Internet of Things may make owning less appealing

Sensors and remote capabilities may turn physical products into services, especially for business

BOSTON -- At an Internet of Things (IoT) conference here, people are well beyond thinking about sensors and analytics. They are considering what happens once these tools are a part of every product sold. The implications are, potentially, huge.

A business is no longer selling a stand-alone product. There is a very good chance that the device leaving a factory will be remotely controlled, monitored, updated and maintained using remote management tools, sensors and predictive analytics that continually collect device data that can identify problems before they happen.

What companies are actually selling is a service. Think Zipcars or even Adobe's decision to move to its Creative Cloud subscription model for a read on this trend.

The technological capabilities of the IoT "is the basis" for a shift to physical products as a service, said David Sherburne, the research director and CTO of application development at medical device maker Carestream Health. His company sells a laser printer used in medical imaging as a service.

No customer wants to call a help desk, Sherburne said. They want vendors that use predictive analytics to avert problems and that continually monitor the product to keep it maintained and supplied. "Good proactive service drives loyalty," he said.

Sherburne was at the Axeda Connexion conference, a company that provides a platform for managing machine-to-machine and Internet of Things applications. There were 600 people at the conference, 25% more than last year and an indication, said Axeda CEO Todd DeSisto, that "connected products have become part of a corporate strategy."

Axeda announced this week that customers could now integrate with Salesforce Sales and Service Cloud, which means the use and status of support needs of connected devices are available on those platforms, which some Axeda customers were already doing on their own.

Peter Coffee, vice president for strategic research at Salesforce, also believes that the IoT will help move businesses away from an equipment ownership model as device vendors develop the means to better monitor and control what they sell.

Every business, "wishes it could avoid having things on its balance sheet that aren't generating value all the time," Coffee said. Many businesses rent equipment, but what the IoT may do is expand the idea and provide more reason not to own, he said. Many of the businesses adopting IoT technologies are in the medical device area, where any downtime can translate into a real patient issues.

For the broader business market, IoT adoption is still in its early days, said Al Velosa, research director at Gartner, who spoke at the conference. "We're at the beginning of it," he said.

But Velosa urged businesses to experiment with IoT technologies, and compared the current market to where the PC was 40 years ago. "Start thinking about the opportunities for your business," he said.

This article, Internet of Things may make owning less appealing, was originally published at

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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