It has been almost 125 years since Jagadish Chandra Bose invented the radio, it has been over 200 years since the first instance of what is today called IoT took place. In the last two centuries, technology has transformed the life (mostly for good) on the planet. And while the advances made with cellular and telecom were incredibly impactful, we stand again at the cusp of another growth curve that will define our world for the next few decades.
The digital information amassed on earth will reach 7 Zettabytes by the end of the year. By the end of the decade it is expected to grow more than six-fold. Mobile data consumption is expected to grow more than 14 times during the same period. The number of smartphones sold will reach 2 billion in a few years. In the US market, feature phones are practically extinct. The number of connected devices are expected to reach 26 Billion by 2020 – a 5-fold increase over a decade. The 4th wave revenues which were miniscule in 2010 will cross the one trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a T) mark by the end of the decade to become the most exciting growth story in the industry.
Mobile data in one shape or another has been around since the early nineties. There were score of companies, innovators, and tinkerers who paved the way for what we now take for granted – the blazing LTE speeds. In the early days, we users allocated bandwidth in bytes and kilobytes. Now, gigabyte is the norm and within a decade, we will be talking terabytes. Today, an average smartphone user consumes 3GB of data in the US. The cheapest plan available (as of mid-2015) costs around $200/year. In the early nineties, the cheapest plan at current usage numbers would have costed roughly $9,117,600/year.
As we moved from 1G to 4G, engineers found new ways to transmit signals and eke out more performance from the spectrum. LTE was clearly the fastest deployment of network technology in the history of the industry. And consumers can’t have enough of it. As most of the world transitions over to LTE and LTE-A, there are talks of 5G and what would that mean for the next couple of decades for our industry. In our discussions with the industry and government leaders, there is a sense of excitement and urgency to define the next generation of experiences.
Mobile devices are also morphing into incredible computing devices. A $50 Android smartphone has more power than many of the desktops of the past and its ability to stitch together fascinating experiences whets consumer’s appetite for more. Phone has clearly been one of the most defining technology in the human industry. Now we take the mobile device for granted but it has a long 100+ year old history.
The business models are changing as well. Companies give away one part of the business to gain from another.
The world around the smartphone is changing as well with multitude of sensors all around us. It will be normal for us to interact with hundreds of sensors in a given day to help facilitate our tasks, our interactions, our communications, our aspirations, and enjoyment of life.
Often the use case of the technology is defined by the questions we ask of the technology. Big breakthroughs come with new insights into the use cases and consumer behavior. Printing Press, Electricity, Airplane, Antibiotics, Automobile, Television, Personal computer, Internet, and Phone came into being when the inventors asked the question “what if.” As we stand at the cusp of the Connected Intelligence Era, we should ask technology some challenging questions that might shape our world in profound ways:
- There are 5M automobile crashes every year resulting in 35K deaths. Can the technology lead us to zero fatalities?
- Life expectancy is slowly inching up but there is wide disparity in the world. Chad has 49 years while Monaco has 90 years. Can we increase the life expectancy of our generation by 10%?
- 750M of our fellow human beings lack access to water. Can we solve the water shortage problem?
- The natural disasters take a big toll. Estimates are that there is $2 trillion in damage, over 2.9M are effected with over 1.2M deaths every year. Can we reduce the human toll by at least 50%?
- 60% of individuals don’t have college degrees in the US. The figure is even bigger in other markets. Education is the underpinning of any society. Can we provide universal education cheaply, effectively, and measurably?
- The cost of healthcare in the US is $8 Trillion. Can we eliminate the costs by 50%?
- Can we use the technology to boost productivity by 100%?
- Can we reduce the impact of global conflicts and war?
- Can the technology help create new jobs and training programs to negate the losses from automation?
- We are working more than ever. Can we get 10 hrs/week back?
Answers to these questions can help shape what we want from technology in the Connected Intelligence Era.
One of the central thesis behind connected intelligence is that the elements of connectivity and intelligence will help redefine every industry. We are already seeing plenty of data points that illustrate that. Each of the top 15 industrial automation player is actively involved in using sensors and algorithms to reshape their respective businesses.
GE, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric, Siemens, ABB, Bosch, Emerson, Rockwell Automation, and others are using connected intelligence to gain more productivity, speed to market, lower cost, and lowering of their enterprise risk while creating new business models and lines of activities. Data from many points in the supply and production chain are streamed to the cloud which orchestrates their global businesses. Use of connected intelligence enabled Schneider Electric to save 30% in energy, reduced water losses by 5% and travel time by 20%.
Similarly, hospitals using millions of sensors can fundamentally change their operating model from sick-care centers to medical data processing centers that can create tremendously better outcomes. DHL is deploying IoT in logistics to improve efficiency, safety and security of equipment and employees, customer experience, and initiate new business models.
The impact on the consumer sector is going to be enormous as well. The contextualized sensors, products and algorithms that weave an invisible glow around the individual will empower them immensely. From small decisions everyday like navigating traffic and keeping appointments to big decisions like purchasing a house to keeping on a strict medicine regimen, connected intelligence will become a trusted partner who stays two steps ahead of you to help and guide. We are seeing a number of new breed of companies pop-up some like Fitbit, Nest, and others with terrific outcomes.
As with any new technology curve, we have a number issues that need to get resolved if we are to see accelerated growth. Issues around security, privacy, regulations, interoperability, open markets, investments all act as water necessary for the growth of a healthy tree that can survive decades and centuries. Industry needs to come together to acknowledge the issues and work on them at a rapid pace.
Despite the challenges, we will go through each and every industry and will find a reason to invest in connected intelligence that changes it to the core. Undoubtedly, Connected Intelligence is about reimagining everything. Connected Intelligence allows us to reimagine the supply chain, reimagine the business models, reimagine the customer, reimagine revenue and profit streams, reimagine opportunities, and most importantly reimagine our lives.