Lots of articles have argued that the first ever internet of things (IoT) device was a soda machine at Carnegie Mellon that was connected to the early internet in the 1980s. The machine was famously automated to let users on the local network see how recently the machine had been filled (and thus how cold the soda was). It’s a great story—but one device does not an internet make. In other words, what we in the modern era understand as the IoT isn’t really about individual devices; it’s about a tremendous volume of different devices all working together in tandem.
Back in 2017, the UK launched its 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, the stated aim of which was to support coordinated research into 5G technology and use cases among British telecom businesses, equipment manufacturers, and scientists. By their account, the creation of these 5G testbeds provides a crucial proving ground for technology that’s still taking shape, and whose full uses haven’t come close to being explored yet. The UK envisions a world in which 5G powers increased connectivity in rural areas, on roads, and along rail lines, as well as smart tourism and smart cities and towns, but they won’t know whether these goals are realistic until they’ve had the chance to test things out in a safe environment.
When it comes to banking and financial services functionality, “almost” doesn’t count. From your end users’ perspective, they’re either able to complete their desired action—whether that’s checking their balance, transferring funds, or setting up automatic payments—or they’re not. They’re not going to spend a lot of time looking for workarounds, they’re simply going to register their displeasure by choosing a new app or a new service provider.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows and expands, the number of different elements that will have to consistently connect to any given network is expanding with it. Of course, some of these elements are more impactful than others. For instance, as of March of 2018, an EU directive requires that all new passenger cars be equipped with an EU eCall system. Because every second can be vital after a serious accident, it’s essential that in case of an accident the eCall device transmits emergency data to the nearest emergency center (PSAP, or “public safety answering point”) and/or trigger an emergency call. This means that in every EU country your network must automatically relay relevant information (e.g. vehicle type, direction, number of passengers, engine type, VIN, GPS coordinates, etc.) from the eCall modem to the correct emergency center in case the driver is too incapacitated to speak.
It’s become a fairly well established stereotype that people in many parts of the world can’t or won’t look up from their smartphones. Back in the day, the only reason to look at or think about your telephone was because it was ringing or because you intended to make a call fairly imminently. As a consequence, if a signaling error was preventing your home phone from completing calls as intended, you might not even notice for a few days. Nowadays, on the other hand, if your LTE service is interrupted for two or three minutes you’ll probably notice immediately—and you’ll be none too happy about it.
Let’s talk about people for a second: by and large, they can’t and shouldn’t work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They rightly prefer to stick to working hours, and when their jobs call for them to work outside of that time they’re usually provided extra compensation accordingly. On top of that, one human being can really only do one thing at a time (studies show that people are actually really bad at multi-tasking), which means, for instance, they can either be running tests or fixing bugs at any given time—but not both.
If McKinsey has done their due diligence, the global insurance industry is going to look very different by 2030. By their estimates, the continued introduction of new technology like the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence will radically change the way that most insurance providers do business—paving the way for smart, automated workflows that reduce much of the need for paperwork and manual interventions. As a result of these changes, McKinsey estimates that fully 25% of positions in the industry could be automated or consolidated by 2025, and that by 2030 the number of personnel associated with claims in particular could be reduced by more than 70%.
Today, the insurance industry is in the midst of a digital transformation. Sure, there are gradations from one insurance provider to the next in terms of how far along they are and how they envision the future of the industry—but the general trend is that the world of pens and paper needs to give way to connected, intelligent workflows that can generate, validate, and pay out claims digitally. The result of this impulse is already being felt by end users—who are already more likely than they were a few years ago to make use of an app when interfacing with their insurers—but it’s being felt just as acutely by internal staff at insurance companies. After all, they need solid UX in order to do their jobs quickly and efficiently.
As recently as a few years ago, the idea of a smart home—in which all of your appliances and other sensors around your home are networked together digitally—still seemed more like science fiction than a fact of life. And yet, today you can walk into many new homes and use your smartphone to control the temperature and the lighting, you can preheat the oven remotely, and you can get alerts to your mobile device if your smoke detector or burglar alarm goes off. It’s the type of home that technologists have dreamed of for decades.
Let’s imagine that you’re a trendy new startup. You’ve got a new widget that lots of people are downloading that helps that track their runs, or manage their time more effectively, or connect with other members of their community. Sure, there are the usual set of information security concerns, and you have plenty of functionality to build out over time, but the occasional bug or service outage isn’t going to be the end of the world. While high quality testing is still mission critical, it might not feel like a life and death situation.