Companies marketing connected devices to consumers should remember one point: the less complicated the better.
Consumers gravitate toward the simple and convenient, as well as products that ensure privacy and security. Connected devices that can provide these attributes, while also presenting the connectivity promised by the Internet of Things, will prove invaluable to consumers and profitable to tech companies.
During a Data Innovation Day panel, “Wearables, Sensors, and the Internet of Things” Philip DesAutels, Senior Director of IoT, The Linux Foundation; Mohamad Foustok, CTO, BlueMaestro; Aurelia Moser, Map Scientist, CartoDB; William Jeffries, Founding Officer, Heat Seek NYC; Ori Shaashua, Co-Founder, Neura; and Pablo Vittori, VP of Technology, Globant, talked about how wearables and connected devices are changing the scene for both consumers and marketers.
The average consumer isn’t complicated when it comes to what he or she wants. In fact, the use cases for connected devices that interest consumers are actually really simple, said Philip DesAutels, senior director of IoT with The Linux Foundation.
“I want to know when someone’s at my front door, I want to know what song is playing, I want to be able to drive away and tell my house to go into away mode.” Simple, simple use cases that make their lives better are what interest consumers most, DesAutels pressed.
For example, a company that uses new technology to make connected electrical water heaters found that their customers were buying the devices and putting them in line with currently installed gas water heaters. The customers were then querying the smart meter in their houses to find which times of day electricity is cheaper than gas, and vice versa.
The consumers would use this information to program which times during the day the devices would “click on” and use either gas or electricity.
“Well that’s beautiful,” said DesAutels. “That’s big data, that’s little data, its spot pricing; it’s all of that together and it’s a real world scenario that’s real money and a simple, simple scenario.”
For companies to market their products’ simplicity, it’s easier if they remember that most consumers aren’t tech wizards.
Consumers shouldn’t have to be overly technical to make things work anyway, reminded Mohamad Foustok, CTO of BlueMaestro. Devices should be able to work as intended, out of the box.
If the device doesn’t do that, it could be considered a failure.
“The general consumer is not a computer scientist, they’re not an electronics engineer,” said Foustok. The usability for the products has to be simple and out-the-box ready.
“Set up and configuration, all of those things have to go away,” Foustok said. Companies producing connected products should keep in mind the old plug-and-play concept, and apply it to everything.
Things can connect much faster when they can connect directly and that is very powerful, said Jeffries. “Previously when you wanted to interact with technology you opened a box and typed into it,” he said. “It was input output and very conscious.” Now a user or consumer can very easily lose track of the information he or she is putting out there.
To explain his point, he mentioned his own company, Heat Seek NYC. In old cities like New York, he began, many buildings that are outfitted with old-style steam heat. It’s very difficult to determine which building units are operating at safe temperatures because there’s no data. In response, rather than have tenants manually log the temperature of their units to use as evidence (which would be flimsy at best), Heat Seek NYC has automated the process by using the Internet of Things.
Sensors placed in the apartment units take temperature readings to determine if landlords are in violation of housing codes. The information is then sent to the proper government agencies that can then enforce the appropriate housing codes. The information can also be sent to and used by the landlords themselves when ensuring compliance. And although the use of this data is extremely beneficial, it can lead into questions of privacy, he said.
Privacy concerns call for the creation of mechanisms that allow users to begin making conscious decisions about what of their information is protected and what isn’t. But, according to Foustok, before companies can offer privacy controls, they must first acknowledge that casual users may not know what personal information needs protecting. “The consumer base has to understand how these things will help them … [And] this all has to happen in the next few years.”
When it comes to security, companies should focus on both education and conscious design “to make sure people get the right information,” he said.
Value of data
Security can sometimes come at a price, said Foustok. “We have to start classifying data based on its value,” then apply the appropriate level of security for that value, Foustok added. Companies have to be careful with securing connected devices, as adding too many security mechanisms can make them harder to operate and thus erase that all-important simplicity and convenience consumers want.
So when you’re considering wearables and connected devices, remember – simplicity is key.
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