Looking ahead: According to history, which companies are currently riding the next innovation wave?

In the last blog post we discussed previous waves of innovation and what we can learn from them. Now, we look to the future, and ask ourselves: What is the next innovation wave, and who will lead it?

The Third Wave of Computing – The Internet of Things

In recent years, the term ‘Third Wave of Innovation’ has seen increasing use in tech and innovation circles. It is now cited by many leading experts as the future of tech and innovation. The Third Wave, as AOL founder Steve Case argues in his book, ‘The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future’, is a logical following of the First and Second Waves. As Case wrote in the 2016 Kauffman Foundation Report: ‘We are entering a new chapter in the history of the economy (…) The biggest industries in the world that most affect our daily lives will finally be disrupted as entrepreneurs are finally able to leverage the internet-of-everything: Healthcare, Education, Food, Transportation, and Energy.’ Others have described this shift in slightly different terms. The WEF suggested we are entering ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, and IBM’s CEO – Ginny Rometty – last year declared that we are now entering ‘The Third Wave of Computing’.

Terminology aside, however, there is a consensus developing that we are on the cusp of a significant technological shift. Moreover, this shift could redefine the notion of work, displace entire industries and empower entrepreneurship like never before.

  • The First Wave, say experts, saw companies such as AOL lay the foundations for future waves of innovation by connecting the masses to the internet.
  • The Second consisted of companies like Google, Facebook and Snapchat building on top of these existing structures to create new search and networking capabilities.
  • The Third Wave is set to be far more transformative and all-encompassing. Instead of simply connecting individuals to the internet or using the internet to connect individuals, the Third Wave will connect more ‘things’. Eventually we may see ‘The Internet of Everything’.

Essentially the Third Wave is about taking developing technology and internet connectivity and applying it to every day things. In the process it will transform our daily lives from our classrooms to our kitchens, surgery rooms and automobiles. “The Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives”, summarises Case. “How we learn, how we heal, how we manage our finances, how we get around, how we work, even what we eat”.
So, if the Third Wave is so powerful, who is currently riding it, and how exactly are they doing it? 

Wave-Rider 1:
Bosch – Leveraging the enablers of IoT

In the previous post we highlighted that you can only see its true potential, if you implement an idea. Otherwise you could be the next Nokia or Blockbuster.

Bosch is applying this mantra to the Third Wave by making a strong commitment to The Internet of Things quite early: In 2013 it established Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH, a company dedicated to ‘the internet of things and services’. It supplies ‘compact electronic products and software expertise designed to make devices and objects intelligent and web-enabled across a broad range of applications.’

Back then, the company’s chairman, Dr. Denner, stated that ‘From vehicles and smart phones to containers and machines – by 2015 more than six billion things will be connected to the internet. Entirely new services will emerge that will transform people’s everyday lives and open up huge new business opportunities. These services will rely on the smart networking of devices within wider systems’.

Bosch wants to take a leading role in this transformation by ensuring that all its latest products are connected to the IoT. As the leading supplier of sensors, it is in a prime position to do this, just as Blockbuster was in a prime position to pivot into the video-streaming market. Other than Blockbuster or Nokia however, Bosch actually took the calculated risk and actively implements ideas instead of waiting until other competitors do so.

Additionally Bosch plans to not only become the key producer of IoT-ready products, but is also developing its own cloud dedicated to the IoT, the Bosch IoT Suite, which leads us to our next lesson: collaborate to innovate! Instead of deploying their services themselves and building up an entirely own server structure, Bosch leveraged the existing Cloud structures by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to speed up the deployment of their IoT offers.

Wave-Rider 2:
Amazon  – Leading the IoT Cloud

Amazon is currently the biggest cloud provider, a significant advantage to hold as clouds are set to be central to operation of the IoT. AWS’ cloud is capable of storing huge amounts of data and their programmes can intelligently analyse this data to gain useful insight.

As AWS states, ‘Although things, Internet, and connectivity are the three core components of IoT, the value is in closing the gap between the physical and digital world in self-reinforcing and self-improving systems.’ Enabling products to self-learn with these new software capabilities is pivotal to achieving this and could make AWS a true leader of the Third Wave.

AWS is also constantly seeking to apply its new innovations as soon as possible to existing technology and consistently recruits new clients to its cloud service; acknowledging that implementation is key if innovation is to have any real value.
Want the proof? Instead of becoming a huge ecommerce giant, which develops its enabling technologies only for their own usage, Amazon quickly saw the advantage of opening up its services to external companies, as it forces them to steadily implement new ideas to stay on top of the market…for external customers, as well as their own internal processes.

Wave-Rider 3:
Salesforce – Using collaboration to build an IoT Cloud

Salesforce is also developing its own IoT cloud technology and is doing so by harnessing the power of collaboration in the digital age. With ‘Thunder’ Salesforce aims at collecting information from various IoT devices all over the world, to help companies to make better marketing and sales proposals to potential customers.

In 2015 it announced that its ‘Thunder’ IoT cloud was to be built on four key open source big data platforms. By making the software modifiable and sharable it was able to roll out Thunder faster than competitors at a pivotal point of technological change and innovation. As Adam Bosworth, Exec. Vice President of Salesforce stated: „We didn’t have to write logic to get the data to the Service Cloud. We just had to get the right objects inside of the Service Cloud. If we had to write the user engagement side the project would have taken another two years.“”

By using a collaborative approach it was able to roll out software as quickly as possible, jumping on the Third Wave quicker than its competitors and establishing itself as a new leader of this wave.

Of course these three companies are only examples and maybe not the obvious usual suspects, which you wold expect to read about. However if you are thinking about how your company can ridge the current innovation wave keep in mind that you should…

  1. …not only discuss, but actually implement ideas. Only then you can see their real potential.
  2. …take a look, which public initiatives are currently being driven by the government.
  3. …not do everything on your own, but collaborate with partners or even former competitors.
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