Few days ago while exercising, I had this thought: what if my smart band showed me pH, minerals and urea levels in my sweat. How interested would I be in knowing that? How interested would I be in knowing that the 100th time?
Today, there are devices and apps to relay to us all kinds of information: how many steps one walked, how well one slept, what was the average driving speed for a particular journey, how much power did one’s AC consume, how much time did one spend on social media, so on and so forth. The question that some people have started asking is – how much of it is really contributing to improving our lives. Consider this example: when driving at 80km/hr, I have a sense of the passing things, and that information is good enough to help me drive safely. I do not need to know if the buffalo that was roaming about leisurely by the road was of Bhadawari variety!
The time available to us in a day has remained the same – 24 hours! However, what has been increasing rapidly, especially in the last two decades, is how much we have to deal with in those 24 hours: more work, more information, greater variety of products, entertainment options, food, clothes, and what not. No one would say ‘no’ to some help in coping with the excess of everything. We are happy with our email filters. We are happy with our automatic utility bill payment. We are happy with the recommendations that Amazon and Youtube give us – well, most of the time! We are in times, when we need our things to be smarter, so that we have more of mind-space which can be deployed for doing things that ‘seem’ more important.
Let’s get back to the smart band. I am not very interested in seeing pH, minerals, and urea levels of my sweat over and over again. What I’d be interested in is – my sweat data is put together with my activity data and my food intake data (food and cooking app), and I am presented with worthwhile suggestions on what to eat and how to exercise in order to stay at the top of my game. If those suggestions are further refined based on time of the day, location, weather and my personal preferences, I would be happier! And here lies the key to making our lives more convenient in the internet of things world.
Think of these simple activities: I turn down or mute the TV volume when I receive a phone call. I lower the temperature of AC when my friend walks in my living room (because she likes it cooler!). Essentially, our actions are governed by context. When my phone rang or my friend walked in, the context changed. With the “real” onset of internet of things, devices will be able to understand the context and respond according to the changing context – because to each device, information about other devices, relevant people, time, location, environmental conditions, et al, in short, all about the context, can be made available.
In the IoT world, value creation can happen when all involved can share information and collaborate to create services not hitherto available. The real value of IoT does not come from products but services built on the top of it. We will see new business models emerging…
Let’s get back to thinking about the smart band once more, but this time let’s take it’s functionality one step further. Now the system does not just give me suggestions, but I can receive ingredients for cooking a certain recipe just at the click of a button, or I can have fitness training equipment made to my specific requirement.
What comes next in the evolution of devices which improve the way we live? With time devices will acquire finer understanding of what we need. The devices will keep on getting more responsive to our needs. What will fuel innovations from here on is data. The factories of tomorrow will be data factories. The more data points about our customers we have, the stronger will be our understanding to create greater value. No wonder that the most successful companies of today are going after acquiring data channels without second thought.