Through each new phase of technology development, consumers have fallen prey to “bright, shiny object syndrome.” Is it new? Does my co-worker have it? I must own it! … (regardless of its usefulness or applicability to my life.)
The Internet of Things has brought about an entirely new slew of products, gadgets, and wearable technologies that have consumers coveting thine neighbors and swooning over newly connected product features. But, what happens when the novelty wears off? We’re left with loads of products with little utility, and we move on to the next fad without looking back.
Or, worse yet, too much novelty can send consumers running in the other direction before even trying wearables on for size. According to data from Business Intelligence and Affinova, 41% of consumers feel strongly that IoT products they have seen or heard about are gimmicky, and 58% feel strongly that they won’t upgrade to IoT devices unless they can be more than just a novelty. If brands are looking to increase sales of wearables and related technologies, they must prove a product’s utility beyond sheer convenience, whether in the form of efficiency, cost-savings, health benefits, or other useful properties.
Take the sports industry, for example. At 2014’s CES, InfoMotion Sports Technologies unveiled the 94Fifty Basketball for $295. It’s equipped with nine lightweight sensors and a bluetooth chip to relay data back to an iPhone app – data about the ball’s backspin, its arc, and the force of the bounce. However, it can’t track if the ball went into the basket nor if a shot was taken (without a pass from another player first). A prime example of novelty for novelty’s sake.
Compare the 94Fifty Basketball to recent efforts in the sports wearables arena from Reebok and FITguard. Reebok partnered with mc10 to develop the Checklight – a device that sits under NFL athlete helmets and emits a colored alert light when a significant hit is suffered. Along the same vein, Force Impact Technologies developed the FITguard mouthguard that incorporates motion sensors to detect forceful blows to the head and face, also emitting flashing lights when players withstand a heavy hit. These wearable technologies offer true healthcare utility to both players and their coaches in determining whether or not athletes should continue playing.
Let’s examine a few other examples of how connected products can create value as part of the IoT ecosystem:
- Dutch startup, Sparked, is using Internet-connected sensors on cattle to tell farmers when the animals are sick or pregnant. Each cow sends about 200 mb of data per year.
- General Electric believes that using IoT enabled products and processes has the potential to make oil and gas exploration and development just 1% more efficient, resulting in a savings of $90 billion.
- By equipping street lights with sensors and connecting them to the network, cities can dim lights to save energy, only bringing them to full capacity when the sensors detect motion. This can reduce energy costs by 70% to 80%.
True IoT innovation moves past the “gee whiz” factor and focuses on the potential that lies within the connection of smart products to one another.
Rather than simply adding a remote control to existing products and services, companies are beginning to push boundaries by first eliminating barriers to entry for developers looking to innovate on top of the IoT. One such company, Apigee, offers an API-first IoT platform, Apigee Link, to enable device makers to securely link previously unconnected devices to the internet and grow ecosystems with other devices, apps, customers and partners. This allows companies to securely take the first step into transforming into a digital IoT platform business – the foundation needed for creating meaningful wearable device networks.
When we’re faced with fewer hardware and software barriers to entry in creating connected product ecosystems, wearable tech can offer greater utility to consumers and enterprises alike. Pew Research Center reports that 83% of experts believe wearable tech will have a “widespread and beneficial effect” on the public by the year 2025. This prediction may indeed come to fruition if developers and businesses pursue connected products that, when working in concert with other devices, offer lifestyle and bottom-line value over fleeting novelty.