Five disruptive products you never thought would be connected, but are

Thanks to connectivity, innovation is accelerating at an incredible pace and we are just getting warmed up. Wireless connectivity has opened up a new world of possibilities for existing and new disruptive products, as well as business disruptions. Robots are now collaborating with humans in factories and warehouses, and unexpected use cases are showing up.

A person attaching electric wires to a device that could be the next disruptive product

Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses

Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses

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IoT

Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report projects that there will be nearly 25 billion connected devices by 2025, with 5 billion of those connected via the cellular network. Many of the devices that will be included in those figures haven’t even been invented yet and the level of connected innovation we are seeing today is only accelerating.

To date, we’ve seen a lot of things come online that we never thought could benefit from being connected. For some of them, the application will be immediately apparent. For others, the benefits are not so quickly obvious. But for all, they are innovative, useful and disrupting their industries, and a great example of no matter how traditional you think your product is, it can be disrupted. Here are some of our favorite examples of disruptive products.

Smart water pumps

When I first heard this one, my reaction was “they’re connecting what?” Sure enough, water pumps. Denmark-based water pump manufacturer, Grundfos, embedded sensors into their hardware and connected them via the cellular network. This is part of their digital transformation journey and is also how Grundfos is going to evolve their business from selling pumps to selling them and their maintenance as-a-service.

The sensors relay data on pump health and performance, such as pressure, temperature and velocity. By gathering this data, Grundfos can take more responsibility for the functioning of their products. Predictive analytics can determine not only when a pump may need to be replaced, but it can also show how to optimize the flow and delivery of water as well as lower energy usage. According to Fredrik Östbye, Head of Digital Transformation at Grundfos, 10% of the world’s energy usage is from water pumps. If we could switch all pumps to the newest technology, that number would drop to 4%.

Reimagined rat traps

Rodent and pest control is important for both consumers and businesses. Few things can sink a restaurant or coffee shop faster than a viral photo of a rat scurrying across a floor or counter. To help the fight against pests, one company decided to create a connected version of their commercial rat traps.

With this device, business owners know when a trap has caught a rat so that it can be emptied. The user receives the information through an app and can save time by knowing which traps need to be tended to and which do not, eliminating the need to check every trap manually. This business disruption is particularly time-saving in settings like a warehouse, where hundreds of traps could be deployed. It can also alert users when the battery needs to be changed. This company has been making mouse and rat traps since 1898. You may not have thought that a product like this that has withstood the test of time could be updated and improved, but they certainly found the way.

Putting office furniture to work

Steelcase, the longtime maker of office furniture and architectural products and services for the workplace, wanted to research a proof-of-concept office of the future. To do this, they connected everything in their test office, from the lights, to the desks, to the conference rooms, and started gathering data, via a private 5G network. Imagine a fully connected smart home, but in an office setting instead.

Steelcase’s goal was to get a better understanding of how people work. Desks could tell for how long people sat there and how much light they required. In many offices, where desk space can be limited, employees could easily tell where work spaces around the office were available. Through its proof-of-concept office, Steelcase will be in a position to create the office of the future, which will enhance the ways people interact and collaborate in the workplace. This will also open up the possibility for Steelcase to transform their business from selling a product to selling office space as-a-service.

Securing a grain silo

Why would anyone need to connect a big room full of grain? Well, there is a very good reason - research from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that as much as 60% of harvested cereal grains are lost during the storage process due to spoilage. When your livelihood is directly tied to how much of your crop you can bring to market, losing that much of your inventory can be devastating.

IntraGrain set out to solve this issue by attaching sensors to grain bins to measure and record factors like temperature and humidity. Data is collected and transmitted via the cellular network to IntraGrain's servers and farmers are alerted if storage conditions could potentially result in spoilage. That same NIH study revealed that the use of solutions like this can reduce grain spoilage rates to a mere 1-2%, ensuring that more of IntraGrain's crop actually reaches consumers.

Intelligent ball bearings

This last example is one of my favorites - ball bearings. Yes, ball bearings. A very simple item, ball bearings are the unsung heroes of the moving machinery world. They enable machines and parts to move with ease by reducing the friction between two surfaces. As their name suggests, they are simply small, metal balls. They probably seem like hardly a big deal, however, should one malfunction, it can create added stress for a machine which reduces operating efficiency and can lead to overheating and costly damage.

By connecting their ball bearings, Swedish firm, SKF, has disrupted their own business and is able to better ensure their customers’ machines keep working at optimal levels. Their connected bearings know if they have become disfigured or are at risk for causing a machinery malfunction, enabling better preventative maintenance, less unplanned downtime and stronger bottom lines. They are making the journey from delivering ball bearings to delivering reliable rotation.

These are some great examples of disruptive products and things we’d never imagined connecting. We can’t wait to see what is coming next.

To learn more about how businesses are driving innovation and creating new business models, please check out our “Talking IoT with Ericsson” podcast series. It features honest IoT conversations with the folks in the trenches who are already transforming their businesses with IoT and have insights and learnings to share.

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