Most folks miss the fact that we are several years into a sensor-based technological revolution. The main problem is that people credit their phones for unleashing about a million new apps, rather than the sensors in their phones.
By my reckoning, innovation over the past 25 years has gone something like this:
1. Computers shrunk so that they fit on your desk.
1a. Computers shrunk so they fit on your lap.
1b. Computers shrunk so they fit in your phone.
2. Sensors shrunk so they fit in your very small computer.
Sensors represent a whole new wave of disruptive change.
Your smartphone would be pretty lame without the sensors that come inside it. A smartphone without sensors is nothing more than an annoyingly small laptop.
Sensors allow your phone to know exactly where you are, to know what position it is in (tilted, upright, etc.), to sense both sound and images, and even to communicate directly with other phones. These capabilities make possible countless games and apps. They are powering an onslaught of innovation that is changing the balance of power between companies and their customers.
As sensors proliferate further, your phone will be able to know not just that you are in the northwest corner of a building, but also that you are in room 301. They’ll be augmented by other sensors you carry on your key ring or within your clothing. They’ll network with the sensors of other people who share your interest (like tracking pollution in your city.)
Sense of the Future tracks sensor-driven innovation on a single page that includes links to a wide range of emerging technologies such as Brain-Computer Interfaces (sensors for your brain), robotics (sensor collections that move), and wireless sensors that harvest energy from the world around them. For example, did you know that there are over 85 research labs worldwide that are actively using BCIs?
I was hanging out at the beach last weekend, and someone asked me what was the point of gathering over 500 examples of sensor-related efforts on a single Web page? Simple. Only when you see in front of you hundreds and hundreds of specific innovations do you “get” that sensors are already changing everything. This isn’t a change somewhere over the horizon; it’s one you are already carrying around in your pocket.
When you understand that it’s sensors, not computers, changing our future, you will know how critical it is to start thinking differently not only about innovation, but also about the right strategy for your business and career.
image credit: ifixit.com
Bruce Kasanoff is president of Now Possible, a marketing and innovation consultancy; and co-author of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive and How to Be One of Them