You probably still think of it as a “cash register” – basically a fancy calculator and cash drawer that sits at the end of the shopping aisle just before the exit, which gives you the correct change on your way out.
Sure, it has a few more flashing lights than a few years ago, but it’s still essentially a machine whose only role in life is to accommodate a transaction every few minutes.
The modern point-of-sale (POS) system is a tightly integrated computer that almost certainly knows all about your buying history, how often you shop online and what you’re likely to buy next week.
It is also able to communicate along the entire length of the store’s supply chain right back to the factory if necessary.
Not bad for a device that has its origins in the late 1800s and was used primarily for producing a simple receipt – one copy for the merchant and one for the costumer.
“The Internet of Things, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Objects, will change everything—including ourselves,” says Dave Evans, Cisco’s chief futurist. The term refers to a set of technologies that will connect the real and digital worlds by embedding sensors in everyday objects and establishing real-time communications between objects and machines. Evans maintains this represents nothing less than the next evolution of the Internet, a huge leap forward in our ability to gather, analyze and distribute information.
“With a trillion sensors embedded in the environment—all connected by computing systems, software and services—it will be possible to hear the heartbeat of the Earth, impacting human interaction with the globe as profoundly as the Internet has revolutionized communications,” says Peter Hartwell, senior researcher at HP Labs.
But first, the Internet of Things needs to be built. Sensors that understand everything from temperature, light and moisture to motion, pressure and stress, need to be connected. Software has to be written to enable meaningful communication between people and their devices and between the devices themselves. In short, the Internet of Things needs to move from being a vision to a reality.
This is happening now. Though gaps in technology remain, for example, a trillion tiny sensors will need a power source, IoT startups are making a leap of faith that current advances in sensing, computing and energy will be sufficient to unlock a new world of possibility. They are shipping early versions of their products on the belief that their products and the enabling technologies will get better quickly.
Germany is dumping electricity on its unwilling neighbors and by wintertime the feud should come to a head.
Central and Eastern European countries are moving to disconnect their power lines from Germany’s during the windiest days. That’s when they get flooded with energy, echoing struggles seen from China to Texas over accommodating the world’s 200,000 windmills.
Renewable energy around the world is causing problems because unlike oil it can’t be stored, so when generated it must be consumed or risk causing a grid collapse. At times, the glut can be so great that utilities pay consumers to take the power and get rid of it.
“Germany is aware of the problem, but there is not enough political will to solve the problem because it’s very costly,” Pavel Solc, Czech deputy minister of industry and trade, said in an interview. “So we’re forced to make one-sided defensive steps to prevent accidents and destruction.”
The power grids in the former communist countries are “stretched to their limits” and face potential blackouts when output surges from wind turbines in northern Germany or on the Baltic Sea, according to Czech grid operator CEPS. The Czechs plan to install security switches near borders by year-end to disconnect from Europe’s biggest economy to avoid critical overload.
It’s great that women are buying more technology than ever before, but tech companies can’t sit back: they should be focusing their energy on getting the most out of this flourishing market.
That’s why every chief executive should be made aware of the following stat: tech companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment.
The reasons are obvious. Diversity is important in any industry, but is especially relevant when it comes to technology. Tech is the way that world talks to each other. People have never emailed, liked, commented, called, messaged and tweeted more than we are doing right now. And guess what? Half of all those people are women.
The days of gadgets being boys’ toys are dead as the dodo. The majority of tech products must be developed to appeal to as many people as possible, of either gender. For that, there can be no room for guesswork. Men and women must both be in the room.
It’s not that we believe women are better or more effective than men – they just simply provide a different point of view, something that is vital when bringing a new product to market.
Pink it, shrink it
Examples of getting it wrong are abundant: A common ‘for-the-ladies’ strategy is to take last year’s product, re-release it at a slightly lower-price point, slightly smaller and clad in pink plastic.
This pink it and shrink it approach represents typically shallow thinking about gender and usually only appeals to younger (lower income) women. Getting design right takes a lot more thought but yields bigger dividends.