When I sit on my couch looking at my smartphone, the screen of the phone is my window to the digital world. No matter how much you do with a smartphone nowadays, it is still a very small, flat, one-dimensional gateway. Bypassing this small gateway, is in my opinion, one of the characteristics of Internet of Things. We are heading for a seamless integration between the physical and the digital world.
An example is the smart umbrella. You may recognize the situation that you go out in the morning and doubt if you should pick your umbrella. But what if your umbrella is able to read your agenda, interpret the weather forecast and tell you, by a small blinking LED-light, whether or not you will need the umbrella today. As a user, you don’t have to do anything to enter the digital world; it is just there and manifests itself in the physical world by helping you to make the right decision at the right place, and at the right time.
This smart umbrella is easy to get used to, from a user perspective, but is pretty disruptive for the umbrella manufacturer. His current business model is based on designing, manufacturing and selling; that’s it. Currently his main concern is to have a design which keeps the user dry in wind and rain. But to enter the world of the smart umbrella this same manufacturer will need to start thinking of data communication, service-contracts, weather-predictions, GPS-software, battery-lifetime, and software updates. He also needs to decide on which part of the product he will produce himself and for which parts he will need to cooperate with specialists, like telecom companies, weather-apps and battery-companies.
The company has to reinvent itself, based on a vision on their position in the digital world and a roadmap for the execution of this transformation. This is not voluntary. In the short term, we as consumers, of course, don’t want such an old fashioned stupid umbrella anymore which doesn’t even inform you about the weather forecast. And we will start complaining, without doubt, supported by pictures on social media, in case the advice we get from the smart umbrella is not right. That’s how it goes.
Quite a disruptive challenge for this organization, all because of a simple small led-light, which the user will just take for granted in a minute.
This article was previously published in SogetiLabs Blog
André Helderman (@Held1966) has studied both Business Information Technology and Organizational Sociology which makes clear that he is interested in the impact of technology on human behavior.