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The economic renaissance led by the Internet of Things

Kenny MacIver — August 2014

Innovation designer Vito Di Bari sees the addition of online intelligence to billions of everyday objects as the catalyst for the next industrial revolution.

This next decade for IT is not going to be dominated by cloud computing, social media or mobile technology, but by the prospect of everyday objects becoming both smart and connected.

According to innovation designer Vito Di Bari, few people have begun to appreciate the likely impact this much-heralded Internet of Things will have across industry and society. “The real revolution with the Internet of Things is that we will have to reimagine every kind of product,” he outlines in our exclusive video interview. Indeed, the scale and pattern of change he foresees as being just as profound as during the last Industrial Revolution — if not more so.

A trigger for that last seismic shift was the invention of the electricity distribution system by Thomas Edison, he argues. That created new and universal demand for all kinds of new products that were enabled by electricity. “Nobody wanted a candle when they could have an electric light bulb, or an iron heated with embers when they could have an electric iron.”
End of idiot machines

We are now at that point again, he argues, and the impact will be just as dramatic, “because when we embed microchips into objects and make them intelligent, no one will want to have the dumb ones? Only idiots want idiot machines.”

Not many people appreciate the scale of what’s happening, he believes: “Almost every product, every service will have to be redesigned, re-engineered and resold, and as a result, we’re going toward a new economical renaissance — a new era that will be fantastic for companies, because it means vast opportunity but it will be phenomenal for people too because we’ll all have better things,” he predicts – the equivalent of moving from an analog phone to a smartphone.

“It’s a bit like Alexandre Dumas leaving D’Artagnan, his protagonist, out of the title of The Three Musketeers — we cannot leave people out of the definition of the Internet of Things.”

But just as the smartphone changed the day-to-day behavior of billions of people without them anticipating it, the Internet of Things will have a profound impact on how people interact with these (newly smart) objects — and that puts intense pressure on technologists, product designers, marketeers and others who decide how those objects and the processes around them are defined and implemented. “If we make products that people don’t understand or can’t to use, it’ll be our fault,” he says.

As such, Di Bari thinks the Internet of Things is far too narrow a term. “We should stop calling it the Internet of Things and call it the ‘Internet of Things and People.’” Forgetting the people element is a classic failure of technologists, he says. “Of course the new Internet will connect things, through so-called machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. While that is wonderful it leaves out the best of it, which is the communication between things and us.”

“It’s a bit like Alexandre Dumas leaving D’Artagnan, his protagonist, out of the title of The Three Musketeers — we cannot leave people out of the definition of the Internet of Things. Indeed, the only reason these things are worth something in the first place is because of the people [they ultimately engage with].”

Vito Di Bari was a keynote speaker on the Fujitsu World Tour 2014

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About: Vito Di Bari
A professor, think-tank director and consultant, Vito Di Bari has been exploring the symbiosis between design and innovation for over two decades. He is the author of 11 books, including the Neofuturist City Manifesto, which was instrumental in Milan’s bid for Expo 2015.

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