Pay-Per-Ski -or- The Internet of Things Meets Recurring Revenue

Internet of ThingsThere’s a lot of buzz these days surrounding the “Internet of Things.” Unfortunately, the term itself is fuzzy, leading to ambiguity and misunderstanding of what it actually means. A shame, because the underlying concept is one that promises to revolutionize the way we measure, consume, and track so much of what we do in our daily lives. Personally, I prefer the term “Universal Mobility,” but my personal campaign for its adoption seems to be losing. Sigh.

A thorough definition of “Internet of Things” is available on Wikipedia, but here’s my quick-and-dirty version:

The “Internet of Things” is an umbrella term that refers to the ongoing trend of making almost every conceivable device able to connect directly to the Internet.

Simple enough when it’s stated that way, right? But pretty mind-blowing when you ponder it for just a little bit. Virtually any physical thing you can imagine, from your sunglasses to the soda machine in your employee lounge to your lawnmower; all of them connected directly to the Internet with no need for an intermediary device. And this is not sci-fi—the technology is pretty well-seasoned and already in play.

So that leads us to the big question: Why? What’s the point?

Actually, there are three basic points. Let’s use the examples above to illustrate each one:

  1. Location – Being able to quickly determine the exact position of any physical thing. Lost your sunglasses for the umpteenth time? Open an app on your phone and find them instantly. And don’t be embarrassed if they’re still on your head—we’ve all done that.
  2. Status – Devices that immediately report changes in their status to a system that can send a notification. You just bought the last can of Mr. Pibb from the soda machine? Don’t worry–it can immediately notify the soda supplier to include more in tomorrow’s delivery. Even if you are the only person in the office who actually drinks Mr. Pibb.
  3. Consumption – Devices that immediately report how much of them you use. Just drained your bank account buying your first house and don’t want to drop another five hundred bucks to buy a lawnmower? What if, instead, you could just borrow one from Home Depot and simply have your credit charged ten bucks each time you mow?

Pretty radical stuff, but it only takes a moment to realize that the examples above aren’t that far-fetched, and similar capabilities already surround us. Here at Aria, what inspires is the ease with which the benefits of Universal Mobility (c’mon… you can’t blame a guy for trying) lend themselves to recurring revenue models. Let me try to wrap this up with a hypothetical business model that encompasses all three:

Imagine a “smart” ski lift ticket which could:

  • Offer an optional add-on service that pinpoints your location on the mountain and allow you and your ski-mates to find one another instantly. Even if you’re positioned at the fourth-seat-from-the-left at the lodge bar.
  • Trigger a camera that snaps a pic of you as you shred the steepest slope of that black diamond and, by the time you reach the bottom of the hill, sends an alert to your phone with a link to purchase that great shot for you to show off on Facebook. Don’t worry if the camera caught you in the middle of a “yard sale;” you can just delete the picture instead of buying it.
  • Grant you the option of “paying per ski run” by just scanning you each time you get on a lift and hitting your card for a small fee, as an alternative to paying full freight for an all-day pass. The ideal option for those days when you’re feeling a bit less ambitious than your bruised and sunburned friends, and that fourth-seat-from-the-left at the lodge bar looks oh-so-inviting.

But here’s what’s really cool: even if you don’t love the idea above as much as I do (hint-hint Vail Resorts!), the technology and monetization engines needed to accomplish all of this are here right now, and all that is needed to make these things a reality (or whatever similar crazy stuff you can dream up) is creativity.

People like being “connected,” businesses like repeat customers, and consumers like flexibility in how they pay for products or services. And Aria is thrilled to be sitting at the nexus of Universal Mobility (yes, I’m going to keep doing this) and the Recurring Revenue Revolution.

Brendan O’Brien, Aria Systems

Check out Brendan’s thoughts on Recurring Revenue & Internet of Things.

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