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The Internet of Things (IoT) is the Wild West of the technology market. The industry is young, and the potential for growth is enormous.

But what do you need to win in this new landscape? In a recent webinar, Kevin Ashton, author of How to Fly a Horse—The Secret History of Creation, Invention & Discovery and the technologist who coined the term “the Internet of Things,” shared three key pieces of advice for companies who want to outmaneuver competition in this exciting new marketplace.

Don’t think gadgets and gizmos; think network

When people in the media talk about the IoT, they often mention gadgets like connected coffee machines and smart water bottles. But according to Ashton, these are just gadgets, and they fail to represent what the IoT is really all about.

Ashton describes the IoT as a “network of automatic data-capture devices that enable automated decisions and actions that change the world.” Powered by sensors, the IoT is a global network that lets us automatically get information about the physical world.

For Ashton, the purpose of the IoT is to access and contribute to a giant, connected database about objects in the world. “It’s people, it’s medicine, it’s food and water and clothes and energy,” adds Ashton.

Ask: “what’s in it for the customer?”

Many so-called IoT devices have internet connectivity, but don’t really bring any advantage to the customer. Take the $400 smart juicer Juicero, for example. Ashton mentions how the only purpose of its connection is to ensure that the customer is using Juicero-branded packets. The product has recently been criticized by the tech media for locking customers in; in Ashton’s view, there’s nothing in it for the customer.

“One of the crucial points to understand if you want to win with the Internet of Things is that you have to use it in a way that benefits the customer,” says Ashton. “What’s the win for the customer?”

Smart small, start now

Even old, large companies can win at the IoT if they start small and start early. Auto giant Ford, for instance, started its attempts at IoT-enabled products back in 2007. The company’s early experiments failed. For instance, its early SYNC device sold about two million units in 2011, and received mostly negative reviews.

But that’s changing now. In 2014, for instance, Ford worked alongside BlackBerry and Hewlett-Packard to develop a new, redesigned SYNC, which sold 10 million units in the two years after its relaunch. By starting small, like a small optional unit to put in its cars, and by redesigning a product that wasn’t working, Ford is now one of the leaders in IoT-enabled vehicles.

The Internet of Things is everywhere and invisible

It’s impossible to deny that our future will be defined by the IoT. But are you willing to take advantage of the opportunity today? The first step is to appreciate the magnitude of the IoT’s impact—and believe it.

“Predicting the future is easy”, Ashton says. “But believing it is the secret to success.”

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was formerly a Content Marketing Manager at Vision Critical.

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