Digital disruption threatens many companies with extinction. The question is, what can you do to stay relevant? 

When people talk about the Internet of Things — and it comes up often — they tend to focus on the devices and how they connect to the cloud and gather data with sensors. This is really cool stuff from a technology perspective, but from a consumer perspective, the device itself doesn’t give them much. 

It's Bigger Than the Internet of Things

Gartner analysts predict that by 2020 there will be 20.8 billion things connected to the Internet. To break it down, that means three connected devices for every person on the planet. At this point, connected devices are developing so fast that people will begin to assume that they exist in every part of their lives. 

What makes a difference to a consumer — and what will take your company from being digitally disrupted to becoming a digital enterprise — is focusing on the experience. 

Don’t get me wrong, the Internet of Things is great, but it is an enabler for something even bigger. Connected devices will become the plumbing, so you can focus on building new experiences on top of it for your employees, customers and partners. I call this the shift from the Internet of Things to the Internet of Experiences (IoX). 

So You Have All These Connected Devices — Now What? 

Connected devices are just that, devices. What companies need to pay attention to is the massive amounts of data from sensors. 

The amount of data is rising so rapidly that it cannot be processed solely by humans anymore. The data alone is overwhelming and provides little value unless you can extract meaning from it. This need fuels the trend of predictive analytics, machine learning and deep learning. 

But leveraging these analytics and cognitive services is just the start. Companies must take their output — be it predictions or algorithms — and build smart apps that create dynamic, proactive and personal experiences. 

Smart apps power innovative digital enterprises by being:

  • Intelligent: They make recommendations and guide users and things to take the next best action
  • Proactive: They predict what is likely to happen and automatically trigger workflows, tasks and notifications, telling users what to do when
  • Contextual: They are personalized, aware of users’ location, embedded in their processes and available on any channel or device  

Building smart apps will help companies make this shift to the Internet of Experiences. 

The Internet of Experiences Makes Efficiency Fly 

Now, I’m preaching more than just acronyms. Businesses are already putting IoT devices in practice to create new experiences. A great example comes from a major airline. Responsible for managing its entire fleet, the airline’s engineering and maintenance department was challenged to deliver their services at a more competitive price compared to low-cost labor countries. 

When leadership dug into the engineers’ daily routine, they discovered manual, paper-based processes and a lot of wasted time. For instance, aircraft maintenance requires expensive equipment that is typically scattered across multiple hangars. Engineers were spending half their day just searching for, and collecting, the tools needed to do their work. 

The airline’s vision for driving greater operational efficiency was to digitally enable their engineers. The first opportunity they identified was to leverage IoT and mobile devices to provide engineers with an up-to-date view of equipment location and inventory status, reducing the time spent searching. 

To do this, they built an equipment tracking app. The app provided a live map of the department’s equipment, enabling engineers equipped with iPads to instantly locate what they needed. 

Location data is tracked using a long-range network for connecting low-energy, low-data devices. Mounted on each piece of equipment, the devices have batteries that can last three to five years on a single charge. The data is plotted on an easy to navigate Google Map.  

The airline estimates that by enabling each engineer to spend an additional 15 minutes per day working, they will save $2 million per year. 

Rethinking Their Business Model

Imagine a company manufacturing boring, easy to commoditize lightbulbs for the horticultural industry — no match for lower-cost competition.

One company faced this very real threat, and realized that instead of being just a light bulb manufacturer, they could also enable greenhouses to grow better plants, faster. They transformed their business into greenhouse optimization as-a-service with an application to collect sensor data on light, temperature, soil, weather and more. 

Machine learning services and the resulting predictions optimize the photosynthesis of the plants along with energy consumption and greenhouse maintenance. The app predicts the life expectancy of each bulb and proactively notifies maintenance workers to replace it before any disruption occurs.

From Idea to Reality

There is no shortage of ideas for innovative products and services. Avoid getting distracted by all of the shiny devices, and instead expand your thinking to how you can solve a problem and create a new and vital experience. Focus on extracting meaningful information and make predictive analytics and machine learning part of your tool belt. 

Everyone is building the next connected device. The question is, will you create the next connected experience? 

Title image Andrea Enríquez Cousiño