Recently I came across Microsoft’s offering of Machine Learning-as-a-service and I had to ask myself, “What will not become a service in the future?” Then again later today I read this quote from futurist Marcell Bullinga “The key to the future is not ownership, but access.” With the advent of the sharing economy or the bartering revolution, nearly everything is becoming a service: from flight time to drive time, from processes to platforms or from software to hardware.
It is the evolution of business models from physical goods to the outcome those physically goods would ordinarily be used to create—immensely beneficial to the customer and immensely challenging for businesses to think through how to adapt to this emerging economic shift.
But what is driving this push towards service? Arguably companies finally understanding that what customers want is the outcome and not the good itself—certainly exceptions exist and particularly when it comes to sentimental goods (probably not a good idea to find a wedding band-as-a-service, for example). Just as importantly though there is also the rapidly expanding pervasiveness of the internet that is functioning as an enabler by providing information on the usage and performance of all those things that are delivering the desired service.
Tracking this evolution of what Kevin Ashton termed “The Internet of Things” has been an interesting unfolding. The concept of machine-to-machine communications has existed in the manufacturing environment for decades—arguably where the Internet of Things was born. What is interesting is how consumer-facing technology is now driving technological advancement that feeds back into the industrial environment. I am not saying that you are going to see an injection molding machine wearing a FitBit any time soon, but you might find one equipped with a sensor developed for a smart phone—or even a smart phone itself.
Ironically, the Internet of Things is going to deliver the ability for individuals to potentially largely do away with things (or at leastthe ownership of them) in exchange for a consumption model that can be summed up as Everything-as-a-Service.
Whether or not this perhaps far-fetched reality of everything-as-a-service really comes to fruition, it is clear that the Internet of Things is and will continue to drive fundamental changes in the way businesses and individuals go about their daily lives.