the Internet of Things" was originally published by Network World.

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