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Honey, they "shrunk" the hardware, and have put that in a "connected box"

I recently bought one of those miniature personal fitness monitors (wearable device) and it inspired me to write this blog (the original purpose has still not been served i.e. no impact yet on fitness). The title captures three key trends that are happening in the hi-tech industry - miniaturization, commoditization and connectedness that is having a cross industry impact. These three trends are having a significant impact on consumer expectations, behavior and experience as well. 
Let's talk a bit about each of these trends:

  1. Hardware miniaturization: Moore's law, "more with less" has pushed this trend over the last few decades. The technology advances have made hardware platforms really small and there's more computing power and memory capabilities that are available in the platform. What does this mean to the consumer - you can wear them, use them as glasses, carry them around wherever you go
  2. Hardware commoditization: In addition to miniaturization, there's commoditization that is happening quite rapidly. Technology companies and industries are leveraging this commoditization to innovate in other areas for instance on software differentiation. This has kicked off the trend of buying "white box" inexpensive hardware and building own gear. This is a great article on how some companies are adopting this trend -
  3. Connectedness: The whole M2M segment is exploding; every device or piece of hardware is "connected" and is either generating or consuming data. This trend is influencing innovative services being offered to end consumers through software differentiation (what I would like to call as "App"ification)
So, what do these trends mean? These trends play a significant role in influencing customer expectations and have wide reaching applications from an industry perspective.

  1. Customer expectations
The explosion of information availability, through an anytime, anywhere access has n-tupled the customer expectations. Online is now taken for granted and netizens have graduated and increased their expectations for the other channels. There are three broad areas which I believe are being significantly impacted:

  • One click consistent, personalized and contextual information availability: The one click here is a metaphor for instant access. Consumers now want information anytime, anywhere and real time visibility into the supply chain. A couple of instances to elaborate this further - start, execute and finish a transaction in different form factors at different points in time but expect continuity in context. Furthermore, the customer service support has to be able to leverage information about this journey and provide contextual and pertinent support
  • Get involved in product development: A decade ago, the fad was to let customers choose product attributes and configure it themselves i.e. Made to Order. This has now taken the next leap with P&G and other companies involving consumers in the product conceptualization journey. It helps in getting early adopters part of the development life cycle itself
  • Immersive experience expectation: With a manifold increase in complexity, information availability - one thing that still dictates the application of technology is the whole experience factor. There is lot of literature that tries to dissect this domain and provide recommendations on the "why", "what", "how" and "when". In my opinion, it boils down to simplicity, intuitiveness and a natural extension of the context in which the operation is being performed. For instance - can a app detect that I am in a public space and enforce stringent security requirements different from when I am working from home.

2.    Industry perspective
Most industries be it healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, life sciences are adapting their business processes to embrace these technology trends. There is tremendous value addition on the revenue side and similarly decreasing costs. Let us now take a look at how these technology trends have an impact on the industry
  • Agility in product development: The ability for customers to be intimately involved in product conceptualization and rapid technology evolution mandates enterprise to innovate and speed up their product development methodologies and processes. Traditional long drawn processes are being challenged and nimbleness is a competitive differentiator 
  • Autonomous processes, systems: The miniaturization and connectedness of devices/sensors can help in redefining processes and systems to leverage real time data. This also means that industries have to redesign their systems and the boundaries between physical data, systems and information will become blurred.
  • Enhanced decision making: Data about the supply chain, support process and operations is exploding along with increased frequency, accuracy, volume and structure. Big data as it is popularly referred to and the analytics will improve the process and decision quality. Decisions can be more predictable, accurate and strategic in nature.
  • Services powered by software: A corollary to the appification trend is the services driven economy driven by software differentiation. Over the last decade and a half, there's a clear shift-right of the value that's being witnessed. App stores, social media, mobile are the digital touch points that have become the focus of innovation and channel to stay connected with the consumer. Many industries are embracing the software differentiation route and collaborating to extend value to their consumers
I really think we are going to witness the continued explosion of "Internet Of Things" as a trend and when coupled with SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) technologies the combined effect is going to be exponential. These are exciting times for consumer to continue expecting the technology to mature and provide them benefits.

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