Consumers Won’t Drive the Internet of Things But They’ll Be the Biggest Beneficiaries


Smart appliances is the least interesting part of the Internet of Things. Image: Dejan Popovic

Even your toaster will have a computer in it, a common imagery by those hyping the inevitable Internet of Things.

But a smart toaster that primes itself at just the right time each morning is hardly where the real value is. In fact, the most valuable IoT developments will never directly impact the consumer, claims McKinsey.

Consumer uses of IoT technology have garnered a great deal of attention, thanks to media coverage of fitness monitors and home automation. While these applications do have tremendous potential for creating value, our analysis shows that there is even greater potential value from IoT use in business-to-business applications. In many instances, such as in worksite applications (mining, oil and gas, and construction), there is no direct impact for consumers. A great deal of additional value can be created when consumer IoT systems, such as connected consumer health-care products, are linked to B2B systems, such as services provided by health-care providers and payors.

The report suggests these developments will have an impact of $11.1 trillion over the next ten years. And so the race is on. $6 trillion will be invested in IoT in the next half decade, according to BI Intelligence, much of that coming from businesses and governments.

In Germany, the Internet of Things movement is officially endorsed by the government, which in turn has already promised to invest €500 million. Hardly consumer focused, the goal there, according to an Industrie 4.0 report, is to ensure that “German industry is to survive and prosper.”

That’s in line with history. The first users of the Internet weren’t individuals like you and me. It was the government, corporations and universities.

The same likely holds true for the Internet of Value, where early adopters won’t be end users but businesses and banks. But that’s fine because according to McKinsey, consumers will reap the biggest rewards:

As in other technology markets, the end customer ultimately captures the most value, we find. Eventually, we estimate that customers (such as factory owners using machines guided by IoT technology, operators of transportation fleets, and consumers) will capture upwards of 90 percent of the value opportunities IoT applications generate. In many settings, customers will capture value in both direct and indirect ways, such as being able to buy more efficient machinery that is designed using IoT data from older products in use. Of the value opportunities created by the Internet of Things that are available to technology suppliers, in general the largest share will likely go to services and software and less will likely go to hardware.

It’s likely the same will hold true for the evolution of the Internet of Value.