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Value Creation in the Era of Smart, Connected Products

In 2012, for the first time, the number of devices connected to the Internet surpassed the total number of humans on the planet. By the end of the decade, predictions call for as many as 50 billion smart, connected devices.


The proliferation and stitching together of these intelligent machines, sensors, tools and controls into vast, interconnected webs has given rise to the buzz phrase, “Internet of Things” (IoT)—and to the sense that this new world affords great opportunities, if only we can grasp how, exactly, to seize them.

“We can connect factories to the Internet and [use those connections] to monitor, control, optimize and automate them and so forth,” James (Jim) Heppelmann, president and CEO of PTC, told CEO participants in a roundtable discussion cosponsored by Chief Executive and PTC. “But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. That is, it doesn’t mean there’s a real economic value associated with doing [these things].”

“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. That is, it doesn’t mean there’s a real economic value associated with doing [these things].”

Clearly, however, there can be. As with most technological advances, the trick will be to be strategic about how we harness the power of these capabilities. (For details on making the most of IoT opportunities, see sidebar, this page.) Manufacturers, in particular, can benefit greatly from the ability to collect data from products, product systems and other “things” connected to a computing infrastructure to control, service and upgrade the production process, as well as to drive better decision-making and expand innovation.

At John Deere, for example, WorkSight technology connects the company’s equipment to monitoring dashboards that enable managers to see where their vehicles are, evaluate their performance and
diagnose potential issues in real-time so that—in theory—failing parts can be replaced before the machinery even breaks down.

The company has now turned those capabilities into a new business offering called FarmSight, which does the same thing for farmers and more, enabling them to access real-time data from both their equipment and their fields.

About Jennifer Pellet

As editor-at-large at Chief Executive magazine, Jennifer Pellet writes feature stories and CEO roundtable coverage and also edits various sections of the publication.