A common way of looking at the future of technology is to focus on unit sales, installed bases, or revenue estimates. Kicking off today's keynote addresses at Interop ITX in Las Vegas, Joe Barkai, a consultant and author focused on the Internet of Things, highlighted the estimates that 20 to 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet in 2020. His comment: "But who cares?"
Allowing that devices makers and telecom companies care, he went on to say that the numbers don't matter to the average person. What really matters is the connected customer will change the way all types of companies do business. Subsequent keynote presentations by Zulfikar Ramzan, chief technology officer for RSA, and Sam Ramji, vice president of Product Management for the Google Cloud Platform, followed the same thought track. It isn't about the technology, it's about how companies respond, and in many cases, remake themselves.
Barkai used his talk about the IoT to explore why most products that go into the field fail. "Most companies are stuck in myopia. Once a product is in the field they don't know who is using it, how they are using it, or how it's working." The only feedback the company gets might be when something goes wrong and the unhappy consumer has to contact technical support.
Barkai used the example of CD players installed in cars, asking how many in the audience ever used their CD players: Almost nobody. So, why do manufacturers still install them? Because they don't have a handle on consumer needs. That's something that an IoT implementation could tell them.
"To me, the IoT becomes the largest, best, always connected focus group," said Barkai. The IoT isn't about the telemetry of one device, it's about the connected customer. It's about innovation, he said, getting a steady stream of feedback on products, understanding how those products are used -- if at all -- and how they can be improved while delivering what the customer expects.
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