How sensor technology is leading to “Smart Everything”
Sensor technology is becoming more and more popular. As Ron Miller puts it, “we are about to enter the age of smart everything”. Sensors can be considered a valuable trigger in this process, and are already used in a variety of industries. One of their main selling points is the fact that they transmit real-time data to servers or even smart phones, with no human effort, allowing organizations to continuously monitor their operations, and act much quicker than would be possible without sensors. A network of sensors collecting real-time data must be seamlessly connected to a variety of devices in order to make use of the “Internet of Things”, and thus they are an integral part of these smart networks. Whether it is a large grocery chain tracking the movements of their customers within their store, in order to test the effectiveness of a new marketing campaign, or a football club monitoring the exact motions of their players to predict injuries, sensors have seemingly unlimited applications.
Miller states that the main reason they are not ubiquitous yet is their size and price. However, as the technology develops and the price decreases, he predicts that sensors will be everywhere. The service industry is prime example of how sensors can disrupt business models. For example, consider the plumbing business. Currently, when your sink is damaged, you call a plumber and you pay him. What if a company were to position a selection of moisture sensors around your sink to track problematic areas? They could offer you a subscription-based service, and ensure that your pipes are continuously monitored and fixed before problems even occur. This is just one example of how sensors could transform the service industry. Especially for small businesses, sensors can prove to be exceedingly helpful in establishing a competitive advantage. Assuming the price will drop increasingly, small businesses can use cheap sensors to receive insights into their customers shopping behavior at a low cost, and tailor their product offerings accordingly.
Sensors are one of the main reasons the Internet of Things is gaining in popularity rapidly. The real-time information transmitted, and the seamless integration with smart phones and other systems is increasingly leading to “smart everything”. This refers to the trend that systems that previously had been unchanged for a long time are now becoming “smart”. For example, Oral B has developed a smart toothbrush, which tracks the time and exact motions when you are brushing your teeth, and gives you advice based on this. The app that goes along with it even offers you the ability to send the information to your dentist. These smart systems are increasingly also being used by parts of the population you might not expect this from. For example, recently an article was posted in a German newspaper that illustrated how a German farmer used a smart network in combination with sensors to optimize his business. As he is the only employee on his farm, the farmer had troubles watching over all 540 cows at once. He decided to make use of a smart network and attached motion and sound sensors to all of his cows, and can now monitor their behavior closely via an app linked to the cloud, on his smartphone. He can track trends immediately without constant personal contact, and it even saves him money, due to his ability to determine when a cow is sick earlier, for example. This goes to show that businesses of all kinds are increasingly becoming aware of the advantages such systems have to offer. Consumer convenience is becoming key, and sensors are a highly efficient way in which this can be achieved.
It is highly likely that sensors soon will be everywhere. The challenge will be in using the data effectively. Especially small businesses will need to develop capabilities they probably do not have yet, and find meaningful ways to use the data they collect. What do you think? Which industries are likely to be disrupted by sensor technology? What are the limits and challenges of using this technology?
Gaddis, B. (2015). How Sensors Will Revolutionize Service Businesses. [online] WIRED. Available at: http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/05/how-sensors-will-revolutionize-service-businesses/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2015].
Gisby, T. (2015). Soft Sensors Are Breaking Into Four Major Industries. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: http://techcrunch.com/2015/08/01/soft-sensors-are-breaking-into-four-major-industries/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2015].
Miller, R. (2015). Cheaper Sensors Will Fuel The Age Of Smart Everything. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/10/cheaper-sensors-will-fuel-the-age-of-smart-everything/#.ehexz9:otGd [Accessed 4 Oct. 2015].