The electronics industry has shaped the way we live and work for generations, laying the foundation for powerful waves of innovation, from radios to robotics to medical imaging. And the industry continues to drive innovation today fostering technology adoption, from personal computers to mobile phones.
But ironically, the electronics industry itself has been slow to take advantage of the remarkable potential its own products enable. Instead new players from outside the traditional electronics industry are entering the market. Service-oriented companies, software providers and even big-box retailers are developing alliances with fast-moving, forward-thinking startups. They are already building a more connected electronics industry. And they are doing this by combining smarter products with new services.
Change does not come easily to electronics manufacturers. For many decades these companies have made a living designing, manufacturing, and shipping standalone products into the channel. They did not have end–user relationships. They did not do customer service.
Part of my job involves helping electronics manufacturers realize they must abandon old ways of doing business in order to meet these challenges. They must shift from manufacturing products to delivering products and services that leverage the Internet to collect and analyze data and create new value. They need to foster new and direct relationships with their customers. And most importantly, they must recognize that every electronic device, whether it lives in an office, a living room, a car or a factory floor, can be a node in a network. We call this the broader ecosystem an “Internet of things,” and it represents a platform for the development and delivery of services that will significantly advance the electronics industry.
This process starts with more sophisticated software in the products themselves. For example, two thirds of all products developed in the past year included some kind of embedded information technology – infusing computing power into things we would never think of as computers, such as phones, cars and household appliances.
This built-in intelligence gives electronic devices extraordinary new capabilities. It means they can detect, diagnose, and debug problems at any stage during the product’s lifecycle, from the design and testing phase through to the end market. But the advantages go beyond improving customer satisfaction; these capabilities can actually speed a product’s time to market by creating new efficiencies during the development and testing cycle. And with this embedded intelligence these devices can also be optimized – lowering energy consumption and costs for the end users and service providers.
The “Internet of things” has many powerful implications. It makes the case for open standards, which are crucial if we are to design environments of connected devices in a home, car, hospital or factory floor. And it also places new importance on collaboration throughout the industry, because makers of previously unrelated electronic devices will need to break down barriers and develop products that can communicate with each other.
The time to transition the electronics industry into a smart system is now. The demand is strong. The products are maturing. And the technology to tie it all together is available. Just think of all the innovations yet to come as electronics manufacturers start connecting the dots between disparate devices and developing exciting new services as they proceed on the path to a smarter electronics industry.
– Bruce Anderson, General Manager, IBM Global Electronics Industry