Smart products fuel new wave innovation

Today, we live in a smart connected world. The number of devices connected to the Internet has exceeded the total number of humans on the planet. Continuous modernisation in technology have certainly changed and revolutionised the way we live, communicate and interact in the present day.

Smart, more connected products are being enabled as the Internet of Things (IoT) gain tremendous momentum. The IoT has initiated the conception of smart technology and there is all of a sudden a bounty of fascinating opportunities for enterprises across the globe.

Convergence of physical and digital worlds has created new opportunities across the industry segments. A connected device or machine has become the reality and sensors attached to these devices play a very active role in gathering the data which is then used to derive meaningful insights. Once composed solely of mechanical and electrical components, products have become smarter and complex systems that combine hardware, sensors, data storage, microprocessors, software, and connectivity in myriad ways.

These smart, connected products – made possible by improvements in processing power, device miniaturisation, new product development and by the network benefits of ubiquitous wireless connectivity – have unlea­shed a new era of competition for businesses across industries.

The internet wave saw innovation in terms of smartphone apps, ecommerce, online shopping, banking etc. The next wave of internet is now connecting things and making things sm­arter by connecting it to systems and people. The innovations are going to be across consumer, enterprise and community.

• Innovations for consumers: We have examples like Fitbit, Uber and Ola, home appliances, home automation etc. All these are innovations driven towards customer experience enabled by connected products.

• Innovations in enterprises: Heavy Machineries in industries can convey about their operating health to the operators on the shop floor. This is possible as these heavy machineries are connected with sensors on an enterprise Intranet and through Internet to the cloud. The manufacturer can remotely diagnose and fix problems, or even predict the failures of some of the machines so that pre-emptive maintenance can be done to prevent unplanned downtime.

Due to the connected nature of these products, the production process can be automated as the machines can talk to the systems that manage the product process. For example, a factory with robots manufacturing cars can talk to the system about their job or the robot can be instructed on the fly to assemble a different model of a car, leading to batch size of one concept.

• Innovation in community: we are all aware of smart cities that revolutionise the quality of life, safety and security of the  citizens. Connected vehicles lead to smarter transportation, connected waste bins can help better waste management, connected energy and water meters can lead to better demand response apart from prevention of fraud and revenue leakage.

Education through connected and virtual classrooms lead to a better outreach to remote communities. Telehealth and telemedicine is possible because of connected medical devices and caregivers. Remote patient monitoring, diagnosis and assisted surgeries are innovations in healthcare.

• Innovation in business model: smart products have resulted in disintermediation with direct relationship between manufacturer and consumer, without need of involvement of distributor, retailer etc. Manufacturer can get to know the usage of its products by the consumer.

Pay-Per-Use, As-A-Service and Pay-as-you-use business models are made possible. CAPEX to OPEX model of usage is possible due to IoT in, say, printer as a service, washing machine as a service, aircraft as a service etc.

Smart and connected products help in augmenting human health and amplify human capabilities. These lead to improved efficiencies for enterprise, enhanced experiences to customers and quality of life of communities.

We do predict the rise of a smart, interconnected product landscape over the next 10 years, constituting of a tightly woven ecosystem for capturing new opportunities and extending business advantage across industry segments. Global companies are already co-innovating and co-investing to develop smart product for the next-gen and making a world a better place to live in.

(The writer is Associate Vice President and Principal Technology Architect, IoT, Engineering Services, Infosys)

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