Monday, June 30, 2014

The Internet of Things? No, of Attention

The technology is here. It has been here for a while. Ever since the first microchip was built - you could, in principle, buy the right components and "smart up" your life. But we never really went that extra mile. Why? because it was not practical, economic or really applicable to our lives.

What has changed since those days? the economy of technology. Processing power has become so cheep, you can install it in throw-away items. In addition, our lives have grown to depend heavily on technology. You cannot move, without checking your e-mail, social media, or tracking your pulse, or Geo-location or calorie-burn rate. We have become so accustomed to digitizing everything - that it has become second nature, if not first.

So the internet of things, as coined by some big companies out there, is a slogan that, to my understanding, relates to the ability to "smart-up" devices and consumer needs that have been more remote from the internet and from the automated integration into other consumer services. Now while a completely agree that we can, are, and will continue to "Smart-up" our "technologies" - I am more skeptical on the true value-maturation related to the consumer services aspect.

Time for an example. Suppose you buy a smart refrigerator, that can tell you that your low on milk, or out of eggs. Sounds amazing. Check your phone while you are doing your shopping, and voilà - you know what you need to buy. Really?  Here is the problem I have with this proposition: prioritization. How many communication channels do you have open (types of information sources)? How many content items (messages, articles, tweets etc.) do you follow? There is no point avoiding the "elephant in the room" - your attention has become expensive. This is probably the highest-value commodity of modern times. Example: when you get the alert to get the milk - you would be the perfect marketing candidate for a discounts and product information related to milk and milk products. Why would you install and app that will diverse your attention further? You already recognized that you are likely to go get groceries, and milk, was probably at the top of your list.

To integrate such information into our lives, will require either automation, or a real value-add to the consumer. Beside the initial buzz around this "new" capability, there is actually very little value of out sourcing your mind further in terms of this type of planning. Perhaps in the business world (or not). You may be going on holiday - and you do not need more milk, or you might have stopped using it because you prefer a different product. Whatever the case is, the amount of effort needed to configure your life to consume this type of integrated technology - falls short of leaving you with a sense of a real value-add. This may change in the future when true semantic web matures - but I do not see this happening for another generation.

While we continue to evolve our lives into a digital maturity (Matrix - here we come), let's not forget that digital is just second-to, base-on and completely dependent on the real world. Now what kind of house can you build on a poorly maintained foundation? Nothing I would ever want to brag about.

My message to you is: build new technologies, but do not forget to respect the priorities of consumers in terms of real needs which will always prevail (refer to topics such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

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