Disruptive technologies are changing the business landscape at lightning speed and the pace just seems to be intensifying. It’s tempting to call 2014 the year of ‘disruptive technology’ but the reality is that we haven’t seen anything yet! This rapid change creates some underlying challenges when it comes to dealing with disruptive innovation. How long does a business observe these disruptors before getting onboard? When is the right time to go from standing on the sidelines to early adopter? There are no clear cut answers; the tricky thing about disruptors is that they are here before you know it. What can be done, as one writer puts it, to “stay ahead of the tsunami of disruption that may be coming straight at you.”
While attempting an answer, we can’t get too forward-looking that we lose focus. We know driverless cars are on the near horizon. But we also know there are technologies available today that are either in the technical enthusiast stage or early adoption stage, which are going to exert profound impacts on society and business as we know it.
The Internet of Things is one such area that is ultimately disruptive on many levels. Imagine a world in which everything is connected. If you think about it, the internet has really been anticipating this progression over the past 20 years. We’ve seen a clear and steady movement from the “Internet of Information” (Web 1.0) to the “Internet of People (Web 2.0) to the point now that we’re seeing physical objects linked with IP addresses (Web 3.0?). Researchers predict that by 2020 over 30 billion objects will wirelessly be connected to the internet. As the world becomes increasingly connected, and the distinctions between real and digital worlds become blurred, technologists and business leaders will do well to understand the implications that these emerging and disruptive trends will have at the organizational level.
Chances are that we’ve all heard of some of the modern manifestations of IoT that have started to reach mainstream adoption. The Nest thermostat is an example of taking a rather mundane element such as a thermostat and enabling it with digital technology to remotely monitor the temperature and comfort level of one’s home or business. And some of you, like me, probably have started using the Fitbit, a popular form of wearable technology that traces one’s daily steps, sleep time, calorie burn, and other health and fitness metrics. These are just two examples of a growing tendency to link physical objects to the internet.
Cisco has put together a whole division in anticipation of the coming Internet of Things wave. The technology giant, in fact, is predicting a market value of $19 trillion dollars. Even if they’re way off in their projections, this is hardly something to ignore!
So what exactly should small business owners do then to get onboard with disruptors like the Internet of Things? One key strategy is to look for use cases within your organization that can be equipped with Internet of Things devices. An important suggestion here would be to arrange for someone in your development team to become a beta tester for Google Glass. Once the device is procured, have them get busy working on the Glass SDK and figuring out how to use major APIs with their platform. The likelihood is that Glassware apps will be to the Internet of Things what mobile apps were to the Internet of People . . . a major market differentiator.
At the same time, don’t feel like you have to boil the ocean when it comes to IoT adoption. Start small and incrementally but be proactive. Other suggestions for IoT innovation could be as simple as having a contest for the best innovative ideas and giving away Fitbits as prizes. Then have another contest to see who has the most steps in a day, or some other activity that will encourage people to start thinking about how IoT technology can affect their daily lives. Seeing is believing and once you start to model this technology as an organization, employees will get inspired to think out of the box at the possibilities of broader adoption.
To be continued . . .