I attended Web Summit last month and was privy to the same promises of what the internet of things (IoT) can do – yep, I’ve been hearing the same rhetoric, and seeing the same paperware since working with IoT back in 2010. It utterly frustrates me when I persistently read or hear of “What the IoT can do” rather than “Look, this is what we’ve achieved”.

A concerted focus on IoT strategy

The seemingly lacklustre or perhaps stalled momentum of the IoT proposition has left me astonished as to what we have yet to realistically do. I didn’t want to necessarily leave 2018 with a negative reflection but, instead, I’d like to conclude the year with a more thoughtful outlook for 2019. With this in mind, I’m not going to take a bah-humbug look at the so-called empty promises of IoT and will instead offer a different kind of perspective, as to how best we strategize our IoT roadmap. Let me explain …

I’m going to discuss something that’s not entirely new – something I heard again during this year’s Web Summit which, for me, triggered a set of memories. It’s a notion that has been bouncing around for many, many years and is something that I’ve come to understand in my technological journey. It’s a notion that allows you to collect your thoughts about a particular problem and provides a more concerted focus about the value in the strategy you take.

Let’s not overthink this …

I suppose it’s the classic question, “Which came first: the chicken or egg?” You see, in my experience, I have occasionally been asked to develop a product solely based on a new technology being introduced; so my specification reads, “Here’s a new technology we have to do something with it!” For example, in my first contact with Bluetooth wireless technology back in 1999, I was developing a Windows device driver for a PCMCIA card, so that the company could be the first to interoperate with other similarly enabled cards. Bluetooth, at that time, suffered a lot of hype surrounding the overwhelming promises delivered by sales and marketing, who clearly didn’t understand the immaturity of the technology. I was working with v0.9 of the Bluetooth core specification and, although it had not officially been released, there was an aggressive push to deliver – well, “anything.”

I fear the same is happening with IoT. Unfortunately, the industry is guilty of making unwarranted promises about a concept that has yet to be fully understood. Above all, let’s not overthink this, since we are recycling existing technologies and applications to build IoT solutions with which to harvest value in your data that you already own – in essence, all you’ve done is relabeled it as IoT! Yep, it’s a cruel reality check.

Understanding your proof of value

I think it’s so wrong to begin any development lifecycle based on the promise of a concept or a new technology without truly understanding the value achieved from delivering a new product, service, application or whatever it may be. My ethos is firmly embedded in a philosophy of not to necessarily look at the technology in the first instance but, instead, to look at what the problem is and how it’s going to add value to your product portfolio, business or services. Once you’ve established the problem you are trying to solve, you can begin to understand the added value the solution is going to bring. You can then begin to effectively architect a path to development and delivery, using a “solving” process, where you then look at technologies, applications, processes, produces and so on, which will help deliver your solution.

So, the notion I’m alluding to is proof of value (PoV) and shouldn’t be confused with proof of concept (PoC) – these are two very different things as I’ll explain in a moment. Your PoV is more than a technical feasibility; you should understand its marketability, the consumer experience and the value in delivering your solution. When you have established a satisfactory PoV, your next step in the “solution process” is to develop a PoC – this uniquely establishes that it can be technically done. Your solution can then be extended to trusted peers or groups to understand their experiences and to ultimately help shape the product for the future.

Until next time…

I have seen this done with the Amazon Echo Show, for example. The first generation product was just one of many examples of new product launches where the early adopters, in turn, finance the second generation and help shape and evolve future generations.

Companies and industries are always eager to develop the next big thing and, whilst it’s tremendous to witness technological strides in new products and whatnot, we do sometimes need to step back and ask ourselves, “Where is my proof of value?”

So, this is where a “wishing you a fabulous Christmas and a spectacular New Year” Dr. G, signs off.