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The IoT: What's Your Value Prop?

I've Seen a Wondrous App. I Love It. But Is it Valuable?

As we approach the final weeks before @thingsexpo, I'm reminded that all good things in IT eventually must be corralled by, you know, the IT department. The IoT will be no exception.

In fact, given that the IoT will be driven primarily by sensors means by definition that IoT strategies won't be flying under the radar the way the original PC revolution did and much of today's mobile-driven BYOD phenomenon has been.

Mobile devices will be drivers and beneficiaries of IoT applications as well, but always as a function of what enterprises are planning, whether the mobile device is being used as a business or consumer device.

So it's time to start thinking about how one goes about planning for the IoT, whether there is such a thing as an "IoT Strategy" or just IoT applications, and what value the IoT will add to an organization.

This last point confounds me a bit, and I'll explain why.

I'll start by saying that when I speak of adding value, I'm not speaking of ROI. I've never been a big fan of ROI calculations when it comes to technology, because I've seen far too many ROI scenarios and justifications simply ginned up to justify an expenditure that someone wanted to make. Overall, we can be sure that technology improves productivity, and productivity is the key way to improve economic performance on a national and global scale. On an enterprise scale, harder to measure, in my view.

Talkin' Baseball
So, speaking of adding value, I'll describe something cool I just saw on ESPN's website. For those who are not into sports, bear with me, this is not a sports analogy. It is, instead, a simple but marvelous online app that measures home runs in major-league baseball.

I'm a baseball fan and the San Francisco Giants my lifelong team. Last night, one of their players hit a very long home run, which measured in at 449 feet according to the ESPN tracker.

Now, this tracker has been around for awhile, but as of the current day has evolved into a marvel of telemetry gathering and visualization. The speed of the ball, its height and arc, and in how many major-league parks it would have been a home run are all provided. There is a visualization, and a link to original video. Once in the app, I can look at all the other home runs being his this season, and there's prior-season data as well.

It's a wondrous development if you're a baseball nut.

What's the Value Prop?
But what value does it add to ESPN? What value does it add to major-league baseball? Will it make fanatics such as myself hang out on ESPN more? Sure, and I'm also sure ESPN has sophisticated traffic numbers to prove this.

But given the extremely low clickthrough rates upon which Web advertising is based, how many clicks and how much revenue can this app generate? And my guess is this app is of absolutely no interest whatsoever to casual baseball fans, let alone those folks who aren't interestesd in the sport.

I also suppose that the development of this app was not enormously difficult - someone please correct me if I'm wrong - and that the dataflows associated with it are not a burden given the present state of processing and bandwidth costs.

I consider this to be an IoT application. Sensors picked up on the baseball's flight. No sensors, no applications. The IoT is in the house!

This leads to the question of what percentage of IoT apps will be like this? What percentage will be low-cost, really cool to a selected audience, but not anything that I would remotely think of mission-critical?

This is not a criticism. I'm very happy to have lived long enough to see this. But I'm curious. How many people out there are working on stuff like this? And how do you justify it? In the long term, when our entire world is telemetrized and integrated in this fashion, how much productivity and economic progress will the world have made?

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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