18
Jul

Consumer Impact on the Future of Smart Devices

By: Greg Swando, Sr. Director of Client Services, & Richard Clarke, VP Global Partnerships, Vision Critical

 

Are you ready for an experiment? Spend some time watching commercials during primetime TV, or while waiting to board your flight at the airport. In a matter of minutes, you will notice an ever-increasing number of impressive and exciting ads touting smart Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Whether it’s a lonely grandmother connecting with her far-away family, thanks to Alexa and the Amazon Echo Spot, or a busy father scouting Greek food locations with his LG OLED TV with Google Assistant, IoT devices are the present and future answer to consolidating seemingly endless daily tasks and helping consumers connect with family.

Rapid developments are present everywhere we turn. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) featured a Smart Home Marketplace more advanced – and promising – than ever before. In addition to efficient and connection-based clocks and televisions, trusted brands like Kohler, Whirlpool, and Honeywell are showcasing retail innovations promising to make homes safer, healthier, and more comfortable.

Whether it’s a refrigerator reminding you that your apples and oranges are about to rot – or a connected dishwasher that starts rinsing your dirty china with a simple voice command – appliances and entertainment technology are joining the ranks of smart automobiles and security systems to become the assistants families and professionals didn’t know they needed.

In fact, a recent feature story in Forbes magazine spotlighted how the aforementioned “Alexa” of Amazon fame is now the latest virtual butler to cater to guests staying at Marriott-branded hotels.

“Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa,” explained Amazon VP Daniel Rausch in the Forbes feature. “We want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them.”

Consider how the world recently became captivated by the news that the Google Virtual Assistant had used an eerily human sounding voice (replete with “ums” and “ahhs”) to book a hair appointment by phone. Clearly, our ability to engage in multiple tasks at one time – while enjoying the experience – is advancing at a rapid pace that both shocks and delights the American and global consumer base.

From predictive data collection to nearly overnight developments in natural language processing, consumer-oriented brands in all industries are eager to capitalize off the many benefits these devices provide. While the technology is undoubtedly thrilling, the key for commercial enterprises is ensuring their customers understand it, then accept it as quickly as possible.

Top Factors Driving Smart IoT Devices & Consumer Adoption

To obtain wide acceptance, it is up to various industries, from automotive to healthcare to retail, to convince the public that these products are not only beneficial, but necessary. One of the easiest arguments to make to consumers is that it helps them save time while delivering a needed boost in a world of instant gratification. Though companies are finding ways to benefit on their end of the IoT paradigm, what will they need to overcome consumer resistance to giving up a modicum of privacy and control in order to foster wider adoption of the technologies?

     1. Consumer Brand Loyalty  

In a society dominated by brand loyalty, consumers want to know the trusted entities behind the technology – and these savvy virtual assistants. For example, Marriott’s Guestroom Innovation Lab collaborates with Samsung and Legrand to optimize their stay experience. As a result of this technology partnership, guests will interact with Bixby and store much of their data in the ARTIK platform and SmartThings cloud. Put simply, they must like and trust these brands to want to use them. This phenomenon extends across industries.

A family’s smart thermostat may be powered by Alexa, for example – but there still are a limited number of tasks the assistant can handle. If they do not enjoy using Alexa, their continued adoption of similar technology may dwindle. By the same regard, some products will be powered by Apple, while others will run on Google technology. Whether it is the voice assistant drivers used in their Toyota – or the underlying technology which powers the commands to control kitchen appliances, for example  – helping consumers define the relationship between the perks of their devices and who drives them is key.

While it is possible enterprises will be overthinking consumer loyalty to Apple, Microsoft, or another entity, it will behoove them to help their buyers understand who is owning and collecting their data – and how it helps them to achieve their goals and complete daily tasks. In turn, the organizations creating the technology will benefit by hashing out how their devices and clouds interconnect.

     2. Privacy Concerns and the Race for Data Collection

As alluded to previously, the battle is on for the ownership and collection of data by technology companies. The more information businesses have about people using smart IoT devices, the more they will be able to enhance consumer experience and dominate their marketplace. Like-minded, competitive organizations will not be sharing consumer data, so building trust matters.  Autonomous vehicle manufacturers, smart television makers, and blue-chip appliance giants can be sure that their customers haven’t yet forgotten about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal – or the almost regular notices they receive about their data being included in a restaurant or bank data breach. It is how they handle consumer perception that will drive future adoption.

There are also concerns about IoT smart device spying – and the potential security risks that come with billions of cars, appliances, and entertainment products being connected by the year 2020. With this discussion, however, comes promise – the global market will grow to up to $475 billion by then – a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of a whopping 28.5 percent.

