In the context of a society whose demands are exponentially growing over time, the regular individual finds himself in the need of fully awareness. The era of Real World Web -also called internet of things- is emerging. The classical internet becomes more and more deprecated, as it offers a limited service: the one of communication between devices with limited capabilities of understanding the environment.
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If the internet was considered in the ’90s as the new facilitator of emerging technologies, one has to think twice before stating the same nowadays. We are heading toward a networked world, where the environment is smartened in order to serve the individual’s needs. In the context of an imminent market launch of the internet of things (straight from the university’s research labs), we find ourselves in the need of analyzing the impact of one of its most robust enablers-wireless sensor networks. WSN has become a new area of interest for both scientists and entrepreneurs due to its high degree of novelty and to the large spectrum of applicability.
This paper aims to analyze and question the path the WSN technology followed from invention to innovation by underlining some of the challenges its market launch encounters, in the context of the current market trends and of the new ICT ecosystem.
Throughout this paper we plan to analyze the path from invention to innovation followed by WSN technology by looking into the cross-disciplinary innovative aspect of wireless sensor networks.[innovation a guide to litt]. We will then relay the telecommunications infrastructure to the value of the network [prima lucrare cu brawn], and will continue the debate with an analysis of the functionality of the WSN in the context of an unruly competition between content and communications [content is not king], in the light of ephemeralization [wsn paper]. In order to carry out an efficient analysis of the above aspects, we plan to focus on the role of WSN in the new ICT ecosystem [new ICTâ€¦]. We believe that the dawn of the era of real world web will have a massive impact on each of the concepts we enumerated and the conclusions part of this paper restate the steps the WSN technology made from invention to innovation.
We have carefully analyzed the work of Fagerberg, by focusing on his paper “Innovation-a guide to literature”. We agree that there is a need of “innovation to be studied from multiple perspectives”  as innovation means commercialization of the invention. Therefore, there is a need to take into consideration the economic perspective while developing the product/concept that will sell the idea. The Harbor Research Inc. underlines that, when it comes to innovation, “Physical networking products can make money in the early years. After that, they will become mature and decreasingly profitable”. “Market trends” overviews how the user’s behavior influences the emergence of innovation and how the market reacts so that the demands are fulfilled. “Content is not king” sustains the reign of network’s infrastructure over the content the same network is capable to provide. The concepts the paper brings into discussion will be further analyzed in order to test their feasibility in the current context. “The new ICT ecosystem” models the environment in each the major players grow symbiotically. As a result, we will place the WSN in the context of “network element providers, network operators, platform, content and applications providers and final consumers.
In order to understand both the economic and the technological impact of wireless sensors on our society we have accessed the database provided by the European Commission CORDIS 7th Framework Programme which handles the “knowledge triangle’ – research, education and innovation”[site]. Europe is by far, the biggest investor in innovation, and what draw our attention toward EC were the “numerous programmes and initiatives that are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge”. We have gathered general data regarding the wide range of innovative technologies for which European Commission is offering support and we have focused our attention on SENSEI project which aims “integrating the Physical with the Digital World of the Network of the Future” with the help of wireless sensor networks. We have followed the standard procedure of reviewing the deliverables the project published and we have stopped on the importance that they give to the service and digital resources rather than to the physical resources, which is one of our major points of interest, offering a strong support to our theory. We have used the research that SENSEI made public to reinforce that we are heading toward a networked world. However, the readings that we mentioned in the theory represent the basis of our research. Furthermore, we will establish the role WSN plays in the new ICT ecosystem and will relay its emergence to the current market trends. We will argue whether the user has the power (as Saxtoff cleverly remarks) and whether the user’s behavior controls the telecommunication market with all its innovative aspects. We will finalize by analyzing WSN path from invention to innovation in the light of the new ICT ecosystem.
Analyzing WSN’s path from invention to innovation, in the context of a new ICT ecosystem more than willing to embrace WSN, the theoretical approach is the one that will provide the best answers. The study case of SENSEI will give insights into user’s demands and business models they are adopting and will support the theory we are debating across the paper. However, due to the novelty regarding WSN, we consider that the most appropriate approach is a theoretical one, completed by practical examples.
