This passage - in particular, the part I've bolded - from an old McKinsey paper on the Internet of Things kind of blew my mind today:
In the business-to-business marketplace, one well-known application of the Internet of Things involves using sensors to track RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags placed on products moving through supply chains, thus improving inventory management while reducing working capital and logistics costs. The range of possible uses for tracking is expanding. In the aviation industry, sensor technologies are spurring new business models. Manufacturers of jet engines retain ownership of their products while charging airlines for the amount of thrust used. Airplane manufacturers are building airframes with networked sensors that send continuous data on product wear and tear to their computers, allowing for proactive maintenance and reducing unplanned downtime.
I would like a future in which we're paying more and more for services, and less and less for parts. I think of this a lot in the context of the retail service industry, but the application described above is fascinating. Imagine if Boeing redefined themselves as a company whose primary product was the thrust required to drive aluminum cans through the air. The implication of this is really interesting. It would shift the way that airlines dealt with fleet maintenance and upkeep, and might change the way all parties dealt with fuel usage as well. I had no idea that this kind of shift was underway, and I find it quite heartening.
How would your industry change if you redefined the product you offer?