An Interview With Geoffrey Moore

The expert on the technology adoption life cycle talks with Bob Morris about radio frequency identification and its struggles to achieve mass adoption.

Morris: There's a lot of buzz about the Internet of Things, a term that was coined originally to explain the value of putting RFID tags on cases, pallets and shipping containers in the supply chain. What is your own perspective on the IoT?

Moore: This decade is being characterized by four global game-changer technologies: social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC). IoT will be the fifth horseman of the apocalypse, arriving a bit later to the party. All five enable the digitization of modern life and culture, end to end. We are mutating even as we speak.

Morris: Given that the "Internet of Things" covers a lot of different technologies—radios to connect things to the Internet, software to allow machine-to-machine communication—do you see it as a technology that can tornado, or as a series of individual technologies that will achieve mass adoption?

Moore: To be meaningful at scale, it must tornado.

Morris: Some RFID companies are trying to rebrand themselves as IoT companies. Do you think this is a smart strategy?

Moore: Well, ontologically they are part of the Internet of Things, so it is not lying. The issue is expectation setting vis-à-vis bowling alley versus tornado market dynamics. Just calling yourself IoT does not get you into the tornado.

Morris: In Crossing the Chasm, you say that for a technology to reach mass adoption, there must be a problem it solves that no other technology can solve. For RFID, there are many. For example, retailers have always struggled with inventory accuracy. Hospitals have always had problems locating medical equipment, and aerospace companies have struggled to track the history of parts. Here's my question: Is the fact that RFID can solve these and other problems one of the problems it faces in crossing the chasm? Please explain.

Moore: Per my earlier answer, RFID does not struggle with the chasm. The applications you refer to are excellent bowling alley use cases. The challenge is finding the killer app that crosses virtually all use cases, the one that can drive scaling at three to four to possibly five orders of magnitude beyond what we see today.

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