What does it take to design a successful IoT application? What’s the right mix between technology or usability? And, is there maybe some kind of secret recipe for success?
Recently I attended one of our ng Connect ideation sessions. This is where a group of smart, creative people from different companies in Nokia's IoT Community ecosystemcome together with a mix of products and technologies, and a broad range of technical and non-technical skills, to imagine and define smart new services for the future.
While I engaged in often passionate conversations with the other participants about new service ideas, disruptive business models, and innovative solution concepts, I started to notice a striking similarity to cooking classes. Just as creating a tasty dish depends less on the tools in the kitchen than upon the ingredients you use, designing an innovative application or service is also more than just the technology. As Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone says: “If you use quality ingredients, you don't need anything fancy to make food delicious: just a knife, a cutting board, and some good nonstick cookware, and you're set.”
And, when discussing new IoT-enabled value creating opportunities, the following ingredients came back in many of the service recipes that hit the table during the workshop.
Awareness, context and personalization
All sorts of connected devices can help you to better understand yourself and the environment you’re living or working in.
Tracking, measuring and analyzing your everyday activities can help improve your mental or physical condition, and your quality of life. This self-awareness principle that has been adopted by many digital health applications, also known as the quantified self. My Withings Go activity tracker counts the steps I take and the calories I burn, and then informs and encourages me daily to do more.
The data generated by sensors on and around you may provide contextual information such as location, time of day, temperature, or any device status. It may help to monitor supply chains and control processes, for example in cold chain management (read more about that in the blog post about ice cream logistics by my colleague Khamis Abulgubein), or simply find the nearest free parking spot or non-occupied meeting room.
Combined with your personal profile, IoT data can also enable the delivery of personalized services. Take, for example, the connected rental car that Nokia developed with Hertz that automatically adjusts its mirrors, seat position, and favorite radio channels to the driver’s preferences.
Crowds, communities and collaboration
The more devices that are connected, the more information that can be collected, analyzed, and used by applications. That’s why they call it big data. But let’s not assume that all this data is coming from anonymous machines. People may also become active data producers instead of passive application consumers, and transform the quantified-self into a quantified-crowd or a quantified-community.
There’s a very nice example of a crowd-sourced IoT application that already dates from the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. A few entrepreneurs created an open-source sensor network for collecting and sharing radiation measurements using low-cost wireless Geiger counters. Volunteers sent their data over the Internet, which was visualized on a Google map.
During the workshop that I mentioned earlier, we came up with an interesting service concept for optimizing office space occupation. We stimulated employee collaboration by (re-)grouping people with different backgrounds and complementary skills physically together – combining sensor-generated room data, real-time people tracking coordinates, and HR-owned employee profiles.
Assisted and autonomous decision making and control
Data driven decision making or DDDM is an emerging approach to business governance that is backed up by verifiable data. Thanks to the massive amounts of data records generated by IoT sensors, devices, and communities, and nearly real-time data processing in the cloud and at the network edge, DDDM is getting a much wider reach than the executive boardroom.
Powered by advanced analytics and AI technologies, decision-making capabilities are evolving rapidly. While a world of thinking robots and fully-autonomous cars may still be a few years away, we may observe that vehicles are getting smarter and driving is getting safer thanks to IoT-enabled applications.
Take for example Nokia’s award-winning connected car testbed on the A9-motorway in Germany that introduced assisted-driving use cases such as co-operative passing assistant and emergency electronic brake light. Assisted decision making, eventually evolving to autonomous control will surely make a difference in public safety, e.g. when dealing with emergency situations where ultra-fast decision making and immediate reaction may be of crucial importance to save human lives.
IoT-powered automation is also gaining ground in industry, manufacturing and logistics,. Many applications are being developed, tested and deployed to support new use cases and services, based upon data collection, information sharing, cognitive analytics and autonomous decision making.
A recipe for IoT success
A successful restaurant relies on good ingredients and great cooks. Similarly, true IoT innovation builds upon networks of connected technologies and people, who can create and integrate solutions, and understand how to reap the benefits from new business models and services.
At Nokia, we create the technology to connect the world, but we also use this technology to transform the human experience. We believe that ecosystems will drive IoT innovation and new business opportunities. They need to focus on value and usability, rather than on technology only. Working with the best ingredients, matching the right flavors and aromas, and acknowledging the roles and interactions of and between the kitchen staff is a recipe for success.
If you want to know more about our kitchen, our cooks, and some of our recipes, then visit the IoT Community and the Nokia Innovation Platform pages on the web, or meet me at the upcoming 5G & IoT World Europe in London.
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