Too often, we relegate the discussion of innovative new technologies to how they impact established markets and target audiences of economically privileged consumers. We overlook the potential opportunities they may create for users in emerging economies. However, the greatest innovations not only capture the attention of existing markets – they empower change in the lives of those who need it most.

The Internet of Things excites us through the capability to create integrated technology systems like smart homes, which prioritize efficiency and ease of use for those who can afford them. But the Internet of Things (IoT) offers the potential for even greater impact in communities in which efficiency is an imperative, not a perk.

The Business Case for IoT in Emerging Economies

The interconnection of “smart” devices to increase efficiency is at the heart of the Internet of Things. Avrohom Gottheil writes for IoT Magazine that “the latest advances in technology have tremendous potential to benefit people by increasing efficiency and reducing waste.” An economically sustainable Internet of Things “needs to contribute to the overall economics of the household or business. In other words, for the technology to become viable in the marketplace, it needs to become a profit center and not a cost center for your budget.”

In our recent examination of the impacts of street-level pollution in emerging economies, we introduced the example of a delivery driver in Mumbai who relies on a motorbike to do his job and feed his family. Unlike the consumers who feel motivated by an environmental imperative to reduce their fuel consumption, the delivery driver has different priorities. Every extra mile he can travel without refilling his fuel tank means more money in his pocket at the end of the day. How might the Internet of Things become a profit center that positively impacts his ability to make a living?

Worldwide, businesses and individual consumers of all income levels realize that efficiency and waste reduction have a positive impact on their bottom line. In the case of our delivery driver, the Internet of Things may at first seem like a distant fascination of people with surplus income to invest in new technology. However, there is an IoT application that could make a significant difference in his life.

The delivery driver’s main business expense is likely to be the fuel that powers his motorbike. An efficient fuel system with IoT capabilities could not only greatly reduce his fuel consumption but give him access to meaningful data about his fuel usage. The resulting cost reduction is especially impactful given the delivery driver’s economic circumstances. The fuel system significantly increases his ability to work in a more efficient and profitable way.

An Economic Incentive for Technology Adoption

As Gottheil notes, the market for IoT-enabled devices is only viable if it results in cost savings. While a certain market segment with disposable income may be motivated by reducing their environmental impact, the vast majority of consumers (especially those in developing economies) need an economic incentive to invest in these technologies. In the case of the delivery driver, the cost of retrofitting an efficient, IoT-connected fuel system to his motorbike is significant, but justified by the efficiency and cost savings that it provides over the life of the product. Presented in this way, the IoT can benefit consumers in both emerging economies and those that are already strong.

Additionally, the environmental impact still exists, whether marketed as a consumer priority or not. The delivery driver, by adopting efficient fuel technology, will make an impact on his community and environment through reduced emissions and lower fuel consumption. As more and more drivers adopt this technology on the basis of an economic incentive, the beneficial environmental effect continues to grow. It’s a win-win situation for the driver, his community, and those who provide innovative, IoT-connected technologies.

The Internet of Things also presents exciting opportunities for carbon exchange markets. Smart fuel systems that can tabulate and communicate their carbon offsets to a ledger (secured and made accessible through emerging blockchain technology) create the possibility of a new market for carbon trading and an additional economic incentive for adopting these technologies.

An Imperative for Innovators

What does this mean for IoT innovators and their approach to developing and marketing new technologies? A focus on products that improve the lives of consumers in emerging economies through cost-savings will open access to many markets which have previously been overlooked. Innovators can empower change in the lives of those who benefit from it most by providing the opportunity to save money through adopting IoT-enabled technologies, with the additional benefit of decreasing harmful emissions in those communities.

At Technology Elevated, we believe that innovative technologies should be made available to those who benefit from them most. We understand the imperative to provide compelling incentives for technology adoption that open new markets and enable the spread of efficient, environmentally-conscious products. If you’d like to learn more about our pioneering work in fuel systems or partner with us to build the future of interconnected technologies, contact us today.