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5 Challenges In Supporting IoT Devices

Whether you’ve noticed it or not, the Internet of Things (IoT) is spreading and influencing your lifestyle. Look no further than your car and you’ll see an inventory of gizmos and gadgets no one had dreamed of just a few short years ago.

GPS, Bluetooth and video/music streaming now sells more cars than torque or gas mileage.

Home appliances used to mean toasters and blenders. Now your appliances talk and listen.

You can control your home security from any location in the world where there’s a WiFi connection.

Doctors can diagnose medical conditions from hundreds of miles away.

And shopping sites are full of deals to bring you into the world of IoT.

The Internet of Things is bringing a whole new set of challenges to both the vendors and users of the technology.

1.  The Learning Curve

As an IoT vendor, you understand you’re delivering a consumer product that’s new to the user. Why is that significant?

Consumers now have a learning curve with home appliances and smart devices of different kinds, and it’s not just “where’s the on/off button” or “how do I set my blender to purée?”

That is the case with smart locks, smart cams, voice-operated hubs, lights, wearables, speakers and many others.

We also have to teach them why interconnectedness is good!

IoT presents a major shift in how consumers relate to and interact with products. And this, in turn, presents major challenges to companies delivering on the promise of IoT.

2.  How To Deliver the Technology

To be successful at marketing consumer IoT – which includes home automation, wearables, pet security, as well as sleep and fitness devices (among many other categories)- requires vendors to brand such products as important, secure and useful to consumers.

And they’ve got to be easy to use. Anything difficult to understand or use will disarm and disappoint customers.

As a result, delivery plays a much more important role than before. Delivery is more than just packaging and handling.

Challenges for the IoT ecosystem

It begins with product design, image, and branding. Consider the sleek appearance of Alexa and Google Home. Minimalist design full of functionality and utility.

Branding of any consumer IoT product must show that it actually works at tasks meaningful to the market.

Setup and instructions of the device itself and their accompanying mobile apps must be minimal and effective for consumers with no time – nor inclination –  to read or spend much time configuring their settings.

Consumers want plug-in efficiency, and you need to give it to them.

3.  Customer Experience

As IoT products multiply, so do the hubs that look to integrate them, and their accessories.  Think Alexa, Google Home, Apple Pod, Samsung SmartThings, Nest and a number of others.

Consumers are assaulted with competitive products with only slight differentiation in the eyes of the customer, as vendors are rushing to get products into the early adopter phase of this market.  These products need to integrate with the various hubs to deliver on their promise to automate our lives in some way.

As a vendor of the device that must talk to sometimes more than one hub, you risk confusing consumers during this phase.

Many of the challenges we see at Infolink-exp that customers struggle with, have to do with compatibility between products, mobile apps and hubs, integration, security and usability.

At some point in the next few years, we’ll get to a market correction, where a major shakeout and consolidation in vendors is expected, but in the meantime these various IoT ecosystems are forming and looking to both gain ground and integrate with one another.  Vendors must strive to deliver a customer experience that does not intimidate users and helps them cope with the multitude of products and technologies being offered to them.

Eventually, some level of consolidation will probably be a good thing and also help consumers who both want and need their IoT ecosystem to work simply, efficiently and affordably.

4.  Maturity of the Technology

Much of the emerging technology is still relatively immature. Lacking a consistent and universal ecosystem, devices must communicate better amongst themselves and with their respective hubs.

For example, until vendors, connectivity devices and consumers are on the same page, security is still not airtight. There is security exposure to users in the neighborhood, and there are still gaps that leave devices open to hacking, denial of service attacks and ransomware.

Part of the maturity challenges also include innovating vendor business models as well.  An increasing numbers of vendors are promoting products that require service subscriptions. Just like buying a smartphone and paying monthly service, you are now being asked to pay for certain services associated with your IoT home security or automation system, and other IoT installations.

Even though it may be difficult to sell the concept initially to the consumer market, business is going the subscription-route. B2B buyers are used to the subscription obligations attached to CRM, HRIS and other SaaS innovations, and consumers technology is catching up.

5.  Retaining Customers In A Consumer Electronics/SaaS dual Reality

As IoT expands with next-generation products and systems, gaining, securing and retaining customers becomes a priority.

Customers tolerate software bugs more readily than they do malfunctioning hardware. They expect their product to work as described. It must function flawlessly to retain their interest. Customers want flawless performance, and they want that value to be priced fairly.

