Is my business ready for the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Updated: Mar 3
Recently, my son sent me an email link to a cup that analyses everything you pour into it. The purpose is to understand exactly what it is you are drinking so that you can better manage your nutrition - something I’m trying to do better as a wannabe triathlete. The cup connects, via Bluetooth, to your phone and then everything you drink for the day is recorded in an app. He was suggesting I might like it for Fathers Day and I absolutely would have - but the Kickstarter project wasn’t quite at a point where they were manufacturing so it was going to get to me a little later than Fathers Day (or perhaps he meant 2020?).
It’s a great example of the “internet of things”, a concept you may have started to hear more about in recent times (and in a few years will no doubt be sick of hearing about). The concept is essentially that by connecting ‘things’ (our cups, our cars, our glasses, our fridges - pretty much anything) to the internet, we can create value from the data or experience created. The concept excites me as the possibilities appear to be endless.
But how will it impact on your business?
Great question, and hopefully your directors are asking your senior execs that question and your senior execs are asking others in the organisation because whilst the opportunities are endless, so too are the potential threats when we consider some of the ‘things’ that we may need to connect with in order to do business in the future. Take a grocery store for example. The concept of being able to scan something as you put it into the fridge, and then scan it as it’s taken out and consumed would allow you to automatically create a shopping list that could be sent to the grocery store on a particular day or time (or when something runs out) and have those goods delivered later that day. If you’re in the fridge manufacturing business, you would want to be the first to produce such a fridge and you would want to make sure that everyone “wants” your fridge when they next go to buy a new fridge. Or perhaps you’re the grocery store that didn’t think online selling was going to be important and haven’t invested in that area of your business. When you need to make the leap to orders coming from someone’s fridge then it’s going to be a massive project that may mean you’re 3 or 4 to market and you end up losing market share as a result. Conversely, the grocery chain that did invest in an online store, that built out apps for mobile phones and allowed people to create lists on those phones that integrate with their online commerce store and allow people to easily order new groceries - how much easier will it be for that organisation to now integrate with the fridge? The app they have running on your mobile probably works on the fridge already! They only need to add a bar code scanner (and without wanting to highlight any particular brand, I know Coles app already has a bar code scanner) and the fridge with the inbuilt camera can already scan an item and add it to the list.
So what can we learn from the above example?
1. You must be asking the question, how will we be impacted by digital? From Director level down, keep asking the question: How we will be impacted by digital?
2. Start now. Tomorrow could be too late. Don’t keep putting it off thinking that you have plenty of time. If you do then you’re at risk of some lean startup coming along and stealing your market share!
3. Look at the possibility of partnering. The fridge manufacturer and the grocery chain could be an exceptional partnership and allow the two organisations to dominate a new market very quickly. With a superior customer experience they could dominate for a long time to come. In Australia, with 2 major grocery businesses fighting it out I’m pretty sure they would welcome a differentiator that was not just price!
4. Create a feedback loop. Gather information from whatever sources you have available. If you’re an organisation that has a large number of staff then you need to create ways for staff to provide feedback and new ideas or forums where they can collaborate and brainstorm to see how your organisation can be the next digital “goliath” rather than your competitor, or worse still the startup you never saw coming. Allow your staff input into the discussion. Create innovation centres where staff can provide input and ideas, or highlight items that they may have seen on sites like Kickstarter.
5. Understand what ‘things’ you may be able to integrate to add value to your products and offerings. The cup in the example above would be a great ‘thing’ for a nutritionist to use to help differentiate their business.
The moral of the story is to never stop asking the question, “What can digital do for and to our business?” With regard the internet of things, it’s worth also asking how could this ‘thing’ I’m using right now be integrated into the internet and what would that mean for my business.