A New Perspective on IoT

By Sara Brown

After years of attending M2M and IoT-focused conferences, I’ve found the choice of content somewhat unsatisfying. Either the content is “for beginners only,” slowing killing my intellect by telling me what I already know (accompanied, of course, by countless unreadable PowerPoint slides); or it is deeply technical talk focused on minutia like spectrum band, c-code vs. scripting, encryption algorithms, etc.—with nothing in between.

So when I attended Solstice Mobile’s first FWD conference in Chicago last month, I was pleasantly surprised.

Solstice has built its business designing and building digital experiences for the enterprise and over the past twelve to eighteen months it has seen a shift in their business, with 50% of their revenue coming from IoT-related work.

The company's history and background lends it a perspective on IoT applications which is a refreshing change—that applications must both a) deliver a clear business benefit and b) deliver a satisfying user experience.

This focus on user experience, sadly, has been lacking in business application development for far too long, and Solstice aims to change that.

The first half of the day was dedicated to user experience and human-centered design. Highlights for me included:

·       Mike Boush, Chief Digital Officer for Discover declaring that traditional advertising is broken—going as far as proclaiming it “theft” of time and attention. His prognosis, by properly leveraging customer-centric digital models: Advertising isn’t needed and we must radically overturn the old way in order to give the people what they want.

·       Scott Wilson, CEO and Founder of MINIMAL and award-winning industrial designer talked about empathy and emotional innovation, closing with a quote worth remembering, “Change is hard. Irrelevance is harder.”

The afternoon session began with an hour and a half on IoT—during which we heard from Brenna Berman, CIO for the City of Chicago about becoming a “City of Big Data;”  Chris Phenner, Director of Enterprise IoT and Gimbal on the use of location and beacons in retail and other settings, and Bruce Wiatrak, Senior Director of New Technology at Jarden. But for me, the highlight of the IoT sessions, and indeed the entire day, was Julian Sanchez, Director of Technology Innovation at John Deere.

Mr. Sanchez used agricultural equipment to highlight the benefits of not simply connecting things to the Internet, but going a step further to connect things to each other. He posits that by connecting equipment to the Cloud, we have realized only 50% of the potential available value of IoT. I agree that we are only half way there in terms of effort—but would argue that the cross-silo connections that will transform traditional machine-to-machine connectivity into a true Internet of Things actually represents more 50% of IoT’s value.

In closing, he presented the audience with a challenge—to consider how connecting two totally unrelated items could create previously unimaginable value. He gifted me lip balm and a pair of folding scissors. I’m sorry, Julian, I haven’t figured that one out yet. Any ideas? You can submit them in the comments section below.

The day closed with information about AI and robotics and an examination of the challenges of innovating inside large, well-established enterprise companies.

Thanks, Solstice, for a day of engaging content, focused on business challenges and user experience—during which I actually got to learn something new. Here’s hoping your perspective is contagious.