     3. Consumer Budgets, Product Lifecycles, and Device Efficiency

If you have ever had to argue with Siri to get an answer to a simple question, you know the first-hand limitations of smart tech. At a minimum, all devices need to learn from Google Virtual Assistant’s example — concisely understanding what the consumer is saying and using it to complete myriad tasks. Businesses will have to grapple with people who don’t want to adopt new or difficult technology, so ease of use is essential.

These factors intersect with consumer budget. When weighing benefits of smart IoT devices vs. price, difficulty or affordability of adoption may affect the speed at which the industry evolves. For example, a millennial who recently bought a 2016 KIA Soul has some voice capability in their car, but not the newest technology. While they may think new IoT innovations are neat, they are not going to necessarily invest in a new car until they finish making payments. At the point they buy a brand new vehicle, they will upgrade to the latest technology – and then learn how to use it. Many companies at CES argued about the impact price point will have in the speed of adoption – it will be less painful for consumers to buy a smart dishwasher or clock versus a $30,000 vehicle.

     4. Global Adoption of Smart IoT

While it is relatively simple to predict the future of the smart IoT device industry in the fast-paced, instantly gratified United States, it is additionally important for large organizations to consider how the rest of the world deploys and utilizes the technology. While Apple, Google, and Amazon are among the most trusted and used brands in America, Asian and European consumers prefer South Korea’s Samsung and other local companies while Apple’s popularity declines in large markets like China.

Since there are various technological and societal dynamics across the world, companies interested in capitalizing off smart IoT devices must complete their due diligence via extensive and relevant research to understand the various marketplaces in which they compete.

     5. Growing Consumer Industries by Leveraging the Benefits of IoT

Advancements in IoT devices are undoubtedly useful and exciting to both customers and consumer-based industries. However, it is up to the organizations creating innovative products to transform their knowledge about clients’ emotions, needs, and wants into a trust-building engagement strategy.

Automotive companies, for example, must learn how to balance headlines about self-driving car fatalities with public knowledge about the prevalence and usefulness of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), while large home appliance leaders should leverage data to overcome consumers’ inner battle between cost, budget, and benefit.  No matter how advanced a TV or sedan becomes, consumer attitude will drive adoption. These organizations should focus on ways to engage their customer base to add context and establish the “why” factor in using their products.

It is the everyday mission of Market Strategies International-Morpace to assist companies in understanding these nuances through research about consumer habits to support the value proposition of their devices. The companies who currently make IoT devices are primarily focused on technological advancement and product features but ignore customer perception at their own peril. If enterprises can turn consumer data and sentiment into a strategy that delivers on promises of better efficiency and improved connectivity, the increase in global smart IoT will be coupled with a sentiment that consumers cannot live without it. The drive of habit change is trust – and research to inform development, implementation, and marketing strategies will bridge the gap.

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11
Dec

The IoT Frontier: As Seen In Trade Shows

By Lucas Lowden, Research Director

As professionals, we often hear about expanding our horizons. How frequently do we actually do so? In reality, not very often. We get comfortable, and, we are experts at what we do anyway, right?

Commercial Vehicles. Fleets. Construction Equipment. I’ve done plenty of research projects with these professionals.

Big Data. Internet of Things. I’ve heard plenty about these concepts, and do work with a lot of data.

Now put all those ingredients into a pot and distill them into something useful for professionals in those industries?  That’s a different kind of problem. It requires new tools. New skills. A new way of thinking. A new understanding.

Truthfully, everyone’s reality is different and being made uncomfortable is not easy for most.

The last two years of my career have been a whirlwind of discomfort for me. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Learning, growing, helping – each in parallel with teammates and partners alike. In establishing a data-driven mindset we’ve embraced a new way of thinking to get to a new understanding. It’s been incredible!

It’s now late into 2017, and I recently attended the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, NTEA Executive Leadership Summit, and EquipmentWatch’s Traction 2017 show.

Interacting with fleet and equipment professionals at the trade shows forced me to personally broaden my horizons, and embrace the pain points that may make those professionals uncomfortable. I quickly realized that my reality as a Market Research professional differs greatly from that of a Fleet Manager or an Equipment Manager.

Which brings me to the first theme that became apparent to me.

Theme 1: Big Data Is A Big Deal, Getting Bigger With IoT

Let’s start with something that most industries in existence are familiar with – Data. Data. Data.

Data has long been available from an enterprise perspective – financial data, employee data, customer data, and transaction data, among others. Most have utilized each source of data independently for their own practical, everyday needs. Some have integrated the data for a broader application.

