Time of the V1.0s

21 May 2015

Pilots regularly joke, ‘Never fly the A model of anything.’ (World War II Pilot Officer Edward Thompson of 433 (RCAF) Squadron). Like software and hardware products, aircraft have general maturity designations; A or Mark 1 for the first production model, B (or Mark 2) for a refined and typically upgraded model and so on, (if you're in an 'X' or it doesn't have a letter after it you know you're in for a wild ride with what is essentially an experimental beta aircraft). The joke has real implications - the 1968 McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 was a successor to an established product and introduced many advanced features, yet its early years were plagued with incidents that over the lifetime of the aircraft resulted in over a thousand fatalities. However as time progressed so did the product, to the point where it became seen as a dependable workhorse, still in use today.

World

The mantra 'Never fly the A model of anything' is the belief that you should let the design defects and bugs 'shake themselves out' to be addressed in the following versions. It's true for tech as well - the world of the dewy-eyed early adopter is filed with cupboards and drawers of tech that didn't or couldn't last the test of time or the skillful bating by a confusion of marketeers. I have a constant reminder of that right now as my MacBook Air rests in its much-vaunted and delayed LandingZone. With the flow of smart watches now hitting the market, Gizmodo's Sean Hollister even went as far as describing his experience with the Apple Watch as paying "hundreds of dollars to be a glorified beta tester". 

First waves have inevitable gaps in capability and features. However it's necessary to go through this v1.0 cycle to fully understand the use cases and allow app developers to experiment with new capabilities and to test the edge cases.

Version 1s’ are necessary and great fun to watch as new technology is emerging and new business models are created, but often painful for the hopes and dreams of early adopters. We are in a time of V1s, flavours of the time are Smart watches, virtual reality headsets that reduce instead of create pain, home drones, hybrid & electric vehicles and the Internet of Things.

 

Or are we?

 

Except The Internet of Things (IoT) is very much in its Mk2 phase.

There are those with cagoules and red faces that frothily blurt it used to wear different clothes and be called M2M and it's been used in manufacturing as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) since the 1980s and that we should all sit down and stop being excited. But that misses the point of IoT.

IoT revolutionises traditional M2M; it's about connected devices that augment our world with features and functions that solve problems in an unobtrusive manner, almost seamless to the user - if it works well then you won't notice it. Most IoT devices released over the last year still take too much configuration and ongoing administration with costs too high for the intended users. Even if you have the skills to get things up and running, you hit interoperability problems, or capability issues with features that are not quite rich enough to reach the desired outcome - legacies of the M2M past. We can’t expect our parents to be messing with IFTTT or caring about what an API is, never mind cracking out some PLC code as in the 'good old' days of M2M. But it's recently changed.

IoT is a quiet revolution, creeping in with intelligent thermostats, computerised mattresses and aircraft that predict and diagnose their own operation. We too are building a platform that uses advanced analysis and exploitation of sensor data to help businesses to reduce the cost of using and maintaining their valuable machines, equipment and assets, by predicting the future and looking for ways to improve things. We don't want to bother the user with constant alerts and have them hunt in our interface for data - information will be presented to them in a human way, when it matters. We will measure our success by how little time people spend logged into our app to find the information that they need.

To quote Futurama "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all".

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