As things advance, whether it is products or techniques, there comes a “crossover point” where the reason to go with the new version is compelling enough to warrant fast adoption. It is at the crossover point where these products are “proven” and gain real traction, often winning a majority of the market share very quickly. Think about flat-panel screens: They hit the market in the 1990s, with high prices and smaller sizes. Though early adopters “had to have” this exciting new technology, most people were laggards, okay with buying and using the older CRT (or tube) TVs for a while longer. Sometime around 2005, however, the flat-panel screens hit a crossover point: Their size, price, and image quality crossed-over the then-ubiquitous CRTs. Within a couple of years, CRTs were dead as a product.
Today, we’re seeing a similar occurrence in the Utility sector. I was recently reviewing Electric Light and Power and was intrigued that New Jersey (my home state) was #5 on their Top 10 list of solar power states. That’s right, the most densely populated state in the U.S. – though not the sunniest – is spending money to put solar panels on most electric poles throughout the state. That indicates to me that the price of a kilowatt delivered by solar panels has just reached a crossover point.
Now that doesn’t mean that the traditional grid is going to be dead in a few years. It just means that crossover points are significant drivers of business changes, and can be critical indicators of market opportunities. For example, this solar power crossover has created many changes for the power grid in North America, Europe and some Far East countries. While electricity is electricity, the grid needs a power generation system that can react quickly to demand fluctuations. Traditional generators are designed to react immediately to changes in load, but solar “generators” – which come on based on the sun and weather – are not designed to respond to “need”. So, utilities are bringing everything from large-scale batteries to new control equipment online to keep up with a subsequent crossover point in how they must manage and maintain their networks. The Digitalization of Power, as it’s called.
You may be asking why this matters to you, especially if you’re not in the TV or utility business.
Companies with highly mobile workforces – those in field service and industrial sectors particularly – are also experiencing a “digitalization” crossover point related to the use of mobile devices. Enough “good” mobile computer choices exist on the market; virtually any organization with mobile workers is immediately benefitting from even the most basic device deployments. Paper-based service tickets, email dispatch and written tickets sent to the back-office for inputting and invoicing are now passé, as mobile devices and software have automated these areas. There is even a crossover occurring in mobile computer form factor dominance, with tablets proving their ability to increase wrench time (productivity), improve customer satisfaction, and reduce account receivables even better than laptops. But there’s another looming “crossover point” that we’re seeing with regards to workforce mobility, and it’s being driven by the impending crossover of more advanced digital technologies (IoT, Industry 4.0, wearables, etc.)
If you’re already investing in rugged tablet PCs that run Windows OS or professional-grade Android and are proven interoperable with a host of current and future software, peripherals and devices (i.e. IoT), then you’re ahead of the curve. But, if you’re not, then don’t lose sight of what’s happening around you. As Xplore’s Tom Kost noted just last week: “ complacency stalls innovation, which stalls industrial and societal advancement.” Don’t get complacent with the “CRT” of mobile solutions (i.e. using a consumer-grade device in a professional environment). Pay attention to when a new technology, a new process, or a new business model “crosses over” in the mainstream, and be ready to embrace it within your own business environment.
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Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.