Don't try to be Google, Apple or Amazon. Be a smart follower
When you need new revenue for your company, chances are that you don’t have the resources to go head-to-head with the giants in your industry. But often the innovators are opening up new needs. Follow in their tracks and pick up the cherries they leave behind. Here are some examples and ideas to learn from:
A. Self-driving electric vehicles (= new problems)
When robotic vehicles start to roam the streets, they won’t be able to rely solely on road signage designed for the human eye. Instead, sensors and computers will need to communicate with the infrastructure around them – like smart road tiles that broadcast information (e.g. Smartgrains: “Parking is available here!” or “Watch out, there’s a biker coming up!”). New insurance policies will need to be written. (Who is responsible when an assisted/connected car crashes into your house? Who recycles electric car batteries? And so on…). When the big boys set the playing field, it’s best to understand the new rules and join their game.
B. Wearable health devices and iWhatever (= new problems)
The more devices we wear, the more personal data we track, and the more consumers will need software tools to make sense of all these metrics. When your workforce brings these devices to work, use them to your advantage. Drop time tracking and change to behaviour monitoring. Several HR consultancies will launch new KPI’s and training modules based on the activity and health trackers that people already wear. What about back-up services to manage the vast amount of data that a family creates? (e.g. Lifelogger Narrative that we’ve already tried out generates gigs of captured moments in a year!)
C. Internet of things at home (= new problems)
When your house and family start to collect more networked devices than the average SME in the ’90s, you’ll probably need an IT department at home. Ok, so maybe you don’t want to install a collection of black-shirted geeks to play Warcraft in your garage. Instead, a decent software solution will do. New players like Building OS are ahead of this trend and exploring new ways to mange your home needs. Another player (way) ahead of its time was GeekAngel.com which offered on-demand IT support, paid by the minute. Although the latter failed, the future needs are very real. I already faced issues when my connected thermostat Tado (like Nest) crashed and heated my house to 30 degrees while I was 6000km away. Or that time when our connected light bulb (Lifx) couldn’t switch from bright green to the normal white unless I updated my iPhone app. Such issues will become more and more common and families will need some back-up.
Try it yourself
Try this exercise alone or with your innovation team. Pick three new (over-hyped) technology trends and look for the adjacent needs that could emerge. While most tech blogs would focus on the consumer end of the spectrum, there is often unexplored territory on the B2B side. Who or what will support tomorrow’s infrastructure? It could be your company. Think about it.