Hardware is the core product in IoT offerings, and vendors must deliver this hardware free of operational defects, as is usually the expectation for consumer electronics.  However, the dual reality for IoT vendors is that they must also support software applications and connectivity protocols, both embedded in their hardware and in their accompanying mobile or web apps.  The software piece raises issues around connectivity, compatibility (with hubs and various mobile platforms), security settings and others.

Vendors should be ready to accompany users in their IoT journey with customer support services that address any negative feedback, increase adoption and help users capture the benefits promised by the technology.

The IoT Challenges We Manage

IoT is shaking up product innovation, e-commerce, revenue models, automation, consumer electronics, data footprints, and more. Its rapid growth is challenging product branding, delivery and customer values.

Even where vendors are succeeding, they are subject to rapid change, competition, and replacement. And, as IoT approaches the shake-out phase of its evolution, it needs integration and support.

It needs help in connecting manufacturers and tech startups and end users learning to cope with this new level of complexity in their lives. The technology companies bringing IoT to life also need help in identifying and resolving their customer experience and scalability challenges, as the IoT revolution evolves from the tech-savvy consumer with taste for all things new to the larger majority of adopters.

Companies like Infolink-exp provide value in supporting the leading IoT vendors to tackle customer support and education challenges, deliver value to consumers, and provide a customer experience that will move the ball forward for all of us.

Read more about the specific challenges described in the next chapters of our IoT Challenges series.  Next: The Complete Guide to Securing your Smart Home.

What Type Of Companies Do We Support?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has grown quickly and spread widely throughout the consumer market in the last few years. Both manufacturers and end users find themselves overwhelmed by a rapid array of IoT products.

The IoT ecosystem is a moving target

It is in this context that Infolink-exp has decided to offer its services. We have specifically decided to serve IoT technology companies that have passed the early startup phase and are in active growth mode.

Specifically, Infolink-exp has designed a set of services and meth

 

odologies to help tech companies that want to support their users throughout the customer journey, and are committed to nurturing and supporting large numbers of customers for a long time.

In the emerging consumer IoT space, this includes producers of smart home devices, wearables, home security, sleep tech, pet tech, automotive and other similar tech devices.

These companies are highly innovative in both their technology, but also in the creation of new markets.

 

IoT Is A New Space That Needs Specialized Support Services88

The Internet of Things space is relatively new. Manufacturers are creating products consumers have never known, needed or used.

Consumers have never before had to think about connecting devices that are not phones or computers to the internet – or to each other. And they do not know what to expect or how to respond.

And the innovators, as well as manufacturers, do not all share the ability to reach and hold these consumers.

Total Customer Experience

That’s why we’ve decided to help consumer IoT companies with services that cover the totality of the customer experience.

For example, you can buy a purse containing a tracker for the personal safety of the individual carrying it. There are also trackers in smartphones, cars, pet chips and a number of other devices.

Needless to say, these companies are very sensitive to the customer concerns about their personal safety and data security — and

what type of companies we support

that of their families. And, those safety issues include user worries about their information being treated confidentially and invulnerability.

Fully Customer Supportive

We support vendors who fundamentally value customer support. They promote meaningful customer service, such as providing customers with the right plan for their unique needs.

They provide or demonstrate how to integrate a product’s operation with the customer’s local hub or related products. After all, the customer wants the easiest way to integrate Alexa or Google Home with other devices.

Strong On Customer Relationships

We succeed in supporting those companies that value and build long-term customer relationships. Where innovative technology can produce products with anticipated obsolescence, we are a better fit for those who value scalability. Companies must be able to scale efficiently and quickly as customer needs to increase or diversify.

In the current wave of IoT momentum, companies must have the infrastructure to move from a few thousand customers to hundreds of thousands in a fairly short period of time. Such companies must have the right team, experience and focus in place to be sensitive to the customer experience, intending to build and sustain the customer relationship over time.

The Type Of Companies We Support

Our clients are technology companies approaching or in the act of a fast phase of growth. They are consumer companies that prize their brand and reputation. But, they are also sensitive to retaining their own employees, relieving talent to focus on support and service instead of complaint resolution.

We also support some companies providing XaaS solutions. With the lines between SaaS and IoT blurring, consumers have a lower tolerance for poor performing hardware products than for subscription software with bugs.

In the rapid unfolding of the Internet of Things, providers and users need what Infolink-exp can do to reduce confusion, sell product and solve significant IoT business needs.