Disruption with IoT- In the past decade, digital companies like Amazon and Netflix have used data to reinvent products and services in ways no-one imagined possible. Shopping and films were not new concepts, but these companies and many others built hugely successful businesses by disrupting existing industries through connected, personalised, data-driven services.
We are on the brink of a similarly disruptive revolution, as the Internet of Things (IoT) starts doing the same for ‘physical’ businesses – from tennis rackets to coffee machines and industrial machinery – allowing them to offer connected, data-driven, differentiated experiences. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘next Internet’ and IDC predicts that in total there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or “things” by 2025.
Access to this incredibly detailed data on every aspect of how the physical world works will create endless disruptive innovations – from both new and existing companies. This presents limitless opportunities, but also severe threats to companies that wait too long.
A decade ago, many predicted this revolution, but it has taken longer than expected. Despite pockets of innovation, many have struggled to deliver successful IoT projects. We have yet to see the IoT equivalent of Netflix.
There are some obvious reasons for this. Many companies with a long heritage in the physical world find digitisation hard to navigate. Moving from selling units via a capex model to managing a continuously connected, data-driven relationship via an opex model is a big shift – involving new technologies, business processes, skills and management metrics. Concerns about how to do this can cause management paralysis where the outcome is often ‘do nothing and wait’. Arguably a worse approach than trying and failing.
It’s also a culture issue. We don’t like change, it’s difficult and we only do it when we have to. The problem is that when you are the market leader your existing financial metrics often disguise the change that your competitors are implementing in the market. A large installed base of customers will keep generating revenue for a long time and it’s often hard, if not impossible, to recognise the new disruptive business models that are winning the next generation of customers. But as the old saying goes, you overtake on the corners not the straights, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many digital initiatives not slowed them down. Your business model is being disrupted whether you can see it or not and it’s almost certainly accelerated during 2020.