Product Design: Why Adopting IoT is Key
In 2017 we’re more digitally connected than at any point in history – no longer do we ‘log-on’ to the Internet. Rather, the Internet and digital connections are integrated into every facet of our lives. The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the ever-expanding network of devices that utilize Internet connectivity, and the webs of communication between those devices.
Whether it’s a fitness tracker monitoring your step count, a thermostat lowering the heat (or AC depending on where you live) when you leave for work, or the Amazon Echo or Google Home you use to listen to music or call your Uber, businesses have begun to tap into the potential of using IoT to merge the physical and virtual worlds.
“50 billion connected devices. $19 trillion opportunity. All by 2020.” – Theo Priestley, technology strategist, Forbes contributor.
HOW SMART PRODUCTS SERVE CUSTOMERS BETTER
IoT bridges the gap between physical devices and the virtual world. Digital connectivity allows products to communicate with an ever-expanding web of other devices and services. It also allows for the constant and real-time collection of data, customizing the user experience to anticipate and better meet consumer needs. The data collected is just as valuable to consumers as the product itself.
In this way, the true value added for customers is the combination of product and service. One example is smart watches, such as the Apple Watch, Fossil Smart Watches, or Samsung Smart Watches. Smart watches must provide value above and beyond simply telling the time – that’s where the data comes into play. While smart watches can have many applications, I like using mine for fitness purposes. I use my smart watch to track activity levels, heart rate, sleep patterns, all of which sync to an app on my phone. This ongoing data collection is invaluable, and it is this service combined with the traditional product that has made smart watches so popular.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUSINESS
The continuous flow of data and digital connectivity also allows designers to monitor performance in real-time, responding to any glitches or failures as they arise and minimizing disruptions. This is win-win for customers, who benefit from improved service and better product functionality, and for businesses that can use the data collected to improve products and increase revenue.
While the combination of product and service adds undeniable value for consumers, the potential for ongoing revenue appeals to businesses. With traditional products, the customer relationship typically ends after the sale; but with smart products, an app can be developed with upgrades for purchase, customers could be required to subscribe annually to the service, etc. Therein lays the potential for revenue growth by integrating service with products.
IoT DESIGN CHALLENGES
With smart products, it’s crucial that they continue performing the roles of their traditional counterparts. The inability to do so is one of the most sure-fire ways for a smart product to fail. At its core, a smart watch must still tell the time; a smart phone must still be able to place and receive phone calls; a smart lock must still lock and unlock the door. Designers must therefore develop a strategy to mitigate the effects of wifi-connectivity issues or power outages.
The IoT also presents product design challenges. Developers must seamlessly integrate wi-fi connectivity without compromising the product’s outer appearance or structural integrity. The technological and communication components must be user-friendly and easy-to-adopt, while adding significant value, or users will stick with the traditional counterparts.
For businesses developing smart products for the first time, they may need to restructure the organization and invest in skill development. These skills may include app development, programming, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- One thing to keep in mind when developing smart products is the speed with which technologies are changing and can become outdated. Designers should therefore build in mechanisms to easily swap out the hardware without having to rebuild the product.
- Make sure to develop a plan to minimize the impact of connectivity issues, ensuring that smart products can still function like their traditional counterparts.
- Don’t sacrifice physical design for digital connectivity – seek out a balance between the digital and physical.