Exclusive interview with Dr Miroslaw Ryba, Global IoT Leader, EY extracted from our IoT Special Report.
Where do you see the disruptive potential of IoT right now?
The industry has advanced a lot recently, moving from experimenting with technology to focussing on valuable outcomes. I remember just few years ago talking to endless startups pushing connected egg trays and salt dispensers – stuff that can never justify its cost to a mass market. Fortunately, IoT grew up since then.
Right now the big transformational projects are within big organisations. Firstly using IoT to optimise the organisation’s outputs, such as energy production and management, oil refining or manufacturing. Secondly, using data for supply chain management optimization.
Both are about sophisticated approaches to managing complex systems. It’s not just about individual applications such as predictive maintenance of a machine. Disruptive IoT is about taking the sum of thousands of IoT sensors – say in a factory – and combining data to deliver transformational insights. For example looking at the interaction between energy use, production cost, schedules, maintenance, etc., then working out the optimal combination for product quality, efficiency, and costs. This is saving fortunes.
And where might IoT go next?
I think the next exciting phase, which we already see elements of, will be a new data economy. The current online economy allows huge personal targeting of services and adverts based on your online habits. There is an agreement that the user gives up their data in return for a service. Imagine what will happen once that data expands to real-world activities.
The obvious consequence is companies selling things in a more targeted way, and delivering adverts and offers in real time. But it’s much more than this, it will allow the development of whole new classes of products and services aligned to customer needs. For example, pharmaceutical companies could use lifestyle data – heart rate from connected watches or t-shirts, oral health from your connected toothbrushes, coffee consumption from connected espresso machines – to develop personalised drugs and health products.
Data will increasingly become a form of value, which can entitle users to certain privileges, or being used to incentivise behaviour. We already see data from connected cars affecting car insurance costs. And COVID-19 has also changed how people view sharing data in return for benefits – for example, people now are open to share their track and trace data to go out or get into a restaurant. It’s interesting to consider where this could go.
What’s the key to achieving all this?
All successful tech deployments start with a credible business case aligned to real world value that someone will pay for. Unfortunately, today still too many just look at what is technically possible.
Ask what value it delivers to the end-user. Who will pay – the user, service providers, advertisers, or all of these? Can you charge enough to cover the lifetime costs – development, maintenance, power, connectivity, etc? Will people happily give up their data, or do they need more incentive or assurance?
Another challenge is connectivity. If it needs to be developed for every new geography that can kill the business case. Having a global solution remove a major headache. The coverage, bandwidth, latency, and cost of connectivity need to be adjusted to the service needs. And then 5G opens another chapter of possibilities.
If, after all that is added up, you can profit, then you’ve got a business case.