The third wave of the internet is coming and to an extent it is already here. While not everyone – or everything – is on board yet, we are getting there faster than you may think. The third wave of the Internet will radically change how businesses compete and cooperate. The first wave was the initial internet release, via the desktop computer which connected much of the world to the Internet. Then, in the second wave, mobile devices revolutionized the Internet with access anywhere, anytime, on a variety of platforms.
Now, the third wave is here: the Internet of Things, the almost sci-fi vision of a future when ordinary people will unlock their doors with a voice-activated command on their cell phones. Once inside their temperature and climate controlled homes, they will listen to their favorite music or watch their favorite program while their smart phone helps them with their tasks of the day. The impact on business will be felt in many ways on many levels, but here are five we think will stand out:
- Operating Efficiency – Smart devices mean automating many tasks a person would previously have had to perform, freeing them to do other work. For example, much of the work on a typical factory floor requires little thought and a good deal of repetition. Smart devices can now perform more detailed, more intelligent commands, making factories leaner and more efficient and products cheaper to produce.
- How businesses monitor and conduct their operations – In the past, automated machinery has been mindless and unintelligent, unaware of its mistakes and its work. Today’s network-connected, intelligent machines are more accurate and more detailed, allowing businesses to send complex instructions and acquire complex data from places and situations where human beings would not be able to go.
- What it means to be a tech expert – Yes, will be always be necessary to have experts in computer engineering. However, thinking machines will also – and even more essentially – require experts in the field where they will be used. While the tech expert of the past was likely someone with a degree in computer science and years of expertise working with complex IT systems, in the future a tech expert is likely to be a hospital administrator or a food manufacturer. In order for machines to get smarter, the people who help program them must also be smarter – not simply at computer languages but at the work that needs to be done by those computers.
- Consumer expectations – Even now, we can see the shift happening, for example in automobiles which start upon command and park themselves in tight corners. You can look at big-ticket items like refrigerators which keep track of what groceries you have and need, or at smaller ones like networked speakers placed throughout the house so people can listen to different kinds of music depending on where they are or what they’re doing, all at the push of a button. You know something is happening when consumer tech giants like Amazon.com are carefully plugging their own devices into this niche.
- Network communications – Last but not least, as seen in the massive Internet outage of October 2016, smart machines are here – and they are a powerful force for good or ill. In the past, the spider-like tendrils of smart machines were used to take down much of the Internet. In the future, these same spider-like tendrils will revolutionize how businesses talk and communicate with one another. Smart machines are ready to communicate in order to get the right package to the right consumer at the right time, in order to share important business data, and more.
Does all of this sound strange? Well, the Internet sounded strange once too.