"The Internet of Things is a very broad concept", says Henk-Jan Schuurman, IoT Lead Netherlands at Accenture Digital. People have been connecting machines with each other for quite some time. We can collect data from these devices and subject them to analytics. Henk-Jan Schuurman: “But now it’s time to actually start using this huge amount of data! Several years ago, it still took hours to produce a daily report. Now it can be done in just a couple of seconds. That’s what’s new about the IoT: it enables us to take immediate action on the basis of data.”
Working Faster and More Efficiently
Schuurman cites the example of Fiat. A few years ago, with the aim of improving its operational efficiency and tapping into new sources of income, the Italian carmaker started installing sensors in its cars. “This enabled the company to schedule maintenance more effectively. Previously, customers had to take their car in for servicing every 30,000 kilometers. Now, sensors tell you when it’s time to have your car serviced.” The information provided by the sensors also tells Fiat which spare parts the dealer needs to have in stock and when. This means that the work can be carried out more efficiently, and more cars can be serviced in a day.
Entering into Partnerships
Fiat is also effectively using data provided by third parties, says Schuurman. For example, the carmaker has entered into partnerships with TomTom and Facebook in order to display relevant information on the dashboard screen. For Facebook, a connection is made with the driver’s smartphone. “This gives Fiat insight into who is driving the car and where they’re located. A sensor in the tank can tell Fiat when the tank is almost empty. Fiat may then send a coupon for a discount at a petrol station nearby. In this way, the carmaker earns extra revenue, while the consumer enjoys an enhanced experience.” According to the IoT expert, trials are even being carried out for systems that will enable your car to process the payment for your hamburger at a McDrive restaurant.
New Payment Model
The Internet of Things makes it possible to develop new business models. Schuurman has observed that many companies are considering offering certain products as a service. For instance, a supplier of truck tires who was previously paid per tire has now installed sensors on its tires and is getting paid on the basis of a truck’s mileage. This is a more attractive payment model for the customer, and it provides the tire manufacturer with a lot of valuable data, such as insights into driving behavior and the condition of the tires. As a result, the manufacturer will arrange timely replacement, preventing blow-outs. The transport company owning the truck will also find this data useful. In short, this new business model enables the tire manufacturer, once again, to provide its customers with a valuable product, albeit one less tangible than a tire.”
“It’s difficult to find something that’s not only disruptive, but also fits in with the company culture.”
Much to Gain
It is not only suppliers of products that are enjoying the benefits of the Internet of Things, says Schuurman. Suppliers of services can also take advantage of it. “The IoT can help service providers to significantly improve the quality of their services. Take a utility company that needs to carry out a small maintenance job at your home. We all know how frustrating it is when you’re told the technician will arrive between 12 and 6. Startup and innovative companies such as Uber are often able to tell you exactly when the person you’re expecting will be on your doorstep. Traditional service providers can learn a lot from them.”
Although many companies regard the Internet of Things as a good opportunity for new ventures, many initiatives do not make it beyond the pilot phase. This is where system integrators can make a difference, says Schuurman. “When system integrators see a new technology or business model that they think is promising, they should co-invest in it so that it can be marketed. In this way, they share the success as well as the risk. Many conventional companies find it difficult to implement a new service or business model because they’ve been working in the same way for many years. It’s difficult for them to find something that’s not only disruptive, but also fits in with the company culture. This requires a huge cultural shift within the organization. If changes are implemented too slowly, it may be too late for the company to benefit.”