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The Internet of Things (IoT) Accelerates the Shift from Products to Solutions

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IoT has progressed far beyond the novelty phase. Products labeled with the moniker “IoT” have quickly sprung up in the marketplace, promising much within a business climate looking for the next big thing. The limited success of those early products masks the real value of IoT.

IoT has roots in IT-centric thinking, which focuses on connectedness. As a natural extension of IT networking, IoT sales projections were expected to ramp at an accelerated pace. Part of that expectation was fueled by a belief that IoT products would extend IT networks quickly to the edge. That hasn’t necessarily been the case.

Part of the problem is that many IoT products, like most products, were designed as a one-size-fits-all solution. Products typically have been made to fit the profile needs of a wide audience, without endeavoring to address each individual customer’s needs. Many IoT products have fallen into this trap because they presume that a common value proposition existed amongst the entirety of the projected customer base.

IoT Growth Fueled by Customer-Defined Needs

IoT means so much more than simply establishing connections between devices and systems. IoT revolves around Operational Technology (OT) and actual problems experienced at the edge. IoT can solve actual problems encountered by real-world subject matter experts (SMEs). Anyone that desires to produce operational efficiency in an organization (e.g., energy savings, predictive maintenance, sustainability, facility management, etc.) will look to secure access to real-time data to produce those efficiencies.

Therein lies the challenge of understanding the role of IoT into the future. IoT can leverage inexpensive wireless MCU devices to detect or cause a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical equipment. Asset digitization represents just one example of such an application of IoT. SMEs encounter problems unique to their application domain. They can produce efficiencies if they are given access to a particular data set that they define. The problem, unfortunately, is that existing one-size-fits-all IoT products cannot deliver the unique data set that they require. A roadblock results as they then endeavor to build an IoT solution for their unique needs. The “build or buy” dilemma has frustrated many. Prototyping and development IoT kits are readily available but have limited value in reducing the time to data.

Transition from Products to Services Demands Real-Time Data, Now!

History provides too many examples of organizations that failed to adapt or recognize the shifts in the market. Today, the current corporate mantra of “Services, Services, Services” is impossible to ignore. History threatens to repeat as the lessons of hardware-centric thinking may not be learned.

The growth of the “as-a-service” business model has impacted many parts of the built environment as various service providers push Energy-as-a-Service, Space-as-a-Service, etc. Between 2016 and 2020, the global XaaS market was forecasted to grow by 40 per cent each year.

IoT ServicesIoT is not a respecter of business traditions. IoT provides the tools to pivot strategies from products to services. Why? IoT can represent the lowest-cost provider of real-time data, which will fuel the XaaS market. With inexpensive wireless MCU devices, IoT can extract real-time operational data, seamlessly transports the data to the cloud, and launch a host of real-time application service opportunities.

Product manufacturers that cannot proactively solve their data problem in their new service roadmap risk immediate obsolescence in the market.

What the Market Really wants is SOLUTIONS

It has been said that solutions combine products and services. If that is to be believed, then neither a product nor a service is sufficient. Solutions should help a customer every step of the way. Do you listen to your customers? Are you focused on driving and expanding on their User Experience (UX) to meet a specific need?

“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.”

One-size-fits-all IoT products won’t fit that profile. Companies that know the problem and can deliver the solution will succeed. All they need access to is real-time data. In a sense, the IoT market may evolve quite differently from what many expect. Specifically, the IoT market emphasis may shift from a product consumable by the end user, to a “Data-as-a-Service” consumable by businesses that deliver valued solutions to their customers. A shift from the direct to the indirect market may be altering the IoT landscape right now.

Conclusion

IoT has grown far beyond a market niche because real-time data is increasingly demanded across the landscape of industries. Horizontal IoT platform models that can deliver “Data-as-a-Service” may very well fuel the delivery of actual solutions in the market.

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