Within the innovation space, one of the key points of expansion is the application of leaps in information technology to the physical world. Just as the internet revolution brought about change by networking computers, another similar revolution seeks to bring about change by networking and digitizing the physical world. As such, the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the main drivers of innovation within a number of fields, as it seeks to digitize, analyze, and automate numerous consumer and industrial tasks.
At its heart, IoT is a simple concept: a network of smart devices capable of exchanging information between each other and interact. While the concept of automated devices has existed long-before, IoT revolutionizes areas by allowing networking over the internet and allowing these networks to be managed as a system, rather than in single, individual parts.
This has wide-ranging applications, as this networking capabilities can enable networks of smart consumer devices to be run as a smart home, or within industrial settings where manufacturing and physical business processes can dynamically and automatically to supply chain and market conditions.
Traditionally, even when networked, these systems required a centralized control hub, as while they could communicate, they could not actively make decisions or act independently. However, advancements in cognitive computing and artificial intelligence have enabled the potential for the creation of autonomous, decentralized systems that are capable of real-time decision-making and do not require active human control in order to function.
More importantly, the potential of the technology remains limitless, as any physical environment can be networked in an IoT capacity and generate greater efficiencies by eliminating ‘friction’ and enabling analytics-driven improvements.
The Nature of IoT Innovation
Just as IoT can create increasingly complex networks of devices, the nature of innovation leans towards complex, multidisciplinary relationships. Given its application to nearly every environment, innovation in IoT requires a technology strategy that seeks to create relationships between various industries and disciplinary teams in order to bring out the most advanced uses for the technology.
For example, the cross-pollination between industrial and agricultural focused teams have created a number of agricultural IoT technologies that network farm equipment to wireless soil and air sensors to optimize farming tasks based on real-time data and increase per-acre crop yields by the precise application of pesticides, fertilizers, and other resources.
As such, while IoT gives promise to greater innovation and technological advancement, it requires meaningful collaboration across a number of academic and industrial fields to achieve.
Building Innovation Teams for IoT Innovation
As innovation is a collaborative exercise, the best opportunities within a specialized field like IoT will come through developing distinct networks of industry and academic partners that can identify synergies in their institutional knowledge and synthesize potential applications in terms of both high-level domain and technical expertise. This is key, as it enables the ability to think conceptually on a strategic level, as well as create the functional pieces that enable the strategic vision to function.
Most importantly, innovation teams must identify these opportunities by their strategic benefits to the organization, and the project as a whole, rather than previous relationships or convenient geographic relationships. Innovation teams tend to cluster their activities with the same partners, and as such frequently miss advancements made by other domain experts in different regions. Given the open nature of open innovation, teams should not overly restrict their reach but must embrace a wide network of disparate partnerships.