In the MobileM2M white paper “Measure the Gap: The Gap between what’s available and what you need”, we discussed the importance of discovering & documenting your functional requirements. We suggested that it’s worth considering that your business has enjoyed a level of success because you’re doing something different than your competitors; be it better, cheaper, faster, whatever; and that any technology investments need to complement and further the unique aspects of your business that make you better than or create barriers to your competition. We recommended that you move forward with off-the-shelf M2M solutions AFTER you’ve completed the requirements due diligence exercise and you can see that the solution will deliver the desired business impact.
When the off-the-shelf M2M solution proposals “miss the mark”, what should you do?
- Don’t settle for what’s available
- Keep refining your functional requirements
- Hypothesize and experiment – in short, innovate.
It’s possible that you’ve been so focused on your business that you haven’t kept up with the growing maturity of the global DIY Makers Market and Makers Culture with its philosophical emphasis of learning-through-doing in a social environment. The social environment is an innovation catalyst because of open source software and freely shared design files. Tools and technology become increasingly affordable and accessible and the hurdles to creating are disappearing. It’s happening in garages, basements, and workshops, and if you have over 20 employees under 30 years old, odds are you’ve got a couple of tinkers in the group.
If you have the resources of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, you could create a dedicated skunk works organization focused on fast-track innovative projects. The group was isolated to keep their work from becoming a distraction to the rest of the company. So odds are you don’t have the resources to dedicate to research and special projects, but the DYI phenomena has availed a toolbox of powerful platforms to enable M2M / IoT solutions. Tons of open source hardware and software enable rapid prototyping with very little inventing. Concept to prototype involves more integration than development.. If you can find the people with the aptitude in your organization and encourage them to explore the available platforms, sensors, and development software (while not forgetting that their day job is what’s paying the bills), you can start to benefit from this creative potential. Simply attending a Maker Faire and subscribing to Maker Magazine is probably all you need to do the get the creative juices flowing.
To be clear, you’re not going to end up with a hardened deployable M2M solution, but you may very well end up with functioning prototype that can validate some of your assumptions about how a solution might impact your business. Answers to questions like:
- What’s it worth to the pest exterminator to know when an animal trap is triggered?
- What’s the value to the restaurateur to know when to order more Co2 or soda fountain supplies?
- What’s the value to the owner of unattended car washes to know when to order more soap & supplies?
- What’s it worth to the maintenance manager to know when filters are clogging?
- What’s it worth to a chemical distribution company to know what customers have empty chemical totes and where they are?
- What’s it worth for a trash collection company to know when dumpsters & compactors under contract are getting full?
Lastly, the fringe benefit: a group of happy employees. Not every job is particularly interesting or challenging, and sometimes its contribution to the company’s overall success is tenuous at best. Fostering a DYI group isn’t a big investment since most of the work is done on their own time, but the payback could take the form of reduced employee attrition, increased dedication to the company, and maybe a proof of concept M2M solution that can give clues to the questions asked above and lead the company down a new path of services or profitability.