(and it’s not for the reason you think!)
You may have noticed all the ridiculous ‘things’ that are being connected to the internet these days. In the past, we’ve talked about Bluetooth toothbrushes and diapers that tweet. This CNET article covers but a few of the weird connected items on display at CES 2017, including a hairbrush which (like the toothbrush) can somehow sense when you’re not maximizing the efficiency of your brushing. Now, a smart hairbrush or sneakers that order pizza may at first seem completely frivolous. Because, of course, they are. But only from the point of view of the consumer. From the manufacturer’s perspective, however, it makes perfect sense. And despite all our warnings around IoT security (or the lack thereof) in this episode of our Device Squad Podcast, the IoT will soon be in everything. In a couple years or so, I expect the term IoT will disappear altogether from our lexicon as connectivity becomes the norm rather than the exception. Here’s why:
First off, for the sake of simplicity let’s divide things into two categories: Real Value and Marketing Value (with apologies to marketers), though there is some crossover in that real value can also provide marketing value (and vice versa).
Here, I’m using the term to denote anything that provides a unique, genuinely valuable service to the customer that wouldn’t be available without device connectivity. This includes the following:
GE’s Wi-Fi-connected ovens work with the Nest Protect smoke detector and shut off automatically in the event of a smoke alert.
Samsung’s smart FlexDry lets you start and stop cycles remotely from the app, as well as monitor the progress of a cycle. It’d be nice if it also provided cleaning reminders and let you know when it bursts into flames, but I don’t know if that’s the case.
The Hydrao Showerhead shares info with Alexa so you can ask the assistant about your water usage and determine if you’ll save on your water and energy bills.
In this case, I consider marketing value to be anything that builds awareness of the brand or leads to more sales. So, rethink what we mean by “connected.” More important, perhaps, than being connected to the internet, is the additional connection users will be making with your brand. This is the real value (for the manufacturer). Some examples include:
The Keratase Hair Coach. A smart hairbrush with a built-in microphone that supposedly listens as you brush to identify your hair type. However, my suspicion is the company is hoping they’ll be blessed with an additional revenue stream when the CIA pays them to use the hairbrush to spy on us. Either that or the CIA are the ones who built the thing in the first place.
The GeniCan sits on your trash can, scans bar codes of the things you throw away and automatically adds them to your shopping list. Automatic grocery deliveries provided by Amazon Dash Replenishment, naturally.
Pie-Tops from Pizza Hut. So why is a pizza company making shoes that order pizza? Because they’ll generate a ton of buzz! And second of all, because they don’t actually have to make the shoes. They just have to make a Photoshop image of the shoes, which is considerably cheaper. I mean, come on. Who do they think they’re fooling?
They’re in the pizza business, not the shoe business. The USA Today article states, “these shoes won’t go on sale to the public. However, the 64 pairs will be made available to some lucky individuals as part of a future promotion.” Uh-huh. Sure they will.
Takeaway Lesson: At the very least, just pretend you’re building an IoT, even if you’re not.
Regardless of whether it’s real value or marketing value you’re after, Smart Objects create a closer relationship between the user and your product (and hence, your company). Not by being annoying, but by providing actual value and convenience. Here’s another example that straddles the line between real and marketing value: the Wink Genius power strip. I own two of these. Big deal, right? But consider this. I can’t name the makers of any other power strip in my house. And there are a lot of them. Integrate your smart products with Alexa and now users are literally conversing with your brand!
Besides the benefits of brand extension, never underestimate the value of having an open communication channel with your users. Thanks to your new Smart Device, it’s quite possible users will see your company’s name on their phone (and on their wearables) several times a day—in notifications and SMS messages.
Finally, in addition to developing a deeper understanding of your users’ behaviors and habits, pretty soon you’ll even be able to learn exactly how your users feel about your products.
In a recent episode of our Device Squad podcast, MERL Sr. Researcher John Hershey and I discussed the fact that in order to simulate more natural, fulfilling interactions, eventually our robot overlords will need to be able to determine our emotional states. Well, it looks like that’s already happened. The Hubble Hugo Smart Cam can do just that. Designed to act as a security cam/baby monitor, the makers of Hugo claim it’s meant for those parents who are looking to ignore their children more efficiently. I mean, akin to the tweeting diaper, the Hugo is meant to help you monitor your baby by alerting you when your baby starts crying. But isn’t that what the crying is for? Yes, except now you can finally feel good about ignoring those cries, because Hugo will automatically soothe your child back to sleep with music or by turning on a fan (a fan?). Again, more valuable personal information to sell to the CIA.
If you’d like to discuss how the IoT might be helpful in your Enterprise, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d love to help you out.
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