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Back in the 2000 Dot Com boom, stories about how the Internet was going to change the world dominated news headline. Fast forward to 2014 and we may have a replay. The “Internet of Things” combined with “Big Data” have the potential to drastically change our world once again. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group has predicted some 25 billion devices will be connected by 2015, and 50 billion by 2020, each capturing and sharing insights into business and consumer preferences.

There is a treasure trove of insights to be gleaned from this data to help improve our lives and hopefully make the world a better place. A pioneer in this space, David Rose from MIT’s Media Lab, has written a new book called “Enchanted Objects” and has been actively speaking on practical applications for the Internet of Things. A particularly interesting talk was captured last month on The Daily Show.

Experiences Matter

Recently, I was speaking to a colleague who shared her experience changing her telecommunications bundle. My colleague was pleasantly surprised by the flexibility in choices offered for high speed, wireless and television and with the smooth installation process with all services up and running as promised on schedule. However, she was surprised that adding a Digital Video Recording (DVR) service required a new set top box because the existing box was unable to offer the DVR service. This does the raise the question: would it not be more effective to have a single box where all available services are managed via software rather than add-on services requiring an upgrade in hardware? If the devices can be configured for services on the fly, consumers and businesses
both benefit.

In contrast to the relatively limited set top box example above, utility companies have been enabling their devices, through software, to offer innovative services such as smart meters. The smart meters gauge consumption of utilities, predict consumer needs, proactively address equipment maintenance and repair and thereby enables utilities to better serve their customers.

Urban transport offers intriguing possibilities with connected devices. In a project commissioned by Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited and built by UK-based Ultra Global PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), a recent BBC article highlights how a fleet of 21 autonomous passenger pods have ferried as many as 1,000 passengers each day over the past three years logging over 1 million miles to date between the Heathrow airport terminals and the Business Car park. The riders get to select their destination via a touch screen and the pod does the rest. Each pod is designed to monitor its own batteries and can go offline at station stops when the batteries need to be charged.

Risk Vs. Return: Have We Learned From The Past?

Silicon Valley is driven by a “risk on” culture. However, have we gone too far under the guise of “Internet of Things” pursuing opportunities with limited economic value to businesses and consumers?  A few venture capitalists are asking questions as highlighted in a recent interview by Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark and successful venture capitalist who raises important questions on whether startups are taking on excessive risks right now.

Hype or Reality

The jury is still out on how this cycle will unfold. It is my view that we are witnessing a major transformation and we are likely in the early stages of the journey. The “Internet of Things” has enabled supply chains to be re-invented. One example is the retailer Zara which uses its Supply Chain as a competitive advantage as featured in this Bloomberg article to deliver new clothes to retail outlets quicker based on demand signals it receives from the retailers and consumers.

I would love to hear your experiences on this topic either in the comments below or via @shettray.

Learn more about the Internet of Things here. Another related topic at SAP is the Networked Economy,
which includes the Internet of Things.  Learn more about the Networked Economy here

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I heard David Rose speak at Inbound last week.  He has a poster of examples that shows some pretty interesting inventions that are coming to fruition!