Nobody really knows exactly what a smart Internet of Things (IoT) solution looks like. We have examples of IoT solutions that people like, but as an industry we still have not cracked the code of making “good” a repeatable exercise. So, while APIs of things are “fixed” in deployed devices, we need to prototype the smart solutions sitting on top of those APIs.
There are fundamental reasons why any IoT solution, currently, must be considered a prototype:
– The number and variety of “things” and their APIs is changing rapidly, growing orders of magnitude in size and complexity
– In the consumer space IoT solutions are by and large a “taste and culture” phenomenon, changing as fashion and social sentiment evolves
– In the corporate space manufacturing and logistics have been locked in patterns derived from the industrial revolution for about a century, based on predefined production processes (whether classic or lean, whether top driven or locally empowered). Now they have to evolve to become self-optimizing based on large scale observation of the overall behavior of a system of systems
At what level of maturity might we be ready to stop our prototyping approach to IoT solutions?? Why stop at all…. The new world of APIs and the Internet of Things is based on openness and will entail a 20 year productivity boom that will be much greater than the 10 year boom from the web. Information is the primary asset that flows through this new type of economy – the competitive advantage is insight and the API is the point of real-time collection and control.
There is an analogy to the way that racing teams create sustainable success. Any modern Formula 1 car is a prototype, a team never races the same car two races in a row. Built in sensors help optimize performance during the race. Continuous testing and analytics lets the team improve the car design before the next race. Well designed and clearly documented interfaces makes upgrades and changes feasible on a short time line.
While less extreme in terms of speed of change, the notion of a connected car has already moved into the consumer space where on board computers aid performance and diagnostics. Combining car telemetry with transportation systems lets us warn drivers of potential dangers and reroute traffic around trouble areas. Smarter healthcare combines insight from medical monitors and first responders so that a trauma unit may already know where to start when the patient arrives. Sensors and analytics help utilities get the most out of aging and overburdened infrastructures. Optimized logistics using rfid’s to track each separate element of a freight shipment assures that goods arrive at the destination without spoiling or loss.
There are abundant opportunities for building smart systems based on “APIs of things”. Before the dust settles, many business domains may become “platform shaped” with a few major platform companies and everyone else plugging into their platform. In such a scenario, the platforms will be powerful mediators between millions of devices and high powered analytical systems. The end-user experience will be omni-channel with the end-user controlling channel use and orchestration. We have seen some of this happen already in the mobile space and I strongly suspect the pattern will repeat. So enjoy the roller coaster ride of a world where “Everything in a Prototype”, we will learn and gain much from the journey.