Lessons in IoT: What B2B Can Teach B2C and Vice Versa


Some may argue that the Internet of Things has more advanced applications on the industrial side than on the consumer side. Machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity has indeed been around for years, particularly in traditional industries such as manufacturing, energy, and control and automation. The consumer world, by contrast, is just waking up to what many are now calling the Internet of Things, with growing adoption of wearables, connected products, beacons, digital signage and other sensor-enabled technologies. But are these worlds really so different? The synergies between these two are greater than you may think…

…when it comes to developing and adopting technology, people are people — whether consumers or employees.


Recently, I sat down with the University of Wisconsin’s IoT Working Group for a lively discussion on this topic. I was joined by Rodney Sloan of Johnson Controls, Andrew McCartney, of Whitespace Ventures, and UoW’s own Sandra Bradley. In the hour-long webinar, we looked at some of the key issues that impact both B2B and B2C and how they manifest for each. We looked at some of the key similarities, differences, best practices, and examples from both B2B and B2C, particularly along each ‘phase’ of an IoT implementation ‘lifecycle:’

  • Identify the opportunity: IoT is huge and all-encompassing. How do businesses even know where to begin or prioritize?
  • Align the organization: Once an organization has prioritized IoT iniative(s), how can you get everyone on the same page? Who are the key stakeholders and when?
  • Design user experience: So much depends, of course, on how users (consumers, employees, 3rd parties!) use and experience the various platforms associated with the implementation– products, infrastructure, mobile devices, analytics, etc.
  • Technological considerations: What are the biggest technological challenges when it comes to developing and IoT initiative? How can organizations navigate the tricky waters of a fragmented and enormous vendor landscape?
  • Measurement and optimization: How and what should companies measure? What do they do with those measurements? How can measurement support the overarching strategy?

In our discussion we covered a lot of ground, and likely could have devoted an hour to each of these topics. You can access the full recording of the conversation here. But for a quick rundown of our collective take-aways, I’ve summarized below. (Trust me there is way more in the webinar, but here is a start…)

  1. Understand the market need, landscape, risks. What pain are you actually solving? Conduct due diligence to validate this.
  2. Take the TIME to develop an IoT strategy. It takes time, a lot of time.
  3. Develop a strategy for the entire lifecycle of data (not just collection); this must include prioritization of the data, both internal and external
  4. Develop an operational environment/culture (central group (CoE?), talent, tech, training, process, collaboration) to support and scale; set expectations across stakeholders
  5. Security and privacy has to be baked into the entire system– products, systems, processes, training, 3rd parties, etc.
  6. Define objectives and outcomes to inform measurement strategy and how to optimize. Continue to revisit and evolve this practice, particularly with an eye for new monetization models and knowledge sharing within the organization.
  7. Take a step. Every business has to start somewhere. Start small, and iterate rapidly.

Embedding sensors and actuators into business product, services, and processes is a megatrend, but we’re still in the early days. If you’re interested in learning more on any of these topics, don’t hesitate to reach out. My company, Harbor Research, helps businesses of all sizes and industries navigate this space, identify the market opportunities, and design smart systems.


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