‘The Internet of Things’ is a new trend that is emerging and shaping up to transform everything, from health and medicine to product innovation. Its impact on product innovation, in particular, is of particular interest as it is set to revolutionise many different fields and industries simultaneously. The Internet of Things will open up a range of opportunities and new experiences, for both producers and consumers.
What is ‘the Internet of Things’?
The Internet of Things is a phrase that refers to the changing ways we are connecting things to the Internet, and how that connection is not only shaping the way we use these products but also the types of products being created.
The Internet of Things will impact the wider product ecosystem, including how products and services are delivered, and the roles they play in business, industry, and households.
In the Internet of Things, no product will stand alone as an ‘island’ unto itself. Every product can be assigned an IP address that allows it to communicate and collaborate with other products or people.
Take the thermostat as an example of how the Internet of Things will impact modern life. Connecting a thermostat changes what the product can do. Smart thermostats can be controlled from a mobile device, such as a phone. They can even communicate with power companies or public databases to gather information about peak and off-peak periods, and how to reduce the owners’ power bills.
According to research by the International Data Corporation, it has been predicted that as many as 30 billion items will be connected to the Internet by 2020. Revenue from the Internet of Things is also forecasted to hit US$8.9 trillion in the same time period.
Industries likely to be transformed by the Internet of Things include manufacturing, healthcare, banking, retail, transportation, insurance, utilities, government, and application.
The new product-development ecosystem
The Internet of Things will transform how products are developed. According to tech writer Diego Tamburini, the Internet-of-Things product-development ecosystem has four major players: designers, software developers, data analysts, and the Internet-of-Things infrastructure developers.
Product designers will need to start adapting and learn to integrate connectivity into their designs. This includes reframing how software and electronics will impact the product, and how customers’ expectations of software updates will impact the product lifecycle.
Many product designers are already viewing their products in the context of a system rather than as standard-alone products. The system would support software updates and other types of connected updates, as well as support after sales.
(ii) Software designers
Software designers will broaden their skill set and focus to encompass products that fall under the Internet-of-Things category. Engineers now design app for the device and the apps that are required to connect to the device.
These designers might be part of the manufacturing team, or they could be a third-party contractor. They might use open-application programming interfaces, or a bespoke platform to design the relevant apps and software for the product.
(iii) Data analysts
The Internet-of-Things product ecosystem will also include the data analysts, who review and study the data from the products. These may be engineers who use apps and software to crunch the big data to improve design and user experience. This data can be used to maintain, market, or otherwise improve the sales process or product.
(iv) Infrastructure developers
The Internet-of-Things ecosystem will also include the infrastructure developers. These are the companies that will produce the hardware and software required to power and connect these new product. Their role is that of enabling, supportive parties in the wider environment in which these products will operate.