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Tech & Innovation
DEC 20, 2016

Enabling IoT: Disrupt to Survive with Collaborative Platforms and Open Arms

By Dr. Jorge Calvo
iStock photo/Gerasimov174

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, staetd in a Ted Talk that “every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.”

An enabling technology is typically defined as an invention or innovation that, whether alone or combined with another, is capable of driving change for users. These technologies spur subsequent development of other technologies, which are by no means limited to a single field.

Nothing holds us back from using any one technology at a given time, or in a particular order. Some of the components include cloud computing, mobile smart devices, IoT platforms, autonomous robots, authentication, human-machine interfaces, and simulations.

IoT platforms are unique among these because they enable use to connect all the elements of IoT devices, sensors, software, cyber-physical interfaces, etc., and share databases with strategic partners in the business ecosystem. We can think of an IoT platform as a table upon which we can assemble an IoT jigsaw puzzle. In Japan, Pokémon GO shares its IoT platform with McDonald’s. The two services share clients with similar behavior patterns, but no overlapping business interests.

Steve Jobs was one of the first to see such potential in platforms to strengthen the Apple business, creating a new context in which any competitor could compete with the platform’s other partners. Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are focusing their business strategies on creating their own IoT platforms.

While many of these technologies are not new, their combination with IoT, AI, big data, and smart sensors allows for the creation of innovative products, services, and process models. In other words, they bring about gradual innovation through digitalization.

iStock photo/ ipopba

IoT isn’t just for creating the new. It can also disrupt traditional business models, consequently putting industries at risk. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Cristensen said, “Disruptive innovation is a technologically simple innovation in the form of a product, service, or business model that takes root in a tier of the market that is unattractive to the established leaders in an industry… Large corporations—those that are well managed, pay attention to their customers, and invest in new technology—are vulnerable to being outwitted by disruptive innovators.”

Disruptions are normally generated by agents outside the traditional industry as a result of the complacency of companies who prefer to focus on gradual improvements without risk. Since disruption results in a change of context—Amazon exploded the bookseller scene, and Uber transformed transportion services without buying any cars—by the time traditional industry has noticed, it is usually too late. Clients move to the new, attractive value proposition.

There are many such examples in the history of business: the analogue photography industry disappeared when digital cameras appeared. Subsequently, the digital camera industry suffered with the arrival of high-resolution sensors on smartphones.

Businesses need to “disrupt, or be disrupted.” To disrupt, they need to experiment with emerging technologies and gain the necessary knowledge to adapt corporate culture.

BMW is a good example of how Industry 4.0 innovation can be applied in the design of cars and manufacturing. The ultra-green BMW factory in Leipzig, Germany makes BMW’s i3 and i8 electric cars. Not only have they designed a car that is 100% electric, but they have also replaced the steel chassis for one made of carbon fiber, lightening the car to compensate for the battery weight. What’s more, the steel pressing and welding line has disappeared. In the assembly zone, co-robots work alongside the operators in a safe and collaborative environment.

As Dr. Voigtsberger, head of electric vehicles, remarked, “In BMW, we apply emerging technologies only in certain areas, and [only] when it makes…a positive impact on value added, performance, or productivity.” The basic principle of any IoT strategic business plan should start with experimenting, followed by testing, iterating, implementing, and scaling.

You can’t build a house starting with the roof. The same applies to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

iStock photo/grapestock

And speaking of houses, Christmas is coming! Not everything is about technology, but for those of you who want to include a little IoT in your Christmas presents, here are some ideas for the family, as suggested by Computer Business Review.

Oral B’s SmartSeries 7000 toothbrush
Your smartphone receives signals from the brush and displays an alert to prevent you from damaging your gums by brushing too hard.

The D-Shirt
Designed to record a person’s heart rate, GPS location, temperature and speed.

The SITU Nutrition Scale
Designed to help users weigh their food and see nutritional information on their iPad via an accompanying app. The Bluetooth-enabled device can also track the amount of calories, salt, fat, and sugar in foods, allowing dieters or athletes to see exactly what they’ve consumed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

MIMO Baby Onesie
This is a sleep suit and baby monitor that tracks a baby wearer’s temperature, breathing rate, body position, and activity level.

Whistle Lab’s dog collar
This wireless sensor attaches to a dog’s collar, which then collects data depending on the dog’s age, breed, and weight during the day.

Beddit sleep tracker
Track your sleep, heart rate, breathing rhythm, movements, and snoring. No wearable sensors are required because this film sensor lies right under your sheets.

Babolat smart tennis racket
French tennis racket maker Babolat has embedded sensors, gyroscopes, and accelerometers in the handle, which count and measure strokes, ball speed, and where the ball hits the strings. 

Whether you go with one of these or something more traditional for your loved ones, here’s wishing you a very Merry IoT Christmas and a Happy AI New Year!