TCS Innovation Forum Visit

Earlier this month, I attended an Innovation Forum hosted by TATA’s Consultancy Services division. The theme was the Internet Of Things, that venerable and most popular topic of 2016 detailing the growth of connected devices producing a lot of data.

The keynote speaker was the excellent Martha Bennett from Forrester Research. Martha delivered a great opener discussing what she described as the fourth industrial revolution, or the forthcoming blend of cyber and physical systems.

As with all the best keynotes, there were some great headlines, few bullets and lots of pictures. Uber got a mention to reflect the digitisation of our world; for all the protests about the Uber services, their growth has been spectacular. Martha then talked about those infamous companies that haven’t reinvented themselves, such as Kodak, Blockbuster, HMV and Nokia, and that less than 15% of companies in the original 1955 Fortune 500 list still exist today.

Most interesting I think in Martha’s presentation was the move towards selling outcomes instead of products. She used the analogy of Rolls Royce no longer selling “aero engines”, but “units of propulsion”. It’s the idea that you could abstract a product into a service, by managing and participating in the entire ownership proposition. Agricultural machinery becomes optimum yields, cars provide an ability from getting from A to B and health insurance becomes a wellness program. The key here is the digitisation of these industries, hence the revolution moniker. They are enabling new conversations with customers and end users that replaces the older, simpler supplier/customer model.

Indeed, one angle of IoT still very much in its infancy is its social impact. Driverless vehicles are the new pinnacle of personal mobility, but what happens to the thousands of people employed to drive them? Never mind the Uber protests – it could be the tip of the iceberg. Similarly, we saw an unnamed quote from a bank that really reasonated: “we’re drowning in data but starving for insight”.

Martha concluded by talking about the importance of security in the Internet Of Things. There is a great deal of scaremongering going on at present; aircraft that might be hijacked, self-driving cars that may crash and even baby monitors being hacked. The general consensus is that as long as security is designed in from the beginning, we can overcome the challenge. That and the interesting rise of blockchain security, a distributed database that is resistant to being hacked even when shared. The best known implementation is Bitcoin, but for IoT, it’s the technology underneath it that really matters.

importantly for the Internet Of Things, we need move beyond all the big numbers of its perceived market value and the number of connected devices by 2020 into tangible, evidenced case studies from a variety of verticals than can quickly be shared across different industries. Keep the disruption coming.

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