Operational data is becoming much more prevalent today – passive data coming in from sensors integrated with all types of equipment and applications used to conduct our everyday business and in our personal lives.

With the IoT I expect the growth curve of data to be an exponential factor the likes of which we may have never seen before. I’ve heard the term 4th Industrial Revolution thrown about. I’m not totally sold on that scope just yet, but it seems more possible than not from my perspective.

Getting the data is often not terribly difficult. Making sense of it is slightly more difficult. Harnessing the power held in these disparate data sources? Broad success stories are far and few between.

So how do we get past this hurdle?

Theme 2: Integration Is Key

Everyone has data. Few have truly harnessed the power of integrating their data to the extent it could be today.

To use an example from a long haul transportation perspective, integrating truck telematics data can give you the amount of fuel burned while a tractor is idling. Layer contextual feedback from a driver survey to understand the idle situation to deem an idle event necessary or unnecessary from a business perspective. Lastly layering that with fuel spend, and you can see how much money lost due to unnecessary idling.

There are lots of high quality solutions in the burgeoning market that provide services around the IOT ecosystem – telematics hardware, internal/external CRM, database architecture, reporting dashboards. As of yet, not many have fully embraced data integration.

That doesn’t even get into what I feel like is the next technology wave of data integration– blockchain. That’s a whole topic in its own right, so will save this for a later post.

For small to midsize organizations this highlights a challenge – they often don’t have the time available or skill set needed to integrate their own data across platforms.

Ultimately, baby steps are critical to integration efforts. Partner. Discuss. Get smarter. Get better. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Integration of data and systems is a natural progression to the final theme.

Theme 3: Any IoT Solution Has To Be Easy To Use

The integration of data at the business level leads to a “what’s next?” question of sorts.

Sometimes, a reporting dashboard can be a solution. For others, it’s an app delivering their data and insights.

Any solution in this space needs to be data-driven and actionable to be most useful and effective for industry executives.

It also needs to be simple and easy to use. Time is money.  Difficult to use and hard to understand solutions cost a company more time and more money.

Currently I’m contributing to a data-driven solution that delivers descriptive dashboards and actionable light-prescriptive reports that, with ongoing interaction, can develop into full predictive and prescriptive systems.

From my perspective, full prescriptive and predictive analytics come with nothing more than time and data pumped into the appropriate systems. Those claiming the ability to do so already are quite far ahead of the curve.

Recap & Conclusion

To work through these steps requires some keen self-awareness and the desire to embrace a data-driven decision making approach around business and competitive intelligence.

In each case, we get there one way – by data.

New technologies are allowing data to be brought in, analyzed, and presented to stakeholders in ways never before imagined.

Doing so represents a whole new batch of challenges at the same time.

Do we have the time? Do we have the people? Do we have the money?

Yes. Yes. Yes. You have to.

If you answer “yes” to all the above then you’re golden. If you don’t answer “yes, I do internally” to all the above that’s ok too. One way to shorten your timeline is to say “yes, I do by partnerships”.

The risk of not saying “yes” and taking action in this new frontier is potentially greater than taking action and failing, but still learning along the way.

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22
Apr

The Connected Car and Consumer Privacy

The Connected Car and Consumer PrivacyBy: Andrew Fixler, Senior Project Director

On March 21st during the keynote address of the Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook reaffirmed the company’s commitment to privacy. Early in his speech he addressed Apple customers directly, saying, “We believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy.”

Leaving the legal analysis to others, consumer satisfaction is more in our line of work as researchers. In our studies relating to the appeal of new features for vehicle makes and models that will be available in the future, consumer feedback demonstrates a clear demand to enhance connectivity. If phones are our new personal assistants and keepers of our secrets, automobiles are increasingly becoming our mobile offices and logistics coordinators.

Current telematics tools with direct relevance to the automotive industry include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, to further increase safety and convenience, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are now preparing for a future where all vehicles are connected to each other, along with the infrastructure that surrounds them. Privacy becomes even more complex if future users feel they should control the information that connects to vehicles from car sharing services like ZipCar or Uber.

Knowing that connected cars are here to stay, how should automakers deal with their customers’ need for in-vehicle security, privacy, and encryption? As of now, automakers are actively seeking ways to keep vehicle software safe from hacking. Developing a comprehensive privacy policy may be the next logical step.

Recent news of the collegial agreement between 20 automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to make autonomous emergency braking standard by 2022 proves that creating industry guidelines for new technology is possible. This process may be a model for the development of best practices for privacy and connectivity in automobiles, aligning the interests of all stakeholders.

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