The world has changed a lot in the last 12 years. When the iPhone was officially announced to the world on January 9, 2007, and officially released on June 29th, 2007, I doubt that there were more than a handful of people in the world that recognized what a momentous day it was. Over the last 12 years, it has literally changed how we live. How we move from place to place. How we get entertained. How we communicate. How we do business. How we shop. How we get information. And so much more. You could point to hydropower, the steam engine, electricity, wireless communication and so many other developments over the last thousand years, but cellular phone technology eclipses them all.
There are many who would argue that a lot of the changes it has wrought are not for the better. Some would say, and probably correctly, that, in fact, we live more artificial, less personal, lonelier lives than we did prior to 2007. It’s probably wise to stop and think about this technology when we have people so distracted that they absentmindedly walk into wet cement, rivers, and manholes.
I’m not a social scientist. I am a small business person and entrepreneur. One of the most relevant changes for me is that this technology has changed delivery expectations for customers in every industry. There’s much more of an attitude that delivery should happen instantly, and that causes problems for those of us who aren’t Amazon.
It’s also changed how manufacturing companies approach their businesses and how they’ve built their business models. The ultimate speed of delivery is for downloaded software. You have it literally seconds after you pay for it. And to get continuity income, this software isn’t purchased, it’s licensed by the week, month or year. Moreover, costs are cut by having automated phone systems, FAQs, bushel baskets of YouTube videos and the like. Anything to reduce the number of people involved and avoid at all costs a face to face conversation with a customer.
I find this very problematic on any number of levels, and it’s what disturbs me about most IoT vendors. Most importantly, some of these vendors try to forget that their customers are people. People are wired for relationships. Automating everything isn’t who we are as humans. But most of all, I think it is bad business.
Customers, a lot of them anyway, prefer to do business with people. They want to know that there is someone on the other end that they can go to with problems, get to know and, occasionally, share a laugh with. Most of the IoT businesses I see go the opposite way and make any number of mistakes:
- They ignore the human side of the seller-to-customer relationship as I described above.
- Many ignore or gloss over the details of the IoT business. You can’t just get data from anything without knowing a lot about how the customer’s data is generated. They tend to gloss over:
- Electrical interfaces (RS485, Ethernet, Io-Link, 4 to 20ma, RS232)
- Protocols (EtherNet/IP, Modbus, PROFINET IO and the rest)
- Data normalization – the engineering units, scaling and data type. If you don’t get all your data normalized properly, it becomes worthless
- Timing issues – Is time important to the application?
- Offering only a single revenue model that is best for their bottom line and not necessarily what works best for the customer.
- Not providing customers with enough information to make an educated decision. Most of what I see is reduced to “We’ll grab your data, move it to the Cloud and you’ll pay for it.”
- Providing no service associated with the sale. Everything is automated including customer service.
- Ignoring customization needs, wiring, configuration and all the other details that are needed to make a system really work well.
There are literally thousands of IoT companies now making Edge gateways and other Edge products. If you can talk to someone (that can be difficult), ask them about data normalization, service, support, and configuration. I’m betting most of them won’t have good answers. And when you don’t get those good answers, give our application engineers a call on 1-800-249-1612. We’ll kit up a solution to meet your needs – wired, configured and normalized. We’ll take care of the details. You can count on it.