Cross-disciplinary aspect of WSN in relation to market trends
In order to fully understand the impact of lauching onto the market the concept of WSN, one must take into consideration the path the model followed from invention to innovation under the influence of market trends. The concept of WSN emerged as a facilitator of internet of things, through which new means of communication and perception of the environment have been created. The cleverness of this invention lies in the concept of augmented reality. Wireless sensor networks will be deployed with the purpose of providing a wide pallet of information to humans or other devices in order to create a multi-dimensional knowledge space. It is not far from now that one will be able to equip his home with sensors that will monitor inside temperature, luminous intensity and wind velocity, and- according to a set of a priori commands- will do the switching from the local power grid, to alternate means of energy so that costs will be kept to a minimum. Sensors will be deployed in areas affected by natural disasters and will provide information for disaster management and rescue operations. Thus, we can foresee a wide variety of applications that WSN will easily accommodate.
The idea of smartening the environment emerged in 1999, at MIT institute and was rapidly adopted by scientists all over the world, becoming a wide research area in the last ten years. However, it has been proven that bringing the invention in the commercial sphere is a challenging process, as it involves combining different types of “knowledge, skills, capabilities and resources”[cross-disciplinary].
The companies that are interested in commercializing wireless sensor and those interested in commercializing their services through WSN require production and market knowledge, along with an efficient distribution system and financial resources. It is about the art of balancing all the mentioned aspects, along with the skills of finding outsourcing potential and preparing a good advertising scheme in order to make the product appealing for the end-user. In order to understand the scale of the innovation, we have analyzed SENSEI Scenario Portfolio, User and Context Requirements [deliverable 1].
Thus, the key aspects of transforming WSN invention into WSN innovation are as follows.
A description of the application scenarios covering a wide range of markets, from “smart cities” to “healthcare and wellbeing”
The benefits and challenges of the innovation.
A business analysis that identifies the stakeholders, the requirements necessary to run a WSN system and the costs involved in producing and commercializing the system.
A roadmap meant to highlight the management aspects of the system from a business point of view and how the system will evolve over time from both the business and the technological point of view.
It is understandable therefore that the complexity of this process introduced a ten years delay between the invention and the adoption of WSN. Another reason for this delay is the cumulative impact of incremental innovations which was hard to predict. The openness regarding embracing wireless infrastructures along with the drastic cheapening of sensor and the development of new sets of services represent incremental innovations that gave birth to the WSN as we know today. We can therefore consider WSN a snow-ball effect caused by the user’s demands. Furthermore, this ensemble of innovations that led to the emergence of WSN make the latest to fit in more than one category in terms of satisfying user’s needs. By looking at the Maslow hierarchy of needs, we can see that WSN and the services that are delivered through them succeed in satisfying physiological needs (e.g. health-monitoring of elders), safety needs (e.g. enhanced security by continuous monitoring the home environment), social needs (e.g. belonging to a community of full-aware users) and even self-actualization needs (e.g. self development-wise services) [market trends]. As we are living in a networked world where the young adults of today are called “the children of the internet age”[market trends], it is no doubt that the WSN must offer to the user those services that will fuel her/his consumerism behavior: the more the user posses, the more she/he will need. What is interesting about WSN is the way this invention satisfies users with different perceptions, as we know that one of the market trends setters is user’s perception. As WSN can accommodate a large number of services, they manage to fulfill the demands of many categories of consumers. There is no doubt therefore, that the adoption of WSN is a market trend, and it could be interesting to observe how WSN will engage in the ping-pong game that fuels the creating of new market trends in the future.
We can conclude to this point that the market trend is the engine that started up the process of transforming the WSN invention in the WSN innovation.
“Think pervasive” is the advice given by Harbor Research Inc. to the major players in the telecommunication sector. “We are living in a world that contains more sensors than people”  and we are heading towards a networked world era where the number of devices/person will increase to hundreds. Therefore, not the price of the equipment will be the leader, but the services that this rich infrastructure will be able to support. The value of the network will not be about the number of devices, but about the intelligence that the network can offer.
