The Internet of Everything
Love it or hate it, the Internet of Things is here to stay. The days of analog are gone – touch screens are omnipresent: interface windows for our fingertips to access the internet. Each year, these windows become increasingly resilient, useful, and ubiquitous. Screens, however, are not the lowest common denominator for smart, connected objects. Bluetooth and Voice Recognition has freed our hands, allowing us to interact with devices at a distance. Smart devices have colonized our kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms – pushing out older appliances, bulbs, and implements.
While the hardware becomes cheaper – and while the novelty of smart objects has not worn off – manufacturers are mass producing items which end up obsolescing in darkened warehouses. As protocols such as WiFi, LiFi, and Bluetooth become faster, cheaper, and able to transmit more data, IoT companies and products are proliferating, but most of their products fail from the getgo from a lack of forethought and market analysis.
99% of these products will end up in someone’s junk drawer. Either, the product was not useful, it did not add anything to the existing ‘unconnected’ version of the product, or manufacturer’s did not keep up with security and hardware updates. If you own a business, it is useful to stop and consider a number of questions which may determine the success of your digital venture.
How will incorporating internet and communication protocols change the way consumers use my product?
Get Real and Think of the Detail
Just because you can, does not necessarily mean you should. Is your product idea useful?
Novelty items are hit or miss. Successful novelty products enjoy 15 minutes of fame and fade into obscurity.
Compared to existing products, is your product useful?
Without diving too far down the rabbit hole, I would like to highlight the existence of a smart litter box which utilizes a scale. For more IoT fails, peruse this dedicated twitter account. The scale detects the weight of the litter pre-cat entry, during cat-business, and post-business. Time stamps are a useful feature which allow owners to track the accumulation of cat-business over the course of the day. Enjoy live tweets here.
Is your product compelling?
You need to think of the value of your product. While a smart litter box and other IoT novelty items are shareable content, not many consumers would consider the weight of their cat’s excrement to be critical information.
If your product is more difficult to use than the old-school, unconnected equivalent, you will not experience much success. If your IoT product needs to be re-configured after every power outage, you will lose the few customers who bought into your hype.
Be in it for the long-term.
How are you going to get hardware into production? How are you going to deploy ‘bug’s to fix hardware issues? Will you need to update your device’s firmware?
Your product works great with a solid internet connection – fantastic. What happens when the internet fails? If your product cannot function in a limited capacity during an outage, consumers will choose the traditional, unconnected product every time.
Prioritize Privacy and Security
Consumers are justifiably concerned about privacy risks. Smart-Home devices are in the dog-house after reports of Alexa surreptitiously recording and forwarding private conversations to individuals on one’s contact list.
How can you ensure communications are secure and access to data is limited?
Big name manufacturers are already being pressured by law enforcement to turn over data on request. In response to requests for data from law enforcement, Amazon issued a statement without teeth: “Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” If even the largest companies are subject, how can you reassure customers that they are in control of their data?
Whatever your product may be, you must ensure consumers have options to disable device functionality.
The consumer must be in charge and able to turn off the microphone of their device, review recordings, and delete them at will.
“As we’ve seen in the past, manufacturers are incentivized to rush products to market without thinking through the privacy and security implications, which is almost always bad for the consumers who buy these devices in good faith, only to wind up victims of a breach–or as the case may be, only to have their words used against them in the courts.” – Cris Thomas, of Tenable Security Network
As a manufacturer, you must think of where consumer’s device data will be stored and how consumers can access and delete this data if desired.
Whether you are a consumer or manufacturer, you should be able to ask the right questions when making purchasing or production decisions. Creating a product which utilizes the latest technology is always a mad dash – but now is the time to ensure your product is useful, secure, and functional in a variety of scenarios. These considerations will separate future industry leaders from those who deal solely in novelty.