SaaS, SaaS platforms, PaaS platforms, IaaS – I’m sure you have stumbled upon these terms. It’s pretty much impossible to be in the world (of business, or the entire world, to be honest) and not to have heard about the “SaaS experience,” even remotely. As for the other terms, they are nothing but spins on the same principle: PaaS is all about the “Platform as a Service” (see Magento Commerce Cloud, for example), while IaaS is all about “Infrastructure as a Service” (one of the most popular IaaS services is Amazon Web Services, for example).
What happens, though, when your very life becomes a minefield of services you not only don’t want to avoid, but fall back into using again and again, and again? And what happens when you sprinkle everything with a touch of data collection and data privacy as if they were the salt and pepper of the contemporary tech landscape?
From SaaS to IaaS and PaaS, and then LaaS, the world has come a long way – and in a relatively short period too. The SaaS-based industry seems to be ruling authoritatively over the tech world – including those parts of it that tap directly into our daily needs.
What’s going on? Read on and find out more.
Let’s Get Uberized
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw
I first read this quote when I was just a kid – and although I’m ashamed to admit I never read anything by G.B. Shaw in full, these two sentences seem to have stuck with me, and resurfaced as I was watching every area of our lives turn into a type of service.
To quote my colleague, Sorin, smile and wave, guys, because your very existence is a battleground for companies. And, oh, boy, do they want your attention!
These people (read: businesses) have created entire systems that are connected by the World Wide Web (just in case you ever wondered why they call it that). Every digital move you make, every click you make, and soon enough, every breath you take (sorry, I had to jump into Top Gun here) – they are all closely monitored.
We’re not talking Big Brother here. We’re talking about the very fabric of the modern world: Big Data.
That adorable cat video you just watched before you supposedly returned to work?
That pair of jeans you’ve been stalking for discounts?
That photo you shared on your Insta?
Nothing belongs to you fully. You, as a human being, have created an entire system that allows companies to sell their services to you continuously.
Uber is, perhaps, the most famous example – ergo, the term Uberization. By providing you with a transportation/ ride-sharing service, Uber has embedded itself into the intricate connections of your life.
You get an Uber when you are late for work, you get an Uber when you want to go to your friend’s wedding ceremony downtown, and you get an Uber to get to the hospital when they give birth for the first time. You get an Uber for your first and second date, and then you get another one when you leave their home for the first time in the morning.
Somehow, Uber (and many other services of this type) have become part of your life. They are there to witness the small moments and the big moments alike. Uber is a lot more than your average taxi company. Ride by ride, they build an actual relationship with you. They know if you’re late, they know if you don’t tip. They know where you have been too.
They are the perfect example of the way technology places us on the pathway to Life as a Service. Your life is the platform upon which these businesses have created their entire model. Uber, Airbnb, Google Drive, Greenchef, LikedIn, Meetic, Tinder – the list goes on and on and on. Chances are you have at least three or four of these apps on your phone. And chances are you’re using them too – ergo, participating in the entire LaaS landscape.
Millennials Ruin Everything
In the eyes of pretty much everyone born before the 1980s, Millennials are an odd breed.
If Baby Boomers rushed to settle down early, buy cars and houses, and have children, Millennials are quite the opposite. Recent studies have shown that Millennials have, indeed, started to settle down – but we have done it later than Early and Late Boomers, and much later than the Silent Generation.
Moreover, Millennials love their avocado toast brunches, and we love being serviced in every way there is. The idea of being tied down isn’t very becoming of us either, because even if we do own cars (despite popular belief), we still prefer to Uber around because, well, it gives us more flexibility.
The same goes for pretty much every other LaaS these Millennial “kids” are using (mind you, the oldest Millennials are leaning on their 40s).
We want to be versatile, to move around, to feel like we’re living the high life despite the high costs of housing and living (especially in the big cities we tend to live in).
And oh, to top it off, we’re the most globalized generation ever. Boundaries don’t mean as much to us – and this is why Uber, Airbnb, and Google Drive are almost as universal as the world’s love for partying in all its marvelous forms.
We love our services because they offer us the high-end experience without the costs associated with it. We really do. And on behalf of all Millennials out there, I’m sorry if the hotel industry, taxi industry, or any other industry is going down because we are more of an app-using generation than a phone-based one.
The thing is that this is not even the biggest problem.
What’s the Problem with LaaS Then?
The thing with Life as a Service is that it wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for all the Big Data flying around. All the SaaS-based services we’re getting have reached this point of popularity thanks to Big Data (and, well, because brilliant people knew how to use it to their advantage). And as such, issues connected to Big Data privacy can follow.
That is not even the problem itself. The largest SaaS companies use Big Data, too – so this is not a matter connected solely to the B2C industry. It is a matter that is embedded in our very existence by this point – and being fully aware of what is going on is the first step toward:
Creating a set of ethical principles to govern this brave new world
Building businesses that are more ethical from this point of view
Making life choices that do not affect your need for privacy
In other words, both consumers and businesses love Big Data, and they cannot lie. And as such, we should all contribute to creating a framework that incorporates ethics and data hygiene.
When all that Big Data is connected to the most intimate parts of your life and when IoT, PaaS, and SaaS companies monitor everything you do – from how much milk you buy to your very heartbeat rate – things can quickly spin out of control (as we have already discussed the matter in our piece on Data Fetishism).
Life as a Service isn’t all bad, though – the problem arises when you have to draw the line between the kind of data tracks you want to leave behind and the kind of data you would much rather keep to yourself. Likewise, as a company, you should develop policies that help your customers draw the aforementioned line in a clear and concise way.
Beyond the massive collection of information SaaS companies have already collected, Life as a Service comes with a good range of benefits:
- It makes people feel good. Being able to attend an event in an excellent car or stay in a lovely, cozy, beautifully-decorated home for your vacation even if you don’t have millions in your bank account? Thank Uber and Airbnb for that. Not having to pay thousands for office software? Thank Google Drive for that. Sure, everything comes with a price (and in this case, your attention, captured through algorithms that quantify your user data might be your currency).
- It’s better for the economy. Life as a Service creates a continuous, loyal lifetime (perhaps?) customers. Instead of relying on a one-time purchase (or purchases that happen once in a few years or more), LaaS is an on-going flux of money brought into the economy.
- It’s healthier for the environment and society. Private ownership comes without saying in most of the Western countries. But it may not always be the best option. Not only do you live in a world where you might relocate at any time (because, well, why not?), but you also live in a world where there are quite enough cars, houses, and everything in between.
LaaS can be the promoter of a whole new life. Just like trains and factories were the projections of the Industrial Revolution, Uber and Airbnb might be the purveyors of the Data Revolution.
Are you ready?