Network element providers in particular, but also all large OEMs and system integrators have to prepare themselves to face the new wave, by rethinking their business strategy. For that, they have to understand the capabilities the ubiquitous devices offer.
As we are moving towards a digital world, the value of the network will be quantified in the number and quality of services that contribute to QoE, rather than in the number of devices. Buller observed this phenomenon and named it “ephemeralization”-the tendency of evolving technology to become less and less material. This is without a doubt the process that we are experiencing now
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Companies have to reinvent their business strategy in order to maintain their position in the market. They have to turn their attention toward the digital world and use their current infrastructure to provide new services, as the user is now more focused on the quality and variety of the content. QoE has to be enriched by giving the user the possibility to choose among a vast pallet of services and application provided via the same architecture. The conglomerate of devices is put in a black-box which enhances transparency from user’s point of view. Thus, in terms of revenues, wireless sensor networking products manufacturers have to think about the services their WSN will provide long after the exhaustion of product-centric profits.
The unruly competition between content and communications: the winner takes it all
In order to understand the battle between content and communication, proper definitions should be given to these concepts within the context of this project. Content refers to the “material prepared by professionals to be used by large numbers of people” [content is not king]. In order to achieve it, the user is willing to invest in connectivity.
The theory according to which content is king emphasizes that the primary goal of the user is possessing the information. The theory is however countered by Odlyzko, which states that what the user is willing to pay for, is not the content, but the connectivity it can acquire. We will further analyze and verify the applicability of his hypothesis in the context of WSN.
We will begin our analysis by trying to find the right answer to the question: “What are people willing to pay for”. We have seen so far, that the value of the WSN does not stand in the infrastructure, as the price of the devices represents a source of profit only in the early years. In order for the companies involved in the WSN industry to survive the shock of ephemeralization, they have to find means to introduce services that will “entertain” the user in terms of enlarging their connectivity horizon. It is therefore undoubtedly that we are facing the beginning of an era where connectivity is a must. Pervasiveness is the key word for the future of the internet; therefore, communication must be enabled over space and time. One of the main sources of revenue for players that deal with WSN will be most certainly the capacity of the network to provide connectivity. Connectivity is translated here in the capacity of the system to provide reliable links to peers or end machines that are capable of communicating information about themselves or about homologous entities. According to the market trends previously discussed, there is a need for enriching the communication between ubiquitous devices, mediated or not by a human interface.
We reiterate Odlyzko’s considerations, and enhance once again that we do not classify information like weather or traffic assistance as content, but rather as information services that WSN can enable by offering reliable connections. In the classical telecommunication industry, it is apparent that the user is more inclined to pay for connectivity rather than for content and Odlyzko gives many strong arguments in favor of this statement; the success of SMS which requires low bandwidth but enables easy communication versus the failure of WAP as a high bandwidth content delivery application is maybe the most eloquent example. This theory can be extended to the use of WSN. WSN enables the user (machine or human) to connect to remote devices and to COMMUNICATE with them in order to access a set of services: verify climate/landscape/traffic/health conditions, receive alerts, in other words: providing awareness. It is therefore undoubtedly that the main purpose of the technology is enabling communications rather than delivering content. Related studies have shown that a user is far more willing to invest in innovation that will enable him to be fully aware of the environment through mesh connectivity rather than investing in content; therefore, WSN comes for the major players as an efficient and competitive solution: services enabled through WSN do not usually require high bandwidth (as opposite to content delivery applications), but they do need reliable links with a certain level of redundancy in order to enable communication.
We have seen so far that we are moving towards a world where communication as a service carrier becomes a necessity in terms of what a user is willing to pay for and we can conclude that Odlyzko theory is fully applicable to WSN domain. We find ourselves in the “winner takes it all” situation where communication has won the battle with the content, the latter having an unnoticeable presence within the WSN. However, we do not exclude the possibility that content can gain ground within the same framework, as innovation is rather unstable and means of making the content appealing to the customers can be invented.
Where does WSN technology fit within the new ICT ecosystem?
We have seen so far that following market trends led to the emergence of WSN as a cross-disciplinary solution that fulfills the user’s need of awareness. We went through the challenges of this innovative technology and discussed the issue of ephemeralization and how the battle between communication and content is led and won by the first, within the same WSN scaffold. In order to finalize the study of the path of WSN technology from invention to innovation, integration with the new ICT ecosystem should be made.
