The 'Internet of Things' Is Steering the On-Demand Economy. Want to Be a Part of It? Here are three ways that, as an entrepreneur, you can jump into the hot, hot IoT.
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Uber is the company everyone wants to be. It's the poster child for leveraging an internet-connected device to solve a unique problem. Uber couldn't have existed before smartphones became a widespread phenomen, of course. But today we can all hail a car with a swipe and a tap, thanks to dual internet connectivity and mobile GPS.
Smartphones were the first internet-connected devices, but they are far from the last. As the Internet of Things (IoT) evolves, these next-generation improvements will push on-demand businesses to explore hundreds of new possibilities.
The game-changer here? Data. Connected devices and their data make every on-demand business possible.
With smartphone features such as fingerprint scanning, barometers, accelerometers, light sensors and more, entrepreneurs have access to data they've never seen before. And as smartphones add more bells and whistles, companies have even more data points to build around.
Beyond sensory data from hardware, though, on-demand businesses can leverage a large quantity of stored data. Storing data around criteria like behavior, preferences and reliability allows companies to act more efficiently and optimize the user experience. For example, Uber wants to make sure users never have to type an address again.
Along with data, the IoT is improving internet connectivity and voice recognition to provide even better user experience. These devices are getting smarter on their own, as well as collectively.
A stand-alone voice recognition device is great by itself, but an Amazon Echo is even better. This device can access all the power of Amazon for tasks such as ordering groceries, playing music and restocking supplies -- using just the power of your voice. Other devices such as Cortana, Alexa and the new Google Home will make on-demand services available through the sound of a person's voice rather than at the touch of a button.
Innovation on demand
For today's entrepreneurs, all of these advances and countless data sources mean many more opportunities to innovate and win big. So, if you're an entrepreneur, here are a few ways to capitalize as the on-demand economy and IoT evolve:
1. Take advantage of predictive analytics.
Uber uses data to provide rides, but it also uses heat maps to analyze patterns and help drivers be in the right place at the right time. Predictive analytics allows fresh-food delivery services -- like Munchery and Sprig -- to monitor supplies and spot and respond to trends. None of these on-demand platforms would have been possible without the data we have today.
If you want to jump into the on-demand game, discern what problems you can solve using data. The most successful on-demand players connect these data points to provide a better, faster, more seamless user experience.
2. Spot a profitable niche.
Another great thing about data is that it no longer has to solve the huge issues. Entrepreneurs can now form companies to solve hyperspecific problems, with data to back it up. For example, Petnet helps manage the feeding of your four-legged friends. Its internet-connected food container dispenses portions at appropriate times and quantities for your pet.
One word of caution: Make sure the problem you are looking to solve is big enough to be applied across use cases, but never be afraid to go small in your niche.
3. Grab that low-hanging fruit.
Because the automation revolution is happening across the board, entrepreneurs with industry expertise can solve problems for specific verticals. Smart-lock maker August, for one, saw potential in another on-demand stalwart, Airbnb. Hosts can use internet-connected locks to coordinate keyless guest entry, remotely and without hassle. This solution was not possible a few years ago -- but the need wasn't there, either.
Keep streamlining and efficiency top of mind as you scout out your next target for automation. Whatever industry you work in, data and internet connectivity can probably improve a piece of it.
With connected devices and their data, Uber and other first-generation on-demand companies paved the way for the Internet of Things to revolutionize our lives. Now, it's up to today's entrepreneurs to innovate the innovators.