The Inversion Factor


The Inversion Factor: How to Thrive in the IoT Economy (MIT Press) by  Linda Bernardi, Sanjay Sarma, and Kenneth Traub launches on October 6th.

The book presents our thoughts on the rapidly shifting future of technology, particularly the evolution of 3 IoTs — the Internet of Things (devices connected to the Internet), the Intelligence of Things (devices that host software applications), and the Innovation of Things (devices that become experiences).

Why companies need to move away from a “product first” orientation to pursuing innovation based on customer need.

In the past, companies found success with a product-first orientation; they made a thing that did a thing. The Inversion Factor explains why the companies of today and tomorrow will have to abandon the product-first orientation.

Rather than asking “How do the products we make meet customer needs?” companies should ask “How can technology help us reimagine and fill a need?” Zipcar, for example, instead of developing another vehicle for moving people from point A to point B, reimagined how people interacted with vehicles. Zipcar inverted the traditional car company mission.

We explain how the introduction of “smart” objects connected by the Internet of Things signals fundamental changes for business. The IoT, where real and digital coexist, is powering new ways to meet human needs. Companies that know this include giants like Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, Google, Tesla, and Apple, as well as less famous companies like Tile, Visenti, and Augury. The Inversion Factor offers a roadmap for businesses that want to follow in their footsteps.

We also offer a blueprint for businesses making the transition to inversion and interviews with leaders of major companies and game-changing startups.

A sense of profound sadness accompanies this launch because Kenneth Traub, our co-author – is no longer with us.  His tireless devotion to his work – the work of the future – will always inspire us to keep on the visionary path he was so enthusiastic about.  Ken was one of the most intellectually, morally and humanly honest people I knew. I miss his razor-sharp intellect and warm sense of humor.  He was a gem among men.

Ken was a fundamental thinker on the design and development of some of the more important GS1 standards like EPC Gen 2, Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), EPCIS, GLEIF, Traceability and the GS1 Architecture. He was also the designer of the Global Standard Management Process (GSMP). It could well be that no other person has made a more valuable contribution to so many different areas at GS1 in the last two decades.