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The Internet of Everything is here

At the beginning of a new year it is customary to size up the past year and look forward to what awaits. In the technology space, a lot of the hype in 2014 was around cloud computing, Apple’s new offerings, and the Internet of Things. To those unfamiliar with the term, the Internet of Things is simply the name given when smart devices are built into ordinary objects, such as clothing, so that the embedded devices can provide data back and forth from the cloud. This transfer of data enable insights and determines actions. While cars have had this type of technology for a while, this year gave us smart watches, connected toothbrushes, contact lenses, and tennis rackets. You no longer need to go to a tennis clinic to have your swing analyzed, just purchase a connected device and plug into the cloud.

The expansion of the Internet of Things is part of the growth of the 3rd technology platform which includes: mobile, social, and big data. What differentiates the 3rd platform from other technology innovations is that much of it is consumer driven, bubbling up from innovators or industry specific applications. The large technology companies are playing in this space, but so are the weekend only developers and the Fortune 500. The massive expansion projected in this space will continue to transform  communications, commerce, organizations, and it will enable social business to enter the mainstream.

According to Frank Gens, Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst at IDC, this expansion of the 3rd platform will lead to the reinvention of business. Companies will use the 3rd platform to reach new customers, create new offerings, and develop new ecosystems. He predicts that either companies will use the 3rd platform to reinvent themselves or new players will enter those industries with disruptive new plays and change the game. He points out that the value is migrating up to industry specific clouds and that each business will need to figure out the solutions that will drive success in their industry.

While we do not know yet what the next killer apps will be, it is clear that organizational success will be tied to a culture of speed in development, reinvention and an ability to provide the kind of products, services and customer experiences that the market demands. Organizations need to understand that value is migrating and develop the right strategies to anticipate where it is going and how they can capture it. They also need to have sensing mechanisms so that they can understand rapidly changing customer wants, needs, expectations, and competitive offerings.

While the 3rd platform is upon us, the 4th platform has started to arrive as well. This platform, according to Gens, can be summed up as Digitize and Materialize. While the first 3 technology platforms made money by digitizing the physical world, in the 4th platform the door swings the other way. This takes digital information and materializes it in the real world. The 4th platform includes artificial intelligence, deep computing, 3D printing, and synthetic biology. It has computers that give suggestions and program themselves as well as self-driving cars. Essentially, there will be devices that can take a digital blueprint and create new things. It is the Star Trek replicator made real.

The implications of these new technologies are that the shifts we have seen in recent years, driven by social media platforms, cloud applications, mobile and Internet technologies, are just a prelude for even greater changes. Whether you are in a functional area, such marketing, sales, development, or a business leadership role, it is important that you understand the implications of this for your business and start to make the necessary changes. How you and your business engage with your customers, capture/analyze vast amounts of data, and utilize cloud platforms will continue to be critical as there are disruptive new players waiting to enter and unseat existing leaders. While we are still years away from having the technology of the Starship Enterprise, the future has arrived. Are you and your business ready for 2015?!

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