Does smarter equal better?
What kind of products does your company make? Maybe you make “connected things” or “smart things.” But do you make “better” things? Building smart, connected products is rapidly becoming the minimum requirement to simply participate in the market. The question is how, in this age of hyper-competition driving rapidly-evolving product sophistication, your company is going to build BETTER products, and the answer is most likely: “By intelligently applying internet of things analytics.”
Your Living Room: The Land Time Forgot
There was a time when people had VCRs and those VCRs had clocks on them, and they all read 12:00 because nobody could figure out how to program their clocks. So what was the value of the clock? A product manager making decisions the traditional way (by intuition) might say, “The clock needs to be there to take advantage of the ‘record later’ function; otherwise our customers will not be able to record programs at a specified time.” A product manager making decisions based on direct product usage analytics might say, “Nobody is using the ‘record later’ function, so we can take the clocks off our VCRs.”
I’ll bet you just read that and thought to yourself, “Wait – how do you know that consumers weren’t using the ‘record later’ function because they really didn’t need it or because they couldn’t figure out how to program the damn clock and so they weren’t able to use the ‘record later’ function?” The answer is that historically, maybe we didn’t know that, and that’s why it took the better part of a decade for VCR manufacturers to finally decide to kill the “flashing 12:00 problem” by simply removing the clock (rather than figuring out a way to make it easier to program the clock [or decide whether it was required functionality on its own (or determine whether recording at a specified time was even a desirable feature!)
If VCRs were a category of smart and connected devices today, an internet of things analytics solution reporting to a manufacturer how all of its customers were using its products would have reported whether customers attempted to record a program at a later time but were unable to because the damn clock was still flashing 12:00. Such a manufacturer would then be able to use that empirical evidence to make their products better. They might have used the information to:
- Figure out a way to make it easier and worthwhile to program the clock
- Decide whether it was required functionality on its own
- Determine whether recording at a specific time was a desirable feature
- Change the user interface to pander to their customers’ desires
Any one of the VCR makers at the time could have gained market share by having the first totally simple VCR that didn’t make you feel stupid because you couldn’t program your clock to stop blinking 12:00, and they would have if they had a stream of data from those customers telling them what to do on a daily basis. Pandering to your customers’ desires is a good way to make money, and internet of things analytics is a good way to know exactly what your customers’ desires are.
Internet of Things Analytics is the Path to Better Things
The point is that a “connected” device or a “smart” device may represent a leap forward in its category, but it is just one product development cycle before all of your competitors reach feature parity with you. What’s left is plain old competition, but today the playing field can be tilted a bit in your favor if your connected device has also been built from the beginning to use and apply usage data in a way that makes your products truly stand out. That is how you use connectedness to make your smart things BETTER.
Because of organizational inertia, most of your competitors are going to continue to develop products without the single greatest benefit that connectedness could give them – insight. By building internet of things analytics into your smart thing from the beginning, you can use it to your advantage, or ignore the opportunity at your peril.