Too old for smart products?
Every morning, I wake up and realize how so many things are changing so fast. . . while I just keep getting older and balder. The world is becoming awfully smart. My phone is smart. My watch is smart, and so is my car. The city around me is getting smarter. Robots will take over my job. Decisions about what options I have are being made by analyzing my Code Halo. And so on.
In a nutshell, the digital avalanche is threatening my idea of control and autonomy. Should we (aging, balding) IT professionals be afraid? How will the arrival of smart products affect IT-service firms?
The tomorrowland of smart products
Smart and connected products are already here. Drue Reeves, a Gartner researcher, asked his webinar audience to “imagine a world with 25 billion sensors by 2020 where data doubles every two years with an economic value of 1.2 trillion pounds.” Drue further described how the Internet of Things is the foundation of digital business and how almost every industry is getting connected and smart.
Smart products are a combination of three components: physical hardware, smart components, and connectivity components. A smart component allows a product to sense its condition, environment, and usage, while a connectivity component allows a smart product to transmit performance and usage in real time.
Smart products are amazing for their capability to self-correct in case of a bug, their capacity for optimizing their performances, and their ability to be controlled remotely. For example, a Smart Car can stream data about its engine, fuel tank, and driving usage. This data, in turn, enables better product utilization, optimization, and the capability to troubleshoot from a remote location. Newer services and features are being innovated every day to constantly push the limit of how smart a product can be.
Smart skill-sets for tomorrow
All of these bells and whistles need to be created, integrated, and managed. So if companies are reinventing products to be smart, then IT professionals must reinvent their skill sets – in four areas – to support the growing digital needs of these products:
- IT in the physical product: Traditionally, an IT-service firm helps its customers with largely software implementation and support. The physical side of a product has been less emphasized, but new skill sets at the intersection of physical products, their environment (material science, anyone?) and software are needed. And the types of companies needing these skill sets will expand to include those from manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, construction, and more.
- Data analytics as a service: With smart products, there will be a plethora of data to pave the way for new services. Firms with strong data-analytics capabilities will excel. Customers may prefer to outsource the smart product data to IT firms in return for useful insights. Data-analytics platforms may be sold as services to customers.
- IT to IoT security: Remote control has the potential for great customer value, but it brings new security challenges and the risk of product hacking. In fact, the Internet of Things already suffers from increased security challenges. Any IT company looking for survival in the new digital age will need to have strong IT-security credentials or partners.
- Augmented reality: Smart products and augmented reality will make remote inspection of a physical object easy. Digital twin is making it possible to model a physical object digitally using sensors, which may make remote testing, call-center operations, and troubleshooting easier for products located far away.
In a nutshell, employees of smart-product and IT firms will thrive if they develop the relevant skill sets required to meet the needs of today’s digital businesses. Agility of an enterprise will be a key factor. The smartness of employees will be judged not by a lack of gray hair or hair at all but by skills and the ability to move quickly as digital transforms the world to be smart and connected.
What do you think? Do you see these skills becoming hot in 2016? Let’s have a conversation. Or read our report, “The Rise of the Smart Product Economy,” and read about practical business steps to benefit from this quickly intensifying smart world.