Daan Roosegaarde is a forward-looking digital inventor who finds creative ways to embed sensors and electronics into the physical world in ways that delight and inform. His Studio Roosegaarde has deployed interactive sculptures and walls that react to human movement and sound, used temperature-sensitive material to dynamically change the transparency of high-fashion clothing, and introduced “huggable columns” that change colors when approached and touched by patients in a mental health facility.
Recently, in collaboration with Heijmans, a major construction services business based in the Netherlands, Roosegaarde began working his digital magic on one of the most basic components of civilization—roadways. One example of this work is shown in the photo.
The road, which will be introduced in the Netherlands in mid-2013, has temperature-sensitive paint embedded in the surface. As the temperature approaches and falls below freezing, the paint activates otherwise dormant reflective capabilities. The road itself alerts drivers to dangerous, icy conditions by revealing images in the shape of huge snowflakes. Unlike warning signs that are permanently placed alongside roadways, eventually causing drivers to ignore them, these interactive roads are more likely to capture a driver’s attention, encouraging safer driving and fewer accidents.
Many of Roosegaarde’s installations may seem a far stretch for readers of the Technology Forecast. Our common interest is in emerging information technologies that have the potential to transform IT itself, business processes, business strategies, and whole industries. But think of Roosegaarde as the canary in the coal mine when you read his interview. His creativity may be distinctive, but the inexpensive technologies he uses to deploy sensing, interactive environments are available to anyone— even if very few of us are using them yet. Imagine if the road display technology were connected to mobile devices in the car, to car’s monitor, to car’s traction control, to weather alert systems, and so on. This interconnectivity of things opens a host of new opportunities to better engage with consumers.
But what’s the point, you ask? Why should IT, especially, care about the world out there—the world beyond my enterprise, beyond its people and processes, and beyond the markets that we buy from and sell into?
This issue of the Technology Forecast endeavors to answer these questions by weaving together something you’ve probably already heard of, the Internet of Things (IoT), and something you may not have thought much about, your company’s direct role in helping its customers achieve their personal goals.
Why wouldn’t you have thought much about that? Because, notwithstanding customer support, online forums, and (shudder) user manuals, customers have pretty much been on their own when it comes to creating the value they sought when they purchased your product or service. The focus of business by and large has been on bringing a customer to and fulfilling the sales transaction. There was no business model that would support a human helper and guide being assigned to each and every customer, providing guidance, feedback, progress reports, and other information that brought customers closer to their goals. Instead, the approach has been, “Here’s a hammer. Good luck with that nail.”
The rise of inexpensive, networked sensors and devices (the Internet of Things) is changing all that. Intelligence is being added to products and services themselves and even to the environments people move around in, not to mention the smartphones most everyone carries. Unlike technologies so far, which digitized commerce through the point of the transaction, emerging technologies today digitize the use of a product and augment the experience to help customers achieve their goals. In the process, customer engagement deepens and extends beyond the transaction, redefining products and business models.
This issue of the Technology Forecast examines how the Internet of Things enables businesses to evolve their transactions into relationships.
The article, “Using technology to help customers achieve their goals,” explains how the digitization of consumption sets the stage for post-transaction relationships with customers.
“The Thing Stack: Technologies that guide customers to their goals” looks at the maturation of the technologies that create the potential for post-transaction relationships.
The article, “CIO leadership in post-transaction relationships,” explores the key role CIOs and IT staff can play in going beyond the transaction.
This issue also includes interviews with executives at enterprises that are demonstrating leadership with post-transaction relationships:
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As always, we welcome your feedback and your ideas for future research and analysis topics to cover.