This is a very conservative business. Not just M2M: I mean the whole sphere of IT and communications. And the reason is not hard to find. The rate of change is so rapid it makes conservatives of us all, writes I.D. Scales.
Not 'big C' right wing political conservatism but what's called in the UK 'small c'. The "hold on just a minute, I'm not sure that's a good idea," sort of conservatism.
Small c is everywhere in IT and associated activities if you listen: "Let's think about it before we rush in. Why don't we use the technology we used last time? Let's use the framework I actually understand, rather than this new approach that I know nothing about and that you just read about last week..." That sort of small c.
Which is why I contend that the term 'hype' is so often heard. Hype is very often a small c indicator and usually means "this is something that's getting a lot of attention and which i don't feel comfortable with.... yet."
And the proof that a lot of us feel this way is that the term "hype" is often set up and knocked down by speakers or writers in our business as a kind of reassurance. We've all heard it wheeled out when someone is prefacing a talk or a sales pitch, as in.. "I know there's a lot of hype about 'x' at the moment..." (setting the audience at ease with the subtext, 'I'm one of you.'). Then the speaker will inevitably wax lyrically about x in a manner that many in the audience might have interpreted as 'hype' had they not heard the initial disclosure.
Which brings me at last to Tesco. For those who don't know, it's the UK's biggest supermarket chain and one of the reasons it got to be so big is M2M.
In this case what we used to call EPOS - electronic point of sale - way back in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Tesco did more than just add a beeping sound-track to the UK weekly supermarket visit, it hooked up all the tills and built a sophisticated back-end to trap and make use of the data. Others did this too, but Tesco was more ambitious and more effective than its competitors.
At the time that effort - and the way it was characterised by us in the trade press (no Web then) - had the distinct whiff of what many would have called 'hype'. Never mind the till efficiency, we were told, it's all in the data collection. That will enable us to better understand customers' buying habits and smooth supply logistics... blah, blah.
In the event the EPOS investment indeed proved to be far more than just a way of increasing checkout efficiency and firing a few checkout staff (one of the unspoken and sometimes spoken suspicions at the time). It achieved all that the hype promised and more: Tesco launched the most successful store card, initiated ferocious just-in-time delivery and used its big data to negotiate murderous terms with its suppliers. In effect, it used what we now call M2M to transform not just itself, but the UK retail scene.
So when we're thinking about what's coming next in M2M and Internet of Things, I would like to raise a flag for serendipity and hype. Sometimes the things we think should happen don't. But sometimes things that we suspected were hype at the outset turn out to be even greater game-changers than their promoters tried to have us believe.
So the next time someone mutters "hype", remember Tesco. There may be points in it for you.
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