From Egosystem to Ecosystem? The 4 Ingredients to Unlock the Full Potential of IoT

Barbara Humpton and Daniel Felicio
Barbara Humpton and Daniel Felicio
February 2, 2021
8 minutes
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The last decade was about connecting the consumer world. This decade is about connecting infrastructure and industry to the Internet of Things (IoT)—and the pandemic has only accelerated this trend.

So, at the Web Summit 2020 in December we brought together eight leaders across the private sector, government, and academia. We then asked: How we can unlock the full potential of the IoT to transform infrastructure, industry, and society?

And one takeaway was clear: No one's company can develop and offer these end-to-end solutions on its own. We will need to reassess longstanding ways of thinking and redefine competition. The pandemic, in particular, has demonstrated the value of working together as part of an IoT ecosystem – not an egosystem – tapping into the full range of expertise and perspectives to solve problems and innovate new solutions.

Here are four key elements to building the connected world that emerged during our discussion.

1. Collaboration: If you want to go far, go together

Collaboration isn’t just necessary to building the IoT—it's an accelerator. That’s because no one person or company is an expert at everything. Creating the new systems and developing the new markets for the IoT ecosystem will require a lot of collaboration between companies and organizations. The software developers need a data scientist who needs a marketing communications expert, and so on. The IoT is going to involve tons of R&D, coding, hardware, intellectual property expertise, and communications at a new scale. That assembling of talent and intelligence will make things move faster.

This does not mean an end to competition. The IoT ecosystem will need that, too: innovation will be the name of the game. But we must move beyond the old models of competition to a much more integrated practice of collaboration and cooperation. Most, if not all, the companies with a major stake in developing the IoT will come to see collaboration as a core practice. Collaboration will also be inevitable as we realize the opportunity of using the IoT not just to create business value, but to keep the end-user in mind and solve shared societal challenges.

2. Diversity: Innovation thrives in a multi-culture

Moving from a total competition model to a new era of cooperation will rely greatly on a global diversity of thought, workforce, and leadership. Put simply, diversity sparks innovation—the overlap of multiple cultures, experiences, and backgrounds in the act of innovating is where the magic happens.

We’re already seeing that magic happens in engineering programs at universities and colleges across the world, where a new emphasis on multidisciplinary thinking, collaboration, and diversity is helping to accelerate innovation. Today’s young, diverse engineers are highly aware how technological advancements can exacerbate inequities, and they also know that the possibilities of the IoT ecosystem are endless and can transform every single aspect of modern society to create a more sustainable, secure and safe future.

3. Long-term view: Thinking through the tech

To be sure, business managers need to provide real, measurable results and value for shareholders and stakeholders—that’s the here and now. But as we consider how to build the IoT ecosystem, we realize that we must develop a combination of technologies that over the long term will bring about all kinds of changes at great scale, so we must think long term about how those technologies will work together, how they will adapt and evolve, and how they will change industry and society. 

Exponential technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), digital communications, quantum computing, and blockchain are becoming more and more integrated. This integration of technologies will play a critical role in the digital transformation of just about every legacy business we can think of and will create business synergies we don’t yet know. These combined technologies will also be central to decarbonization and reversing climate change. The IoT will allow us to integrate services, predictive maintenance, efficiency, and innovation that will deliver results for customers in ways that we need to plan for now. That’s why we need to plan for the long term and keep an eye on the big picture: the value of IoT to society.  Embracing open source technology and the power of ecosystems will help us tackle global challenges together.

4. Cultural change: The new source of value

If there’s one barrier to developing the IoT ecosystem, it’s the tendency in business to do things the way they’ve always been done. Breaking that barrier will require a cultural change in every business and organization, and it starts with leadership. Business leadership must be willing to revise business models, align their people on new key objectives, and accelerate toward new outcomes, with new ways of measuring success. This will generate value for customers, for the business and for societies.

Cultural change is also essential for companies to create the sales force, service managers, and engineering teams they will need to build their IoT ecosystem. Once they have such new teams in place, companies will quickly find out how much value they can create through transformation and how to tackle the global challenges.

And what brings all four of these elements to life? People and trust. People control the tech and navigate using the tech, and we will learn to trust ourselves and trust each other, knowing that we’re advancing IoT in the right way: replacing the egosystem with an ecosystem that, five, 10, and 20 years from now, will be a people-driven network expanding what’s humanly possible. If we do, we will be unlock the full potential of IoT both to our businesses and to advancement of a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world.

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Daniel Felicio
A customer-focused transformation leader, Daniel drives the digital transformation discussion for EMEA. Having spent more than 20 years with Siemens, Daniel was most recently CEO of Siemens Advanta Solutions.
Daniel Felicio
Head of Siemens Advanta EMEA
Barbara Humpton
Barbara Humpton
CEO. Siemens USA