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Why you should apply rapid experimentation to your IoT projects

Something big is happening, and it is changing everything — how we interact with each other, our products and the companies around us. And it’s the data explosion and the internet of things. The hype is real, everything around us is being equipped with sensor technology that sends data to the cloud. By 2020 the world’s data will be doubled every two months.

The internet of things has become the new and shiny toy, so companies are naturally eager to make IoT part of their business in order to create new experiences for their employees, customers and partners. But it is important to emphasize the word “new” here. There is no shortage of impressive, potentially groundbreaking ideas out there, but the technologies are still very new and therefore the solutions are not well defined, requirements are loose and changing, and ideas are hard to prove.

With the lack of use cases already out there, it is hard for users and customers to even know what they want. This is why it is important to constantly experiment and get something into the market quickly without spending a lot of time and money. With this nascent market come uncertainty and the need to adapt quickly to changing conditions and transform your business in different ways.

For a business to adopt IoT it will mean creating entirely new services and business models. Let’s say you have an idea for a digital project that would create a new revenue stream, or a better way to engage with your customers that would differentiate your company. Because these ideas represent new and uncharted territory, turning them into value-driving applications requires frequent iteration and close collaboration between developers and the business.

Enable rapid experimentation

In order to adopt a process of development that allows for this rapid, low-cost experimentation, companies need to approach IoT projects with a willingness to fail often in order to figure out how to succeed sooner. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb with a brilliant eureka moment that all of a sudden got him to the right answer. Instead, he was an experimenter. In his eyes he thought, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

And Google, one of the most successful and innovative companies in the world, has a failure rate of 95% with the idea that you only need to succeed once in order to win. According to former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, “This is a company where it’s absolutely okay to try something that’s very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that.”

With that idea in mind, companies need the right set of tools and processes to foster this low-cost, high-value experimentation.

Some best practices for fostering rapid experimentation in your organization include:

  • Allocate time and resources for this type of experimentation to prove to your organization that this new approach can work, and then scale it widely as a new mindset.
  • Create cross-functional teams that include the business and IT. Bring together a person with an idea and someone with the technical aptitude to bring it to life.
  • Use visual, model-driven development in order to create a common language between business and IT to allow for faster experimentation and greater collaboration.
  • Create a feedback loop. It is important to have a mechanism to continuously capture feedback from users that you can take back into the process for continuous innovation.
  • Test a minimum viable product (MVP) early in the process to ensure the ability to change direction with minimal risk based on what you learn.

From idea to reality in just one week

A media and entertainment firm has adopted these practices to rapidly bring their ideas to market with an IoT app. The firm was faced with the challenge that many of their clients are forced to turn away attendees at the gate of their free events due to overcapacity without being able to take into consideration how many people left the venue. The firm had the idea to create a solution that would be able to leverage sensors in turnstiles to visualize attendee traffic in real time.

With constant ideation and experimentation, the firm was able to quickly make this idea a reality and present the results within a week of starting. Due to its new found collaboration between business and IT and its willingness to experiment and try again, the company was able to validate its idea quickly and continue to iterate and test frequently to evolve how it uses the incoming data, which has resulted in new business cases.

For example, the firm found that the data from these sensors could also be used to help clients understand how many people enter the venue to optimize how much food and beverages to provide the following night, and can ensure security by scanning for credentials to ensure that all event staff are legitimate.

The entertainment firm can now help clients optimize, secure and enhance the experience of its events.

Remember: It is important to get these ideas out there quickly in order to validate or invalidate them. Don’t get stuck in the “it must be perfect” mindset. Instead, build and deploy an MVP and continue to iterate with feedback from clients, customers, employees and partners to create the right new experiences.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.