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IoT’s Missing Link

There were thousands of new products and innovations introduced at this year’s CES – many within the connected-life segment of the Internet of Things (IoT).

With significant variety in size, scope and function, all of these new products have one promise in common: to bring convenience, control and simplicity to the end user.

But while brands and their innovations fully intend to make the consumer’s life easier, many will fail to deliver. Simply put, in the high-stakes world of the IoT, there will be winners and losers.

We’ll see that play out in January of 2016, where many of the new products we saw at this year’s show will be missing from the lineup. 

The primary reason brands will fail to deliver on the value proposition of the IoT is that our relationships with devices – “things” – are changing. In effect, these “things” are becoming services: their inherent pledge is to deliver anticipatory, immersive experiences to the end user with minimal tactile interaction.

After all, as consumers, it’s not the smart light bulb we’re interested in, it’s light when we need or want it. We don’t want smart door locks; we want convenient and effective home security. And we aren’t buying smart thermostats; we’re buying efficient and comfortable climate control.

We want these experiences as part of our existing, highly personalized and increasingly complex and mobile personal technology environments. This is the crux of the “thing makers’ dilemma,” equally shared by the reseller or retailer, wherein the existing service paradigm of most companies breaks down given these experiential expectations.

That paradigm in most companies leads them to believe they’re providing the necessary services, but in reality those services are based on a model that supports only their own “thing” or “things.” It’s a service paradigm that’s outdated. And it’s not designed for long-term success.

What’s needed is a continuous service wrapper – support services that help the buyer with the purchase, and once that buyer becomes a customer, helping her or him do more than install the new “thing,” but also gain immediate value from that thing that is now part of their ever-evolving, personalized technology envelope.

The absence of a continuous service wrapper can lead to failed adoption, skyrocketing returns and unhappy customers – all of which have a negative impact on brand perception,  and will derail revenues. Parks Associates data shows a 13 percent return rate on all IoT devices. Of those returns, more than 90 percent are in perfect working condition.

The bottom line: it doesn’t matter how innovative your offering is; if consumers cannot effectively use it within their existing environment it can’t deliver the expected value, and it will fail.

For the promise of simplicity, convenience and control to reign supreme in the ongoing battle against complexity, brands must complement their innovations with a continuous service model – an “Internet of Services” that runs up, down and throughout the customers’ entire technology environment, and starts before the “thing” is bought with pre-purchase consultation.

From there, these services must address installation, activation, configuration and training needs, in addition to providing ongoing usage, maintenance updates, additional purchases/replacements and, of course, problem resolution. These services must take into consideration that the product isn’t working in a vacuum. Continuous services must wrap not only the individual product, but also the other products in the consumer’s connected home ecosystem – regardless of the brand.

Companies that consider continuous services and interactions with the end user a costly obligation will be the brands that fail in the IoT. They’ll fail because they view support services as secondary to innovation; only for break/fix/replacement needs; relegated to post-sale needs; or as a cost that doesn’t yield long-term business value.

In contrast, the organizations that recognize the compounding complexity of today’s connected technology environments and “grok” and take action on the need for a continuous service wrapper are the organizations that will sustain success. The winners in the IoT view this transformed service model as a brand opportunity that will thwart return rates, shine light on unrealized value and, ultimately, increase share of wallet.

The truth is that consumers need their “things” to work in complex environments but don’t know where to turn when that “thing” doesn’t deliver on its intended promise. The services gap in the connected life segment of the IoT is growing; the companies that ignore the divide now will later be forced to tight-rope a gap the size of the Grand Canyon in order to meet growing customer needs.

If your organization exhibited at CES or plays in the IoT arena, what actions are you taking to close that gap? Don’t risk standing on the outside or falling into that gap when 2016 CES rolls around. How will you effectively and efficiently do more for your IoT innovations and your customers by embracing continuous services?

Karen McPhillips is marketing VP of PlumChoice, a leader in specialized technical services for the Internet of Things and cloud applications. For more information, visit