We are quickly moving towards the point where connectivity is not defining a new category of devices. It will just be a value-adding feature to the existing.
Tony Fadell made this point implicitly a few weeks ago, when rejecting the notion of Nest as an Internet-of-Things company. In his mind, they just leverage technology and design to make better thermostats and smoke sensors.
While the number of crowdfunded “smart devices” is growing by the day, they have yet to become relevant to the mass market. Yes, Nest have sold more than a million thermostats, but how many thermostats are there in the US? Fact remains that the single breakout success of “smart devices” is still in the low single-digits in terms of market share.
The cost of enabling an appliance with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth is now down to a few dollars. The hardware cost will soon be almost insignificant. The question is, what primary use case will it solve?
We believe the simple answer is service and support. If your fridge connects to the internet, the manufacturer or retailer can diagnose and fix issues remotely. Manufacturers think returns may decrease by 50%. That is huge. And this deep serviceability will drive mass market adoption.
When connectivity is a feature and not a product, the connected home will grow out of its current hype cycle and mature into holistic service-and-support focused platforms. Consumers will engage with their devices directly over mobile apps, managed through a “home control panel” which sits on the Wi-Fi router or on the cloud.
The winning formula will be to integrate existing serviceability channels and value chains into a frictionless and intuitive experience for the end consumer.