Big Data Can Wait

It seems like every other article I read about the Internet of Things lately is about Big Data. You hear about billions of devices and exabytes of data. How are we going to store it? Report on it? Secure it? But most of all how are we going to analyze it to unlock the secret profit level that is apparently buried inside of all those magical ones and zeros? As we turn the calendar over to 2017 I honestly think the answer needs to be “Who cares? Let’s just make useful stuff first”.

I know all of the marketers and sales people out there are just chomping at the bit to break into the enormous gold mine the Internet of Things promises to be. But here’s a little inside tip. You’re never going to get that big data and those big dollars if you can’t make products that are actually useful to consumers. A crappy device with an internet or bluetooth connection is still just a crappy device.

It’s utterly shocking to see how many devices require internet access even when it’s not central to it’s operating purpose.

I honestly believe these scenarios exist because product makers are so concerned about getting that big data that they somehow forget to make a product that doesn’t suck.

The most frustrating part about all of this is that you can always throw the big data in later. In most IoT devices you are one over-the-air (OTA) update away from being able to add some form of data collection to your product. That’s easy. What’s not easy is fixing a product that was fundamentally flawed before it even shipped.

Let’s Focus on the Things First

I’m pleading with product makers to make a simple New Year’s resolution for 2017. “I will make products that are actually great for my customers, not just my business.” I promise it will lead to better results. To do that I believe a few simple, guiding questions can be useful in the early ideation stages of product development.

  • If my product is an IoT-ified version of an existing thing is it easier to use, cheaper, or significantly faster than the “old, boring” version?
  • Will my product still achieve it’s primary purpose if a web api goes down? The internet goes down? The local network goes down?
  • Does cloud connectivity really improve the customer experience or is it for our own commercial purposes? If I told the answer to a customer would they understand me and be ok with it?

If you answered “No” to any one of these questions then please stop and reconsider. The future of your business may depend on it.

All that big data isn’t going anywhere and it just doesn’t make sense to inconvenience millions of consumers trying to get it right now with your steaming pile of crap product. We can and should do better. Promise me you will.

This article was originally published on my Medium account.