The Internet of Things is coming to a theatre near you. Some of the early developments will be subtle, e.g., new apps popping up for your phone, new technologies arriving in your grocery store, new services springing up in your neighborhood, etc. However, expect to turn back 10-15 years from now and find the 2017 landscape as unrecognizable as you might view 2002, before smart phones and social media became such permanent and essential fixtures in your life. What you will be observing are the gradual effects of what Steve Case refers to as the “Third Wave of the Internet.”
THE THREE WAVES
In his 2016 book called The Third Wave, AOL co-founder Steve Case outlines what he calls the three waves of the internet; the first two having already passed and the third closely on the horizon. Case characterizes the First Wave of the internet as essentially the infrastructure phase. This phase began in the 1980s as companies like AOL, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. established the infrastructure and connections to create the internet itself. He characterizes the Second Wave as the building on top of the internet: new technologies to access information and connect people. This started to gain steam around the turn the century and continues in high form today with notable examples like Facebook and Google. Most of the big tech companies of today are the major players of the Second Wave.
The Third Wave, however, is shaping up to be a different animal – one with some similarities to the first two waves, perhaps most akin to the first, but unique in its invasiveness into traditional sectors and everyday activities. The banner under which this wave resides is often called The Internet of Things (IoT). Simply put, we’re talking about connected items, edge technology, operational intelligence platforms, predictive capabilities, automation, and machine learning. These capabilities and technologies have a wide range of use cases that span nearly every sector and end market. Thus, conversations about IoT often meander down a confusing tunnel of considerations and implications. The common thread is that IoT is entering into some unchartered territory in familiar and often stubborn environments.
IOT WILL IMPACT EVERY SECTOR
The scope of the Third Wave pays homage to the First Wave in that there is a massive infrastructure element and culture change requirement. For the most part the infrastructure components are ready, as evidenced by the avalanche of sensor technologies into the market, the proliferation of IoT platforms, and rapid advances in edge technology. The challenge, however, is that the solution looks a bit different depending on the sector, environment, and application, i.e., the architecture varies on a case by case basis. Effective IoT solutions will therefore require a significant amount of industry knowledge and access.
For the Second Wave, in particular, Silicon Valley has been a hub of innovation. New products and services are incubated out West and distributed through PCs and mobile devices. This is a perfectly reasonable model for Second Wave solutions that target individual consumers or business enterprise IT applications. In contrast, Third Wave solutions demand transformation. Transformation cannot be driven remotely with packaged solutions – it requires knowledge of the current paradigm coupled with an understanding of the “art of the possible” and the capabilities to deliver the result. With 75% of Fortune 500 companies residing in states that receive less than 25% of total Venture Capital funding, the landscape is primed for new entrepreneurs to deliver these solutions within their markets. Steve Case calls this the “Rise of the Rest.”
THE CHALLENGE OF THE THIRD WAVE
The primary implications of the Third Wave are underscored by a recent IndustryWeek article by Steve Minter that aptly contends that the “toughest challenges of IoT are not the technology.” If you consider an oil field services company, for example, looking to implement smart assets in the oilfield and achieve higher operational productivity, an appropriate IoT solution begins with the understanding of the current work flow and the access needed to implement the transformation. The challenges are not in the technology per se, rather the solution architecture, environmental considerations, work flow changes, program management, skills, and training.
At Veryable, we believe that the answers to today’s manufacturing challenges require solutions born in our manufacturing heartland; solutions that specifically address the needs of the sector. In a previous blog titled New Demands on Manufacturing, we talk about some of these challenges such as higher demand variation, lower lead time requirements, levels of customization, etc. What manufacturers need today is higher levels of flexibility and agility with zero cost to scale enabled by IoT based operational intelligence. Robots and additive manufacturing will be game changing components of the future digital manufacturing environment but basic blocking and tackling need to be mastered before we introduce the trick plays. The combination of IoT technologies and on-demand labor will do just this. Major players in the Third Wave will understand these types of needs because they understand the complexities of the sectors they serve and the behaviors within.
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