Many of us often go about our daily lives progressing with and adapting to the rate of change in technology quite naturally, without much thought for how much that daily life has been changed over time. There are many technologies that have been introduced since the Internet age was born, which have changed the way we listen to music, shop for product and services, communicate with each other, seek funding for business ideas, or consume news headlines, amongst a multitude of other life-changing models.
The use of these Internet-dependent models of change has, in essence, become, "the new way of doing things and getting them done.”
We are at the precipice of a new wave of change, or rather, "Digital Maturity.” The Digital Age is no longer an infant, and has now matured to include heavy consumer use of IoT technologies, which in earlier years were used primarily for supply chain management.
Often deemed “smart,” these consumer IoT devices are taking the very experiences that were uniquely changed at the inception of the Internet boom and which matured over the era of “Digital Adolescence,” and extended these customer experiences beyond the mobile device and desktop. These smart, connected technologies are taking advantage of seemingly ubiquitous Wi-Fi availability in order to exponentially expand opportunities beyond the device's inherent capabilities creating rich and extremely useful consumer experiences.
IoT devices are shaping new technical models for digital innovation that fit naturally in our day-to-day lives and enhance the experience.
The new possibilities that these digital capabilities provide can be of extreme value for improving your company’s value chain when part of a larger Digital Strategy. Companies who wish to thrive in times ahead must begin catering services and experiences for the needs of the Networked Customer or risk the chance of a digital disruption. Just about every internal and customer-facing product, service, process, security control, and human resource will have to be re-imagined and re-strategized to compete in the Digital Era.
Over the next few articles, we will explore "3 Consumer IoT Devices That Changed How We Think About Digital Business.” Please submit any comments, share as appropriate, and provide any feedback on your thoughts surrounding this topic.
IoT Number One: Amazon Echo (and devices like it)
I am being brand specific with my first IoT device in the line-up, because this device, by far, is the biggest game changer of them all. Amazon has essentially launched a global voice-input user adoption campaign with their Echo device line-up, paired exceptionally well with it's Digital Personal Assistant, "Alexa". Through my interaction with "Alexa" over the course of a year, it is now clear to me how practical, effective and far-reaching voice input can be with the right amount of imagination. So much so, that I have began utilizing voice input in other areas like my car, my mobile phone and even to write this blog. Document authoring still will require some keyboard time (for now), but natural language voice input is a more effective input method for initiating and interacting with other IoT devices and digital service and content offerings. Our familiar access methods to our websites and web platform(s) of choice were either via a mobile device (app or mobile-optimized website) or desktop website. With the introduction of the Amazon Echo and the Advanced Digital Assistant contained within “Alexa,” we now have an alternative to our familiar access methods, or at the very minimum, a supplement.
This device, and devices like it in times ahead, will be the catalyst for accelerating the practical implementation of new digital experiences for shopping, entertainment, knowledge acquisition, social engagement and more, all without the need for a website or an app.
If you are anything like I am, you need to immerse yourself in the experience to have a clear outside-in view of the capabilities and limitations. So without much thought I purchased 2 Amazon Echo's, 3 Echo Dots, and I have an Echo Tap for the patio and the office. Since I implemented these “things” throughout my home, let's explore a few things that have changed in my day-to-day life.
Listening to Music and Audiobooks: It is now a rare occurrence for me to search through an app to engage with my music and audiobook content. I now play, pause, shuffle, repeat music, set bookmarks, get artist and song information and manage playlists using my voice only, via any one of my Echo devices, strategically located throughout the house for an “Alexa” omnipresence. You could have certainly achieved similar experiences with other digital assistants on mobile devices, but it didn't feel natural at times, you forgot your mobile device in the car, or if you are anything like me, your phone just died. My choices now for entertainment providers are based solely around the experience they can provide via Amazon Echo.
Interact with, Manage and Secure My Home: I can’t recall the last time I touched a light switch, set the thermostat, pressed the garage door opener, locked my front door with a key, or messed with the sprinkler timer. Connecting with my other smart home IoT devices like Phillips Hue, Wemo Insight, Ecobee Thermostats, SmartThings Sensors or Garageio Garage Door Opener, I can literally accomplish all of these things by asking Alexa with a relative command.
Look Up General Information or Current Events: Movie times and information, concerts and events close to me, or simply "How many cities are in the state of Florida." The Amazon Echo is pretty good with having an answer for just about anything that comes to mind. An interesting model for requesting content from a third party via the Echo, is "..Ask [Insert Brand Name Here]..." as the voice input initiator for the services provided by the third party. Anyone within earshot, will now be familiar with your brand name and a general idea of the associated value, which were otherwise, contained to a screen, before being shared. While the voice input is great, the TTS output can be of value as well when positioned effectively.
Order Products and Replenish Consumables: Paper towels, toilet paper, and Dang Coconut Chips are just an ask away with my Echo. Everything can be done without the need for interacting with an app, website or person (except for Alexa) to have a product waiting at my home when I arrive from the office. Pay attention retailers, the rules have changed and the adoption is spreading at a viral rate.
The Core Digital Business Driver
Connections: Imagine if this device only allowed you to access and order Amazon products and services, interact with Amazon entertainment, or engage with only services that were a part of the Amazon ecosystem. While it may be of great use for Amazon and its customer base, the value would end there.
A well crafted Digital Business Strategy will be based on catering to behaviors of the Networked Customer. Gone are the days when we engineer innovation for our value chain as a top-secret project within an enterprise with some big launch event for just about anything new and innovative, guarding our intellectual assets with rigor to assure a stronghold on our market share and established networks. You understand the idea. Enterprises must now re-shape the organization to effectively align information assets with their customer networks and digital platforms. Connections with our partners, service providers, competitors (yes, I said competitors) and most importantly, our customers and their networks, will give companies a multitude of possibilities to create rich customer experiences.
The Catalyst Of Change
Voice Input: Although Siri, Cortana and others have been around for several years and pioneered voice input in lieu of click or type on our mobile devices, there was still something missing to make this input method convenient for more than getting driving directions, or to search contacts. While we certainly could use these mobile Digital Personal Assistants to interact with just about any web resource using APIs and web services, the issue at large for wide-scale voice input adoption was the actual device itself. You see, with voice input, the device of choice needs to be contextual. With the introduction of the new Amazon Echo devices, this became more evident, when my shopping list, recipe and other apps were finally just a sentence away.
CONCLUSION: PART ONE
The Amazon Echo is surely not the be-all and end-all for the future of digital commerce, but it certainly sheds new light on how this input method is effectively used for interaction with IoT devices of all types , in order to interact with our environment, engage with our knowledge and people networks in new ways, and purchase goods and services. It is not far-fetched to believe that in the near future a home digital personal assistant, like Alexa, will know my habits, preferences, and tastes, and will thus be able to order food, products and services on my behalf. Your business must start preparing now in order to sell and market to “things,” as well as people. The Amazon Echo and it’s eco-system provide a very capable platform for digital innovation and readiness for things to come. In part two, we will explore number two on the list: mobile devices and wearables. Until then, please share your own experiences with the Amazon Echo and how you believe this will impact the retail industry, among others.