Chris O’Connor, IBM’s General Manager for Internet of Things Offerings, has been involved with connected devices for almost 25 years. As a result, he has a unique view on the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), what it means for the future, and what we can learn from previous generations of technology.
Chris is also an Advisory Board Member of IoT Community, the organization producing IoT Slam , so we sat down with him as he prepared for the event to hear what he plans to talk about.
ReadWrite: So as the General Manager for IoT, what does this mean for IBM?
Chris O’Conn0r: So for us at IBM it’s been a journey of experimenting with the IoT data, all these connected assets, And the early work that we did around Smart Planet. It proved that it was controlled, but the ability to do it in mass wasn’t quite there yet, and now we move to where we are today which is sensors are cheap, connectivity is easy given Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, low power long range capabilities, and cellular capabilities in abundance. As well as now the cloud is an accepted way to work both in both a public, private, and local fashion. And analytics are ruling the day in terms of being able to provide value and information, and thinking engines are now emerging as a way to understand the patterns and the variances of how well this data actually comes together. So you think about all this technology as the perfect storm and now these capabilities are becoming very affordable and can make the internet of things and its wealth of data actually processable by the average enterprise, company or corporation.
RW: And that process is really important because the first way of IoT was sort of everyone running around the hooking sensors and then putting data streams onto everything they could find and it’s great I got these huge pile of data – okay, now what? And now you got to figure out how to take all that data and actually turn to insight and actable business information.
CO: That’s correct. We think our clients need to think beyond the connection of the device1. Fundamentally we see three types of the business that our clients strive for. The first is around operations and maintenance and product life cycle. This is driven by devices and I know whether it’s healthy, whether it’s well, whether it’s on, whether it’s off, whether it’s broken, whether it’s fixed. And I can more efficiently maintain that device to make something better for my enterprise if I know this. So many of the clients we work with can pay for the experimentation of an IoT system just by savings they get being able to change that equation.
The second pattern that we see is people talking to their clients. So many companies actually don’t really connect directly with their clients. They make devices, they put them into distribution channels, distribution channels, and then a retailer sells it. The manufacturer is not working with the client, it’s the retailer that actually talks to the client about the plus and minus of that particular product being sold. So with a connected device, the customer hooks it up and the manufacturer now has a direct connection for the first time and that’s a huge advantage.
And then there’s a third area, just fundamentally watching all this information about how your products are being used. So, for example, you can change your warranty, so instead of saying a warranty is 36,000 miles for three years, you can have a warranty that says, if you drive your car into these cities and these geographies your warranty as this long. Or if you drive your car in these cities and these geographies, or if the car is exposed to salt and snow, you’d really re-invent your business and the service that you sell at the same time.
RW: Do warranties even exist in five years? I mean if you’re building predictive models then you can sell products not as assets, but one with use case scenarios. If I’m selling tires and I had this information of where you live and whether there’s salt on the road and whether it’s at altitude, maybe I sell this product as a service and the idea of a warranty goes away.