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Drone Data Business Models...

I was teaching a module on business model innovation on an Executive MBA course at a Nordic business school recently. The discussion centered on the use of drones (robots) and the acquisition of data across various industries and quickly moved beyond the novelty of potential use cases to the "then what?" phase. The invention of electricity took a long time to fully replace steam power in factories, requiring other innovations such as cranes, assembly lines and conveyor belts to realise its practical application (see the excellent book Machine, Platform, Crowd by Andrew McAfee & Erik Brynjolfsson).

Things will move a lot faster with the wiring in of drone data driving practical applications into industies at scale. The forces of digitisation and democratisation unleashed by their exponential cousins dematerialisation and demonetisation will accelerate adoption.

Digital, mechanical and business model capabilities are co-evolving a break-neck speed because so many groups of people across so many types of organisations are experimenting and deploying new iterations and combinations of tools and data services. Digital platforms are providing the ability to trade with existing customers in new ways, and tap into new customers and markets.

Send a drone over, inside or below an environment and you learn new things about whats going on in a very dramatic way. But pretty soon you realise that in order to make use of the aerial, surface or sub-sea insights then you will have to adapt the organisation and processes to turn it to your advantage. Time, space and resource demands can compress with the smart application of data acquired from drones. Utilising drone-as-a-service to minimise CAPEX can provide a CFO with a smörgåsbord of operational efficiency if applied effectively across the organisation's processes.

As with all new technologies that seep into our business activities, novelties quickly become the norm...for some. For others, not staying on top of these trends, either on the sales or utilisation side, can be fatal.

What if you have a platform for collecting, storing and distributing digital data on physical environments allowing decisions, materials, people, supply chains to be optimised. A platform for matching drone data with business processes regardless of the industry. There are already many companies offering specialised drone data services across various industries...but who will be the first to do it at scale? Will it be a logistics company(s), IT or telecommunications organisation...or will this new business model emerge from an unexpected direction?

...such as a bank or insurance company. Considering that these organisations profit from funding and protecting industries, then offering drone-acquired data back to their customers could provide a unique set of value propositions to augment their financial offerings. It would also provide the bank or insurance company with unique insights to the industry that they are risking their own investments on.

Or could it be a construction/engineering company branching out into new services by offering their expertise on gathering data across complex evolving, environments and re-packaging it as a service to very diverse industries through business model innovation?

The provision of industry data acquired from drones should be an obvious next set of capabilities offered by IT, telecoms and logistics/distribution companies. Just as a small degree adjustment on the wheel of a large ship can result in thousands of tonnes of cargo changing direction, so can relatively small business model adjustments to existing service providers capitalise on this emerging opportunity.

Drones are mobile sensing devices, and in some cases equipt with robotic arms to perform physical tasks. The data acquired can be easily stored in cloudy places and repurposed to offer unique services back to clients across all industries.

Or perhaps we will see the emergence of new business models where banks and/or insurance companies combine with IT, telecoms and logistics companies in unique ways to create new platforms for clients to transform their business' with drone data....

One thing is for sure...whoever can scale the acquisition of drone-data (land, sea, air, inside..), package it and offer it back to customers in an actionble way will be in a position to make new markets, help solve grand challenges, and yield considerable profits...

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