The interactions between the four major groups of players of the ICT ecosystem trigger innovation as Martin FRANSMAN comments in [ICT ecosystem]. It is in the context of the network element providers (Layer 1), network operators (Layer 2), platform and content applications providers (Layer 3) and final consumers (Layer 4) that innovation takes place and Schumpeter accredits that it is the change which came in the form of new products/services/processes/methods that triggered the restructuration of the ICT ecosystem. By change we understand innovation which leads to variety. We will therefore comment how the new ICT ecosystem relates to WSN technology, in the context of the six symbiotic relationships between the players.
In Layer 1, sensors with enhanced capabilities are produced by companies like Danfoss, Sensoria, Microstrain or Motorola. In Layer 2, these elements are added to an infrastructure by companies like Vodafone, Orange, etc. Layer 3 companies use the exiting architecture to create platforms that enable service delivery to the end-user. As a result of integrating the innovation brought by the emergence of WSN, the boundary between Layer 2 and Layer 3 becomes invisible, as more and more often network operators undertake the role of platform and application providers. Companies like Vodafone are facilitating the access for the user not only by providing the physical connectivity between the sensors and the user, but also by providing the interface through which the user queries the WSN or receives information from the latter. The merger between the two layers discussed is however only one of the two sides of the coin. Platforms for enabling access to the WSN information can be as well provided by companies like Google, through classical Internet, by using HTTPS links. Nevertheless, the direction of the ICT ecosystem in terms of WSN is towards the merger, due to security problems that can appear.
Finally, Layer 4 defines the consumer. In the context of WSN, the question that must be answered is who benefits from the services that are delivered through this technology. The consumer’s pallet contains government which uses WSN for military applications, hospitals that enable telehealth-care and regular individual who purchase the equipment along with the subscription for remote access to the service. The new ICT ecosystem can be mapped to the WSN technology, but it is the interactions between the players that led to the innovation of WSN. Therefore, it needs to be stressed that the ecosystem determined the innovation, but the incremental aspect of the latter determined the change in the way the ecosystem behaves (in terms of the boundaries between the players). In order to understand how the interwork of the players led to the WSN innovation, we will further discuss the main relationships between the four groups of actors.
As discussed in the previous sections, the high degree of competiveness among the network element providers in terms of equipment price (with an exponential cheapening rate) determined the manufacture of a wide variety of miniaturized sensing devices for the network providers to choose among. It is however the need of the consumer who triggered the process of miniaturization through the information flow. Nevertheless, the grounds of WSN innovation are many, and if we consider the network element providers as the source of it, it is the input flow into the innovation that needs our attention. In this case, the network elements providers use the purchase-sale flow and the information flow (both delivered by the network operator), along with the material flow (the input from other elements providers in order to generate their output) and the information gathered from interacting with all the players in order to generate improvements: new miniaturized enhanced sensors. The output of the network element providers, along with the information and material flow are used by the operators to deploy wireless sensors.
The application providers are the ones who use the information and material flow received as a result of the symbiosis with the consumer, as well as the input from the other symbiotic relationships to provide a wide range of services.
Finally, the consumer makes use of the relationship he/she is involved in as well. She/he sets the market trends and fuels the competition between new ICT ecosystem players by increasing her/his standards in terms of QoE.
Throughout this paper we have followed the road WSN takes from invention to innovation by focusing on the challenges that WSN faces during the process of launching the innovation onto the market. We conclude that the emergence of WSN is a market trend that comes to fulfill user’s demand. WSN is an incremental innovation and its effect is observable on the structure of the new ICT ecosystem. Problems as ephemeralization and reign of the connectivity versus content have been addressed in relationship to the WSN technology. Concluding, the process of WSN innovation is alimented by the interactions between the players of the new ICT ecosystem and attributing it entirely to one of the players will be an inaccuracy; furthermore, the incremental aspect of this innovation influences the behavior and role of the groups of actors, leading to a recursive process, in which the parts are concurrently influencing each other.
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