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Digital Destination - The blog

Internet of things: real life digital applications can get you closer to your customers

18/06/2013

By Matteo Aliberti

Like any day, I was using my electric toothbrush today. I started thinking about that fact that it sends data to a digital clock to monitor correct usage time and gives alerts via a multicolored LED if I am applying too much pressure on my teeth. Wouldn't it be great if I could also monitor this information via a dedicated app on my smartphone and if I could have replacement heads automatically sent to me at home when I need them?

The term ‘internet of things’ has now become widely used in the digital revolution  through which we are living. Essentially it indicates the ability for objects to be connected to, and exchange data with, other sources via the internet. Applications are endless and we are only starting to see what the future will hold for us in this area.

To begin with, we should make clear that the number of products that can be connected is very diverse and continuously growing. They range from aircraft engines to refrigerators, meaning that the utilisation of the data that these products will feed is very different.

But… how can we get the most from this new technology?

One of the most interesting areas to explore is around helping customers use products correctly, securing their return on the investment. I am specifically referring here to a B2B scenario where data usage analysis can help in understanding what is happening with the product in its day-by-day usage and how this may differ from a more standard utilisation.

Two examples worth mentioning are in the medical device sector and in the aerospace industry. Think about a very expensive engine for a new airplane and about the possibility of collecting thousands of data points automatically. Then, imagine the possibility of sending this data to engineers worldwide, who will then analyse it and share their comments to evaluate conclusions. Think about the possibility for the engine manufacturer to read, in real time, the engine performance results and identify possible issues or anomalies. Again, the possibilities are endless, and the opportunities that can be generated from this technology too!

Looking at medical devices, another way of using the data feed is to evaluate how customers are using these machines.  Instant feedback and advice can be provided making sure the best possible service is provided to patients while offering, at the same time, immediate replacement of consumable parts.

In both cases a real-time understanding of the customer’s behaviour allows the adaptation of both the service and product to the customer’s benefit.

These examples are not futuristic stories but real applications that are happening right now. Companies like General Electric are installing chips into the new Boeing Dreamliner engine and Philips is doing the same with its range of life saving medical equipment.

It appears clear that the revolution in this field is well under way and the new collaborative way of working and sharing information will accelerate the impact and possibilities of this technology.

How would you take advantage of the opportunities that the internet of things brings to your company and help your customers achieve more?

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Over the last 15 years, we have seen the unstoppable rise of the digital business. These are those organisations, both old and new, that have seized the opportunities presented by social media, online services and the introduction of new devices and technology. While these businesses have thrived in the digitally connected world, others have struggled and failed to adapt.

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