One day in the not too distant future, people will look back and say, “Do you remember when things weren’t connected?” In much the same way that smartphones reshaped not only what we thought possible, but also what we took for granted, the Internet of Things (IoT) will dramatically change what we do, how we do it and what we expect.

Even in these early days we see meaningful, large-scale results from IoT-powered initiatives, including a Spanish city reducing traffic congestion by 80 percent, an Ohio museum increasing attendance by 70 percent and cities across the world reducing utility consumption.

But just as we couldn't predict mobile adoption or how Apple would become a smartphone powerhouse, we can’t be sure exactly how the IoT will change our world. Experts disagree on even relatively basic things, such as how many devices will comprise the IoT. Cisco predicts 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020. Gartner thinks it will be only 25 billion. Either way, the number has grown quite a bit since 2003, when it was only 500 million.

The IoT places a heavy responsibility on technology vendors to "get it right" from the very beginning. When your technology is linked up to providing power or water for a whole city, even a small glitch in your system could bring the whole place to a standstill.

Jump on Board

Fortune may favor the bold, but it’s equally happy to favor the prepared. When it comes to the IoT, vendors in the digital experience space need to be ready to jump on board if they don’t want to be left behind. CMSs have the potential to be the perfect integration point for all the tools and services that go into creating modern digital experiences. However, they can only do this if they have been built in a flexible way that anticipates change.

We don’t know yet who are going to be the big players in IoT. Established technology leaders may have difficulty adapting to a changing market, and new industry giants are likely to emerge, changing the broader technology industry.

6 Vendor Strategies for IoT Success

1. Change is a given

Your view of your business and the world is built around your current market, customers and competitors. You can’t predict everything, but you can be flexible. Look at the corner cases of your business. By analyzing how your customers work with your product, you may find some opportunities for innovation. Atlassian originally created bug tracking software for developer teams, but when they realized that many customers customized their software for use as a service desk system, they decided to launch their own Service Desk software.

2. Keep the good stuff

IoT is going to change a lot of things, but it shouldn’t change the foundations of your business. Whether it’s customer service or a premium brand, don’t sacrifice these values for short-term, risky wins. One company that has played on its strengths is Babolat. Already renowned for making premium tennis rackets, it used new technology to strengthen its brand by developing the connected tennis racket.

3. Outsource some innovation and risk

You want to be at the heart of IoT, but you don’t have to take all the risks. Balance risks and control with opportunity and innovation, all the time building strong partnerships with innovators. If you’ve done your preparation and have a good ecosystem that fosters not only your success but the success of collaborators, others will want to build on your platform. Nike experimented for years with the idea of smart shoes, but it was only when it collaborated with Apple that Nike+ was born.

4. Don’t forget about acquisitions and consolidation

Know who controls (or could control) the IoT services, tools and infrastructure that you integrate into your offers. Be careful of building dependencies on IP or infrastructure that can be acquired by a competitor -- either directly or by proxy. Google got a shocking reminder of this when Oracle sued it for copying Java APIs after it acquired Sun Microsystems and the Java technology in 2010.

At the same time learn to recognize cycles of innovation, expansion and consolidation. Competitors can disrupt you during consolidation if you haven’t got your eye on the ball.

5. Educate your customers, or your competition will

Everybody wants a piece of the action when new technology takes off. Many vendors will start building IoT solutions that could have been created more easily with a robust content management system. CMS vendors need to get that message across to avoid being side-stepped.

6. Think outside the box

There will always be winners and losers when the market is fluid. Those who are ready to be creative and use their strengths in new ways will win. Think about Fujifilm and Kodak, both giants in the camera film era. Kodak went bankrupt last year, but Fujifilm tapped into its chemical expertise to develop strong businesses in cosmetics and display panels.

In the IoT, the only borders will be our imagination.

Editor's note: This is the second in a three part series on how the IoT will impact digital experiences of the future. Catch up on part one, and stay tuned for part three.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Paxson Woelber