Monday, October 3, 2016

How IoT Data Can Improve New Product Development

Co-authored by
Susan Harman
Product Line Director
ShareFile SMB


Eugene Yamnitsky
Director, Product Management


There’s a lot of buzz, hype and confusion regarding IoT.  What is it?   How will it impact you? What is the value that it could provide to business – for new product development, for customer acquisition and retention, and for ROI?  We’re going to define what it is, discuss the importance to product development, highlight some challenges we see on the horizon, and lastly, present our point of view. 

What is IoT?

The internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.More simply defined, it’s the ability of virtually any smart electronic device with WiFi/Bluetooth/NFC (mobile phones, washing machines, refrigerators, cars, wearable devices, etc.) to communicate with other such devices, and connect to the internet, where the usage data is collected and exchanged without human intervention. Virtually every device we touch or are in proximity of will be IoT enabled in a not so distant future. Some research firms estimate that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…

What does this have to do with product innovation/development and customer value?

There is tremendous value in leveraging IoT to collect meaningful, contextual data that can help organizations solve a myriad of business problems, contribute to better decisions for new product development, and craft innovative and disruptive new product offerings that solve important customer problems in new and exciting ways.

Imagine a hospital where a patient is moving from room to room receiving treatments over a course of days, interacting directly or indirectly with devices from various manufacturers. The experience may vary from patient to patient, while none of the vendors is in the room to observe and identify ways to improve the care or identify new problems to be solved. Now imagine that all the devices, rooms, and even doctors and nurses with wearables, are connected in a way that enables the vendor to collect product usage data in the context in which the product is being used. Not only will the individual vendors gain insight into the stand-alone product usage, but now they will be equipped with the contextual data for interaction with other devices and humans (patients, doctors and nurses). 

And there are several examples of companies doing just this today. One recent example is Coca-Cola vending machines, which track the user’s interaction with the machine and use the collected interaction data to come up with new flavors. Other examples include mobile application functionality changing based on the phone location with respect to various sensors, smart meetings that start when participants enter the room, and smart irrigation systems interacting with soil quality sensors to determine the right quantity of water to be dispensed.

Key challenges exist

IoT is not without challenges. A big challenge that exists in many organizations today is that many times product and marketing people don’t have access to even the most basic data. Take SaaS applications.  They can be instrumented to measure usage (Google Analytics, Pendo, MixPanel, etc.) so product teams have access to rich data on how an application is really being used. Strangely, though, many product development teams still don’t use this information (let alone instrument their applications). Why?  Existing products might not have been architected to support measurement, or limited resources are working on more exciting new features, as well as a multitude of other reasons. 

Another challenge is a lack of uniform standards when it comes to data exchanged by devices from various vendors. There are several startups that have recognized this problem and turned it into opportunity to develop vertical digital platforms; one notable example is Durham, N.C. based Validic.


IoT is here to stay. It will help us solve many complex problems. It may or may not be chasm crossing. Regardless, we believe that IoT brings tremendous value to new product development by enabling context-aware applications and devices which can provide meaningful product use data to vendors, and enable these vendors to innovate based on data which they couldn’t collect before.

Susan Harman has an extensive career as a leader in innovation, product management, product marketing, voice of the customer, identification of new markets and launch of H3 offerings in a broad range of business and consumer products and services. She is also an experienced intrapreneur and entrepreneur.

She joined Citrix six months ago as the Business Leader and Product Line Director for the ShareFile SMB, and an innovation mentor.  For three years prior to joining Citrix, Susan was a Vice President at LexisNexis, responsible for innovation and the development of a global cloud offering. Susan is author of Digital Handshake, Finding Revenue in New Relationships, published by the ASAE in 2002. 

Eugene Yamnitsky is an innovation catalyst & product development leader with sixteen  years of experience getting things done in conditions of uncertainty and fast paced change. He has a proven track record of success in early and late stage startups and large companies and has built high performance Agile teams delivering Cloud/SaaS Enterprise and SMB apps to millions of users. Eugene has consistently hired top talent and leveraged that talent for innovation. 

He is currently Director, Product Management – ShareFile at Citrix. Previously, he was Senior Manager, Product Management & Innovation at Citrix, where he led the ShareFile Product Management team responsible for mobile, desktop and web applications, as well as the key infrastructure components and the developer program. He also leads the Innovation Center of Excellence and acts as a catalyst for innovation, prepping teams for the Startup Accelerator.

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