Consumer products like Apple Watch, Microsoft Band, Nest, FitBit, and Amazon Dash grab all the headlines, but IoT is quietly revolutionizing the way most industries compete, interact with buyers, and manage product lifecycles. As “products” increasingly become Internet-connected devices whose fundamental appeal is the 24/7 services they enable, what are the implications for language services?
A Compelling Market Opportunity
The International Telecommunications Union offers a fully loaded spreadsheet tracking the growth of global cell phone usage and Internet availability, claiming more than 40 percent of the world’s population is online as of 2014 — and that number is growing steadily.
Increasing global connectivity is one factor in how the Internet of Things is projected to become a US$4.3 trillion revenue opportunity in less than 10 years (Machina Research). Yes, that was “trillion” with a big, fat T! If your company isn’t thinking about how to bundle devices and services to become smarter, better, faster and cheaper, then with a prize that large, you can be certain someone else is figuring it out.
IoT Demands Agile Localization
Software publishers have already watched product release schedules shrink from 18-36 months in the “olden days” of desktop apps to as little as 2 or 3 weeks in today’s era of mobile and cloud computing. But for every other industry — say, manufacturing, life sciences, logistics — the Internet of Things stands to shrink product release schedules by a similar order of magnitude.
That’s because always-connected devices are extraordinarily easy to update with patches, updates, or interface changes without any inconvenience to the end user. Did you find a bug? Develop a fix and push out an update overnight. Not sure which UI design to use? Conduct A/B market testing for a week and then release the most popular version. Did a user suggest another variable to track that would add new insight? Build and test the new feature, update the marketing, and roll it out within a couple of weeks.
If you’re a localization manager who’s accustomed to bundling up thousands of words for translation in three- to five-day turnaround, you’ll need to prepare for a new reality: scores of tiny projects — maybe a few dozen words at most — requiring same-day turnaround.
Tighten up your processes
As we know from the “I Love Lucy” conveyer belt sketch at the chocolate factory, some manual processes work perfectly well until you increase the task velocity, and then everything goes haywire.Your biggest problem will be ensuring that every $2 translation of a 10-word string makes it back to the $300/hour developer in time for the mission-critical software update. When your program is supporting hundreds of small requests with 24-hour turnaround in 20 target languages, you can’t afford any miscommunication, preventable errors, loss of pipeline visibility, or schedule slippage. That means you have to bullet-proof your processes and collaborate very closely with your localization partner.
Consider your supply chain
Agile localization changes the project velocity for translators, too — and many will have trouble prioritizing your 10-word requests, which feel more like interruptions than actual projects. As you shift to an agile localization model, plan to have a frank conversation with your localization vendor about how they will manage the change with their supply chain.
Focus on continual improvement
Fixing defects is only the start of localization quality management. At some point, when you keep fixing the same defects over and over, you perform a root cause analysis and fix the problem at its source — say, add a note in the style guide or change a glossary term. The higher the throughput of files, the less time you can spend on tasks like chasing down errors, or resolving confusing reviewer feedback.
IoT at LocWorld
The Internet of Things is such a game-changing phenomenon that it’s the main topic of this year’s LocWorld conferences in Shanghai, Berlin, and Silicon Valley. How is IoT going to reshape language services? How are producers partnering with language services providers to deliver on the “at home” experience? What kinds of global business intelligence can we win from the multilingual Big Data that IoT will reveal?
We look forward to talking about these topics when we meet up with our clients and industry peers at LocWorld. What about you? How is IoT shaping your localization program in 2015 and beyond?