Internet of Things: Non-connected products are an endangered species

By John Leonard June 9, 2016

The fast-paced world of technology lets us create products and services that would have been impossible to imagine just a few years ago. With the smartphone market booming, consumers are now connected to the internet everywhere they go. Over the next few years, this will give rise to an even wider range of connected products and services.

The world is connecting

We have already embraced some amazing, innovative IoT products that would have been dismissed as ‘high-tech dreams’ just ten years ago. One of the most exciting developments is Google’s self-driving car project. Since the project started in 2009, their fleet of cars has driven over 1,500,000 miles in ‘autonomous mode’. This means that software is driving the vehicle without any input from the drivers.

Within the medical sector, patients can wear small sensors that monitor their vital parameters 24/7 and send data reports to a cloud-based server. Their physicians get a much better overview of the patient’s condition in real time, and not just when they’re sat in the doctor’s office. Plus, they get notified about changes that would be impossible to spot otherwise.

Smart farming is another area of huge demand and growth. Having monitors, sensors and automated production facilities gives increased production at lower costs.

Add new features to your existing product

Sometimes furniture is more than just regular tables and chairs. Maybe you are targeting the professional markets, offering products to big corporations and institutions with huge buildings, like hotels and hospitals. Adding features to help monitor inventory and reduce costs would make sense. In even the largest facility, tracking systems can track everything, down to the smallest lightbulb, to help make sure resources are used to their fullest.

Imagine a company that manufactures windows for office buildings. With a bit of clever thinking, those windows can be more than just windows. Sensors can be included to monitor sunlight, or accumulation of dust and dirt. This can trigger automatic sun shades or activate a window cleaning system. For retail stores, the whole window might become a transparent video ad for customers to see as they walk by – all controlled by a central cloud based system.

By adding new features to your product, you can differentiate yourself from your competitors and even branch out into whole new markets.

Keep up with the digital transformation

Many companies fail to keep up with the changes in technology. Too busy managing their own processes and day-to-day business, they forget to keep an eye on the world around them. As more things become connected, their markets are turned upside down. This happens not only to taxi drivers or bookstores – even light bulbs and door locks are now connected.

If you haven’t noticed signs of digital transformation within your sector, you should be thinking about why. Is it because digitalization doesn’t make any sense in your sector? Or because you’re not paying close enough attention? Or perhaps no one else has thought about it yet? It could represent a huge advantage to be the first to offer innovative, connected products to your customers.

Don’t ignore the connectivity buzz

Be careful to consider any buzz about IoT that could relate to the realities and demands of your own business. Digital innovation brings new ideas, but also new rules and regulations. Customers’ expectations can change overnight. At the moment, with just a small number of self-driving cars, that market is highly dependent upon legislation. For now, legislation is changing to allow self-driving cars. But in the future, self-driving cars could be recognized as safer and more efficient than cars driven by humans. Thus, it may even become illegal to drive cars manually! If your business is based on a product that suddenly becomes illegal, you have a serious problem.

Even if your product does not require connectivity at the moment, it may do so in the future. If the market shifts around you, the authorities – or your own customers – could force your business to adapt. Or die.

Connecting your product to the World

If you are not including connectivity by default, you should have a strong reason to believe it will never be necessary during the product’s lifetime. Do not risk bankruptcy by creating a product that suddenly becomes obsolete.

Of course, connectivity is not appropriate for all products. Even though non-connected products are becoming an endangered species in some markets, you need to think about whether it’s right for you. Do not create an app that adds no value to the user just so you can say you have an app. There will always be cases where consumers prefer an old fashioned button that does what they want in a second rather than an app that takes a minute.

An example is the good old filter coffee machine. You have baristas, coffee lovers and gadget enthusiasts that rush to buy a high tech connected coffee machine for a thousand dollars or more only to find that all it really does is make it harder to get a cup of coffee, so they go back to the old machine that only costs a few dollars.

As the world is getting more and more connected, your business probably should too. In one way or the other. When you do, make sure that you do it thoughtfully. Maybe your first step is to get more connected to your customer? Because you need to make sure they’re getting more value, and not just more frustration.

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