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Smart *—Commentary-as-a-service

Nov. 4, 2022

Let’s consider the as-a-service business model, in which a product or function is delivered to a customer on a subscription basis, rather than that end-user owning and maintaining the tools or technologies like some god-forsaken caveman.

While the modern version of this approach is gaining popularity by the day (we’ll get to that in a minute), we’ve actually been doing as-a-service for centuries. Think dairy-as-a-service courtesy of cows that we (thankfully) needn’t own/house/clean/feed/herd and the milkmen who deliver bottles to doorsteps. Some of my neighbors—even in this 5G world in which we live—still get their dairy home-delivered, which I find both charming and disgusting.

Our houses are equipped with plumbing-as-a-service, tapping into sewer systems that we’d rather not maintain, and electricity-as-a-service that powers our home-offices, in which some of us remotely work for as-a-service companies.

This approach is engrained into the lives of the modern citizen. We don’t own cars, but rely on Uber for transportation-as-a-service to get us to the gym, which provides exercise-as-a-service on treadmills or Peloton bikes (motivation-as-a-service) so we can maintain cardiovascular health, which is monitored as-a-service via our smartwatch, to avoid e-visits with a doctor (healthcare-as-a-service) and to postpone our ultimate burial service. 

Like many trends in our consumer culture, this one is showing signs of spiraling out of control. In early November the US Department of Justice arrested 21 members of a suspected crime ring that made millions of dollars from the theft of catalytic converters. The organization offered subscriptions to their shockingly professional-looking DGAuto.app—theft-as-a-service—which facilitates the crime and even offered tiered membership levels. The app’s Palladium Package (just $36 per month!) enabled subscribers to receive price-gradings for stolen catalytic converters via photo...all without leaving the underside of the victim’s vehicle.   

Your local neighborhood car thief isn’t alone in embracing this business model. Ransomware-as-a-service is ideal for the globe-trotting cybercriminal who wants to explore the exciting world of business exploitation but lacks the technical know-how to get started. 

These types of attacks are real. They cripple industrial organizations and can imperil communities if targeted on, say, utilities or infrastructure. Manufacturers combat these threats with security-as-a-service—outsourcing cybersecurity to the experts. This mirrors the larger adoption of this business model in the industrial arena, where as-a-service is digitally rooted, reliant on automation, and aimed at boosting operational efficiency.

Among the most common for manufacturers is robots-as-a-service, particularly because robots are expensive and difficult to program and maintain. As such, the as-a-service model is attractive in that it puts the onus for programming and upkeep on the service-provider…the robot-provider. The provider takes care of the robot; the customer reaps the robotic rewards. Win win.

The benefits with the as-a-service approach are many. Consider the ubiquitous software-as-a-service model, in which applications are hosted in the cloud and do not require users to purchase hardware, rather accessing the tools from anywhere on the connected devices they carry in their pocket or purse. Examples include Adobe Creative Cloud, which was used to design this magazine, or the customer-relationship-management software used to ensure this copy was delivered to your address. If you’re reading this online, this digital issue is brought to you by our web-hosting-as-a-service provider.

Forecasters predict we’ll reach the state of XaaS, or anything-as-a-service, in which few things are actually owned, damn near everything in our personal and work lives is accessed via the cloud, and if you drop your phone down a well you’re essentially incapable of functioning until you secure a new device to contact your service-as-a-service provider. 

By Chris McNamara, Smart Industry editor in chief