Everything that can be connected is getting connected to the internet and becoming a data source. This wave of evolving technology is a result of the Internet of Things (IoT) and brands are looking for ways to monetize their investments. After all, increased consumer value, reduced costs and new opportunities are at stake.
We sat down with Chief Product Officer at Nanoscale.io, Richard Mendis, and Jabil's Senior Business Unit Director, Brent Tompkins, who focuses on connected and smart devices. Together, they discussed how brands can successfully launch smart appliances to market and leverage new opportunities.
Working in industries such as healthcare, energy management and large media outlets, Nanoscale.io has applications across diverse sectors. As appliance OEMs begin to enter the IoT market, Mendis has some essential recommendations.
"One of the elements that is, unfortunately, often overlooked in the early stages of building IoT solutions, is security," says Mendis. Security is obviously critical in industries such as healthcare and defense, where there are corresponding civil and criminal implications for breaches due to heavy compliance rules and regulations.
However, with more devices functioning as data sources, security should be a concern even for appliance OEMs. "Consider, for example, a connected garage door opener. If compromised, the owner's property is at risk of theft."
When discussing IoT and connected devices, one can't speak about security enough. In fact, 82 percent of consumers aware of IoT devices don't trust them. According to Mendis, "the solution must be fundamentally secured at both the application and data layers." While "selecting a secure hosting provider" is part of ensuring security, so is "country-specific compliance and regulatory requirements."
"Applications must be built with appropriate levels of user authentication and roles. Data must be encrypted at rest and in transit," Mendis recommends. But it doesn't stop there. "The ability to move the connected solution backend across different data centers or cloud providers is critical to meeting security requirements, and ensuring you are not risking being locked into a single vendor."
Mendis and his team have helped implement projects across a wide variety of industries, which has provided them with real-world insight into connected, smart appliance solutions. These critical requirements don't end with connected appliances – however – the requirements apply regardless of industry-specific application.
"Customers expect the software aspect of connected solutions to be constantly evolving and improving, unlike the hardware counterparts," Mendis says, when talking about extensibility and scalability. "Solutions must be built on a platform that can be extended easily." With growing volumes of usage, the platforms must also be able to gracefully and efficiently scale.
Jabil's Brent Tompkins echoes Mendis' sentiments. "Consumers are going to expect it. Brands that do not feature the extensibility and scalability will be shut out of different markets and trends."
Reflecting on Jabil's diverse business experience, Tompkins believes there are different business relationships that can help OEMs connect with the right people and technology.
"We have done a lot of work with our customers on optics and cameras and projecting images, getting various cameras inside appliances for things such as facial recognition, so that your toddler can’t accidentally turn on the stove," shares Tompkins.
These connected devices and added functionality are essential to OEMs looking to stay competitive within their industry. But it comes with a cost. OEMs must work with higher manufacturing investments, which leads to a higher price tag for the consumer.
So how can OEMs monetize the opportunities that come with smart appliances?
Reflecting on his experience, "the consumer may not be willing to pay that extra $20 or $50, but an appliance OEM may be willing to absorb a lot of that cost or at least share that cost if there is another revenue stream that can be created around the appliance," says Tompkins.
This is where the ecosystem can make a true difference. For example, if your OEM is able to partner with your local grocery store like Publix or Kroger's, it could steer some of the additional cost in manufacturing the smart appliance.
Tompkins shares an example: "If a camera enables your smart refrigerator to create a shopping list and share it with your local grocery store to be delivered to your home, that is a partnership that can benefit all parties and added value to the consumer."
"There will be brands that are slow to adopt to connect and leverage the connective piece of IoT," says Tompkins. He believes that those that are slow to accept that the washing machine or the refrigerator can be more than just an appliance will risk losing market share to competitors.
"There is still a tremendous, untapped opportunity for brands to use IoT capabilities to better connect with and form relationships with their customers," says Mendis. Appliance OEMs have the opportunity to ease basic tasks such as completing product registration with the tap of a button in a mobile app. But it doesn't end there. OEMs can provide proactive maintenance tips, upgrade options and promotions, and even cross-sell marketing offers. Smart appliances can make these processes much simpler.
"One must obviously respect privacy and opt-out requests, but manufacturers today that are not viewing the connected appliance as a way to form customer relationships are missing an opportunity."
"There's a difference between a connected appliance and a smart appliance. With smart appliances, there's another level of added value that brands can provide to consumers. But that starts with tapping into the intelligence aspects of smart appliances," says Tompkins.
One of the largest problems OEMs face is "building the platform and ecosystem to leverage the intelligence of these devices," Tompkins shares. "The main reason we partnered with Nanoscale.io was to allow OEMs access to their platform. Together, we can ease the smart appliance adoption rate, as well as the willingness and ability of the consumer to connect a device."