IoB Insiders Technology entrepreneur and founder of Jigsaw, Andrew Tarver, talks IoT predictions and why his experience with new technologies makes him sceptical about future product success.
Predictions, predictions, predictions. They are everywhere. The Internet of Things (IoT) is no different. Gartner, Cisco, Intel and many more learned experts tell us there will be billions of connected devices being introduced to our lives over the next five years. Brilliant. But, so what? Will this have any impact on my life? Is it just another fad? What good will come from this new technology? Do we live in yet another fad bubble, that will eventually burst? Or is it just a safe prediction? There may well be billions of new connected devices, but will they be adding any value?
At the risk of being an idiot, my hypothesis, on a basic level, is that new technologies like IoT will have very limited impact on our lives in the next three-five years. Why do I say that? Because they have had very limited impact over the past 3-5 years. As Milton Friedman said “the only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis, is comparison of prediction with experience”.
I believe we will start to incorporate some new devices into our homes, cars, everyday lives, which may make life a little more convenient. But we are in a “fad phase”. We are experimenting as humans and as organizations. But the impact of these experiments will be underwhelming.
Most tech will fail
Let me make this personal, to provide context. I would consider myself an early adopter of new technologies. Over the last three to five years, either myself or one of my colleagues have tried a wide selection of these new technologies. BUT, they haven’t become part of our lives. To quote Larry Page “they don’t pass the toothbrush test”.
I used a Fitbit for about six months, but it has sat in my drawer for the last three years (wearables aren’t that useful at the moment in appears – Ed). I don’t use the telematics in my car, and my insurance company doesn’t use that data. My house is controlled with conventional thermostat technology, I had a Nest in my old house, I didn’t reinstall. I’ve tried a BEAM to communicate, I still use hangout, Skype or that thing called a phone. I ingested a device to analyse microbiomes in my gut, the results were confusing. I have owned three drones, fun for 12 minutes, but now I don’t even know which cupboard I put them in.
As humans, we are going through a typical innovation spectrum, the innovators and fast followers experiment with this new technology. We are intrigued on what this technology can do to impact our human lives. Some of these we will adopt into our everyday lives, most we won’t. If successful, a product may become mass market, where the early adopters, late adopters and eventually laggards pick up these technologies.
Over the next five years, we will see a lot of experimentation. We will see a lot of hype, a lot of wasted investment. If there are billions of devices connected, there will be an equivalent proportion, if not more, unconnected, sitting in cupboards. But some devices will enter and remain in our lives, the devices which add value, whether that be through reduced costs, more spare time or improved health & safety. Whatever is important to you as an individual.
So how do you improve the rate of success? By designing experiences and not devices. Design “things” to have a true purpose, which will mean a greater chance of success in a crowded marketplace.
There are too many companies concentrating on WHAT devices they could invent and HOW they will work. They need to spend more time thinking about WHY this could impact a person’s life, to change their experience or to create a new experience. WHY does a human need this “thing”? The design of a “thing” is not about how it looks and how it works, but about how it is designed to integrate into my already crowded life.
So, my prediction. Less than 1 percent of all IoT gadgets will be successful. There will be a lot of wasted time, efforts, materials and investment. We are in an experimentation phase, BUT, we will find some gems, some things which change our lives for the better…I hope.