What impact will IoT have on the customer experience

By: Tony Poulos
March 2015

TONY POULOS

INDUSTRY EXPERT

Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is now Editor of Disruptive Views and sister publication Billing Views. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software world-wide. 

The explosive growth in the number and range of IoT and IoST (Internet of Silly Things) devices coming to market raises a whole new range of challenges for those hoping to provide their connectivity to the internet, and maybe even make money from it. But who will customers turn to if something isn’t right, and what happens if the customer experience is negative?

Communications and internet service providers have long thought they would be the default means of access for the billions of loT devices that will soon be talking to servers, applications and each other, but there are a lot of others that have different ideas. And they are definitely going to ‘muddy the water.’

For a start, the vast majority of sensors and gizmos, including wearables, will only have low-powered means of connecting to other things. Bluetooth LE, NFC, Low power Wi-Fi and Green PHY to name a few. These will rely on other systems in proximity that can communicate with them, manage them and connect them to remote systems, data collection servers, and even the internet itself.

Forget all the fancy gadgetry and silly things people are coming up with, it’s these proximity management systems that will become the major battleground in the loT onslaught and the traditional players stand to lose out if they don’t get their ducks in a row very quickly.

The biggest move is in home management and automation systems (HMS), seen by many as the critical component in the loT race. When Google acquired Nest (basically a clever thermostat), very few would have predicted that it would become the spearhead of Google’s loT attack. Now we are seeing a multitude of other things used in the home connecting to it before going out into the big wide world to connect to a base somewhere or their owner’s smartphone apps.

It’s all about being able to control what goes on in the home even if you are not there. Functions that are already being addressed include light management, energy management, remote door locking and unlocking, controlling appliances, health monitoring, etc. etc. – the list goes on.

But not all the devices/appLiances work with all the different systems, let alone the technologies available already. These include Insteon, Z-Wave, Zigbee, X10, UPB and KNXto name just a few. Some of these control technologies rely on home Wi-Fi and fixed line broadband to connect externally—others use mobile networks or power line connectivity.

The hapless consumer will certainly be perplexed by all the choices, but having to worry about how they connect will tip most people over the edge or they will just wait and see what survives before spending any money. The more daring ones may decide to take a ‘best of breed’ approach and tie it all together themselves; others may opt for one home technology and only buy gizmos that work with that system.

And who will they turn to when something isn’t right? Will it be the device maker, device supplier, HMS provider or the network provider? Consumers will be wary of relying on companies they are not familiar with and if they can’t find answers to problems quickly and the customer experience is negative it won’t take long for their dissatisfaction to be heard, most likely over social media.

Surveys report that today’s savvy consumers are tired of bundled packages that give them so much they either don’t want or will never utilize. Why do you have to have a landline phone when you buy a broadband or cable connection, or a sports channel that is linked to your cooking package?

But HMS is only the beginning. Once in place and coordinating information from all those sensors and devices the data will be worth its weight in gold. Knowing what you do, what you eat, when you do anything, what you prefer, etc. makes the job of selling to you much more focused for anyone willing to pay for the information. No wonder Google is positioning itself—HMS could threaten its core livelihood.

Whoever is going to take control of the HMS or the low-power connectivity market will also have to be able to offer any combination of product or service, make it easy to connect and operate, bill in a way that best suits the customer, and hopefully add value to the customer experience. Or maybe they will give it away just to get their hands on all that juicy data?