The Internet of Things has ignited a frenzy in the tech and design worlds. As devices are engineered to be smaller and become increasingly embedded in our clothing and appliances, the capacity for connectivity is growing. It's not just the tech elite who have access to these functions; as engineers are taking a hands-on approach to IoT design, the phenomenon is propelling them forward.
Whether we are looking at a web-enabled thermostat, a tweeting toaster, or (in the case of an element14 design challenge) a device connecting our cars to Google Maps, the Internet of Things is coming of age. As the technology becomes even more democratized, supply and distribution professionals have the opportunity to become leaders in the IoT industry. Adopting the right approach will be essential in determining who comes out a winner.
Suppliers should apply “blue sky thinking” to act as a conduit to the engineering and maker communities. Using gamification tactics, suppliers can access a full realm of IoT ideas that exist among the maker movement. Granted, the task is not an easy one. At element14, we have a 220,000-member community, which we can tap for new and innovative IoT ideas. Our role as a distributor is to help these ideas fit into the ever-changing environments. Our members tell us things like, “We want a more connected home. We want a smarter home.” We work to provide the tools and resources to turn those ideas into groundbreaking solutions.
If other distributors follow suit, the Internet of Things will liberate engineers. Applications such as wearable technology and smart technology will be transformed by IoT platforms, and the supply chain will evolve in response. Through the IoT, suppliers will be able to derive much more granular data about consumer preferences. This information will impact engineers working across projects. Provided this data is accessed in the proper way, suppliers and distributors will have better insight into which devices are in demand, and which products to provide engineers to bring those devices to market.
This model of supply and demand will apply, not only to electronics, but to appliances, food, and more. Consequentially, new questions will be raised about security that suppliers must be prepared to answer. Data is incredibly powerful. It can be used to serve consumers, but it can also compromise their privacy.
Suppliers who resist the Internet of Things run the risk of being left behind by the industry. IoT is reaching a mass market integration. How soon we reach that apex will depend on which suppliers help to bring the latest networking technologies to market and develop an infrastructure that maximizes the usage, storage, and analysis of IoT-driven data.
The Internet began as a people-to-people network. Today it has evolved into a network that saves energy, reduces waste, and facilitates the exchange of information. Before long, it will enable a more efficient, more informed supply chain.