“The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed,” said the oft-quoted cyberpunk prophet William Gibson.
There is certainly wisdom in that assessment. It is far more accurate to study the bleeding-edge of technology than to make predictions based on the billions of connected devices that might exist several years from now, and then assume what that world might look like.
Skeptics, hearing pie-in-the-sky projections related to the Internet of Things, conclude that the technology is overhyped. Some of them cite the tepid smart home market or the fact that the IoT business segment for tech giants is still relatively small. But companies that write off the Internet of Things risk being disrupted, says Tamara McCleary, Founder and CEO at Thulium.co who is also an IBM futurist.
The technology is already beginning to gain a foothold in industries ranging from automotive sector to retail. “We are in the middle of a science fiction novel right now and not even half of the world is connected,” says McCleary, who is giving a keynote address at IoT Emerge. In a recent interview, McCleary makes several predictions related to the Internet of Things that are simultaneously grounded in the present.
1. More Industries Will Get Uberized
Back in 2009, most taxi companies thought they had little to fear from a company known as UberCab that was founded by Garrett Camp, the founder of StumbleUpon, and Travis Kalanick, who worked at a startup named Red Swoosh. Fast forward to today and the company—which changed its name to Uber in 2010, has an implied valuation of $66 billion.
Expect this pattern to repeat itself with more companies as the Internet of Things gains steam and the number of entrepreneurs looking to “disrupt” conventional business models increases. “I think energy and utilities and banking are two of the next industries that will be upended unless they can catch on pretty quickly,” McCleary says.
Consider Tesla’s Powerwall, a solar-powered generator that offers consumers the ability to have a backup power source. “Imagine if you had enough to power your house, would you even need your utility company?” McCleary asks. “I think technologies like the Powerwall are a potential disruptor in the future for energy and utilities.”
Similarly, the need for brick-and-mortar banks is decreasing as online banking becomes the norm. “We don’t really need banks anymore,” McCleary says.
Supporting that point is a recent Bank of America survey, which found that 62 percent of people the bank’s customers prefer to bank online. More than half of respondents — 54 percent — use a mobile banking app. While there is still a significant number of people still visit brick-and-mortar banks, it is also expensive for banks to maintain neighborhood bank branches. Internet banks don't have that expense and can thus offer better interest rates, lower fees, and better overdraft protection.
Companies that leverage the Internet of Things will have a similar edge of their competitors because they will be able to cut waste, make data-driven decisions, and offer their customers new services.
2. The IoT Will Make Marketing Buzzwords a Reality
The goal of marketing is to attract and retain customers in moments where they are open to being influenced. There is, of course, no universal moment when a target audience is impressionable, so companies across industries are tapping into technologies like big data and the IoT in order to cater to select audiences.
Amazon and Netflix are early pioneers in this regard by recommending products and films tailored for specific users. Amazon’s recent IoT play is the dash button—designed to enable customers to order, say, dish detergent as soon as they notice they are running low.
Companies like Amazon and Netflix understand that marketing buzzwords like “customer experience” and “personalization” are not just abstract concepts. “The IoT is making marketing far more targeted,” McCleary says. “We will have the data to know what their needs, wants, desires and preferences are and anticipate what their needs will be.”
3. The Automotive Market Will Be Turned Upside Down
The average American sits in a car for about 100 minutes each day, according to Harvard Health Watch. Yet the basic experience of sitting in a car has changed little in past decades for most drivers.
But with the advent of self-driving cars, the focus on passengers’ experience is going to get much sharper, McCleary predicts. The benchmark for the automotive industry will no longer be about vehicle sales. They won’t care about what color the vehicle is or how many horsepower it has. “The focus will be on the things we put in the vehicles—the kinds of amenities that will that serve them as they are being driven around,” she says.
Instead of merely going from point A to B, cars can be programmed by the drivers to perform specific tasks. A car could pick up groceries or pick up food from a restaurant, as TechCrunch notes. Or, as Elon Musk predicts, once self-driving car technology is mainstream, car owners can make money by turning their vehicles into part-time robo-cabs.