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Hitchhiker's Guide To The Smart Products Economy
"The most profound technologies are those that disappear,” is how Mark Weiser’s now legendary essay “The Computer for the 21st Century” begins. Published 25 years ago, Weiser’s vision of the omnipresent computer that is invisible as a separate device and, more importantly, of the pervasive network, has finally become reality. Weiser coined the term “ubiquitous computing” to refer to this. Smart products, the interplay of physical components, connectivity and intelligence, will without exception shape every aspect of our life. The caesura that this will entail could turn out to be far greater than even the commercialization of the Internet, not to mention the current hotly discussed intermediate stage – the Internet of Things (IoT), for in the Internet of Things, objects may be networked – but not necessarily ‘smart’.
Nevertheless, the revolution being triggered by smart products will be a quiet one. Smart products – it’s the opposite of large product launches, of elegantly designed highperformance computers, smart phones and tablets. Smart products are bringing about change covertly – a bottle is suddenly more than a bottle, and a soap dispenser is more than just a soap dispenser. The networks that integrate billions of smart products into one intelligent overall system will be even more unobtrusive. The intelligence circulating through this network will not only be less visible, it will also be significantly more flexible and autonomous than we are used to – thanks to maximum availability, efficient energy concepts, and connectivity solutions. While cloud computing, which gathers remote data to process centrally, stands for the Internet of Things, fog computing will become the paradigm of the smart product economy – remote data collection and remote data processing. Today we stand on the threshold of the age of “ubiquitous computing”.
The smart product economy will thus bring fundamental change to how, where and when we create added value. Factories and server farms, today the gravitational centers of industrial valuechains, will become elements in smart networks that no longer follow linear logic, that have few inherent limits, and that also do not recognize any hierarchy of individual elements. IoT innovations that emerge from a garage in Wisconsin with the help of freely available software and hardware can be immediately adapted in a factory in the Black Forest, or, even better, can be directly connected to it.
This quiet revolution is already under way, which is why it’s important for us to keep a watchful eye. And this is exactly what we’ve done for you in this issue of DIALOG. Let’s go.