The Internet of Things is not a Trend

The Internet of Things is not a Trend.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been signaled out as the next big Mega-trend. It was listed on nearly every techfluencers list of Top Trends to watch in 2014. And, as if on cue, CES kicked off the year by showcasing an explosion of things with embedded sensors… an internet enabled crockpot, the Mother home monitor, a smart basketball that gives feedback on your shots. There is no denying it: sensors, wearables, and other “smart” things are some of the hottest items for 2014.

But what does this mean for society and business? Despite all the hype, the social and economic impact of the Internet of Things cannot be summarized by the proliferation of smart devices. The over-cited prediction that 50 billion devices will come online by 2020 cannot be directly translated into new profit for business or improved experiences for people’s lives. It only shows that smart devices are indeed a trend for 2014. But, and I want to make this very clear, the IoT itself is not. In fact, I think most of us can agree, the IoT doesn’t even exist yet.

This post is meant to highlight the new focus of Claro’s blog: Disruptive Shifts. Here we will share our observations and perspectives on the disruptive shifts we see emerging from our digitally networked world– and their impact. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one new context emerging from these disruptive shifts. We’d argue that understanding how the IoT is emerging from these shifts is key to making sense of the real business opportunities it holds.

What is the difference between a trend and a disruptive shift?

While both trends and shifts are emergent opportunity spaces and relevant for business, there is a key and significant difference. Trends are tendencies that will increase in strength and begin to spread.   Disruptive shifts, by comparison, are fundamental changes to how we live and work that will disrupt the scaffolding of both business and society.
For sure there is overlap, but disruptive shifts include only the subset of trends that displace or change what was in existence. Disruptive shifts set the context for whole new models of value exchange. Some may wish to call this semantics, but the perspective and work of navigating shifts is different from that of understanding and spotting trends. That is to say, at Claro, we are less interested in predicting what is coming next, and more focused on the big shifts that are demanding us to change the way we do business now.

Understanding the IoT as a new context and not a trend is important for how companies act on and design to the opportunity. Recognizing the IoT as a whole new context gives cue that playing in the IoT field is not as simple as bringing online the 99% of things that are not yet connected. Furthermore, understanding it as a new context demands that we address the needs of people who will live, work, and play in that new context.

3 reasons the IoT is not a trend, but a new context emerging from disruptive shifts:

1. Internet of Things is still nascent

With just how much talk there is about the Internet of Things it is sometimes hard to remember that it doesn’t yet exist. The IoT is the emergent next phase of the Internet that envisions an ecosystem of interconnected devices that can network and communicate with each other and with other web enabled gadgets. The expansion of wearables and connected devices is just the beginning of redefining the whole way in which people experience the Internet and its capabilities. If playing in the IoT space, ask what will really be the user experience of the IoT… and not just the experience of using a single connected device.

2. It will shift the whole scaffold of society and business

The Internet of Things will open both entirely new ways for people to interact with the people and things they care about and for companies to deliver services to them. I believe this is the real disruption. That is, not that our fridge or basketball can connect to the internet, but the new services, interactions, and exchanges that this will enable. It’s these services that will define how the future of how we work, consume, live, and play. If playing in the IoT space, ask what will you enable people to do that they could not do before?

3. It will create new value

Unlike a smart device I might use to track my run, when the IoT is realised, and all things are networked it will have a profound impact on how value is created and exchanged. Again, the IoT is not simply about connecting things to the Internet. It is about how data can create new value for people and about how we enable new exchanges of value between them.  If playing in the IoT space, think beyond providing one of the increasingly numerous gadgets that connect me, and focus on what new value you are creating and the business model that supports it.

Learn more about our IoT perspective at Webvisions and the IoT lab in Barcelona, June 17-18, 2014.

May 7, 2014