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The Internet of Things Will Be the Biggest Thing You Never Think About
Athani Krishnaprasad
Co-Founder & EVP-ServiceMax
Monday, August 3, 2015
The Internet of Things is without a doubt the buzziest term in the technology world today. More so than its cousins in hype, Big Data, drone technology, 3D printing, or virtual reality. This entire buzz generally contributes to a build-up of hope and promise that will inevitably let people down in the short term. But when I look at the Internet of Things, I think about the famous Bill Gates quote from 1996 when he said, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten."

We need to take a long-lens look at the Internet of Things. Where it was, where it is, and where it's headed. By taking a ten-year view, we can simultaneously be excited for the future and possibilities unlocked by connected things, while being grounded by the applications that exist right now.

If you look back even two years, the Internet of Things was written and thought about as somewhat of a gimmick. A toothbrush that is connected to your iPhone that could tell you how often you brushed your teeth — as if that were something you needed an app to tell you. Or a glass that could somehow tell what kind of liquid was inside of it and log your consumption for you. On top of those things, there have been dozens of fitness trackers to clip on your pants or wear on your wrist. The steps you take, it has been claimed, could be counted, and synced to an app, and as a result, people would be able to remake themselves based on data gathered from a connected pedometer. Even though we see some early promise for applications like this, the jury is still out on how useful these things can be in the long run.

Today, we've evolved. The Internet of Things is no longer so gimmicky. A big driver of that change has been shifting to how we think about connected devices and their relationship with consumers. The Internet of Things will revolutionize the daily lives of everybody, and it has little to do with people actually coming into contact with hardware such as a toothbrush, cup, or fitness tracker. The true value of the Internet of Things has little to do with hardware itself and everything to do with the data collected and analyzed by that hardware. Take a look at Nest, for example, and the slew of connected devices for the home. They don't look very different from legacy hardware, but they operate in a way that was never possible before. To put this another way, you could always remember if you brushed your teeth, but never before could your home measure its own temperature, know if there were people inside, adjust the temperature accordingly, and learn how to optimize energy and comfort. It has enabled Nest to offer consumers a set of value added services to help manage their energy use better, and save on energy costs. With ever increasing partnerships with home appliance manufacturers like Whirlpool, these companies can further enhance consumers' experiences with their appliances, and run and maintain them more efficiently.

Another example of this evolution of thinking about the Internet of Things is with how manufacturing companies think about service — from medical devices to industrial equipment, oil and gas machinery to locomotives. As someone who cares a great deal about improving the performance and upkeep of these machines, in other words, the field service industry, I'm excited about value that can be unlocked by connecting these machines and analyzing data collected from them. Imagine a critical machine that's experiencing technical issues proactively calling a repair technician before its user even knows there's a problem. Or imagine a machine that is underutilized, or is run inefficiently — the manufacturer finds out about it by analyzing the machine performance data, and proactively engages with the user of the machine to help them run it more efficiently and save money. That's a real thing happening today. And the future is even more fascinating.

The data generated from those machines can do much more than alert technicians about when they are going to break. They can tell engineers how to improve designs, or operators how to better use the machine. They can tell business managers how to optimize return on their investment into these machines. In short, the business world will grow to depend on the information generated and analyzed from machines. It will become as indispensable to global business as mobile devices and the Internet itself are.

Thinking back to that quote from Bill Gates, look forward ten years. For consumers, the Internet of Things will result in machines and services delivering highest reliability, maximum efficiency, and unprecedented value without the consumer ever knowing what is happening behind the scenes. As much as the Internet of Things is discussed and fretted over today, in ten years it won't be something that a consumer thinks about. The phrase "Internet of Things" itself will become as anachronistic as someone saying, "I'm going to log on to the world wide web and surf the net."

We're just at the beginning of a connected world — one that has almost nothing to do with what you wear on your wrist.

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