8 min readVoice Assistants leading IoT , AI Everywhere (& Nowhere).. and all that Jazz! [...]
It’s been about a month since CES 2018 concluded… and in my experience going to this show over the years – this was the best one yet! The market has finally hit a steady pace on its maturity curve with a lot of traditional manufacturers and global brands gradually moving into a vanguard position with regards to their IoT strategy. Among the numerous product launches and key announcements, a few themes stood out which I’ll discuss in more detail through this blog.
If you launched an IoT product at CES 2018 or had a relevant demo on the exhibition floor, invariably you were showcasing how it integrated with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant… and in some rare cases, with Apple’s Siri. Voice control and command have now become the cornerstone, as well as the catalyst, for the mainstream adoption of IoT. This clearly speaks to the fact that customers are looking for a more natural and seamless way to interact, engage and experience their smart products… and “there is an app for that” approach doesn’t cut it anymore.
Interestingly, many product manufacturers believe that this integration warrants their product to have artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This notion underlines the hype and confusion around the world of AI and how it will impact IoT. More to come on this below.
CES 2018 gave strong indicators that IoT is on the path to becoming a huge economic driver for many companies, but it also exposed that product manufacturers still have a narrow definition of what IoT reallymeans for their business. The majority of smart product manufacturers have a very limited understanding of the business value of IoT such as: (i) how their products are actually being (and will be) used, (ii) what product capabilities are driving user engagement and enhancing customer experience, (iii) how can manufacturers transform their services such as warranty and customer support by leveraging smart product insights, or (iv) refine their sales and marketing initiatives based on product usage feedback to boost adoption and user stickiness, among many other use cases.
A simple example to illustrate this point is – while 90% of the smart products are or will be connected to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, today less than 10% of the smart product manufacturers are able to answer the most basic question “how do customers use your product between the physical interaction, the mobile application and voice commands?” Still some way from being actually intelligent, eh.
Less than 10% of the IoT manufacturers can answer the basic question, “How do customers use your product between the physical interaction, the mobile app and voice commands ?”
As IoT moves down the Gartner hype cycle, AI is peaking its way up the curve! And, when AI over-marketing meets IoT buzz the result is – mass customer confusion! Literally, all big brands had an “AI” icon or tagline next to their product, logo or showcase. No corporate marketing team wants to be left behind, so there is a snowball lemming effect across the industry.
There are very few cases of actual “learning” in IoT… Why? We are dealing with an early stage IoT market with tons and tons of (very) dirty, heterogeneous data that lacks standardization and semantic structure, and in lots of cases either there isn’t enough useful data or the data is not labelled or it isn’t clear what are we really looking for…. which makes it challenging to apply general AI and data science tools to obtain meaningful outcomes. This is problem is aggravated by the fact that there are very few people who have the expertise to deliver actionable intelligence from IoT data sets.
Hence, before companies join the AI bandwagon, they will need to invest time and strategic thinking in the fundamentals first… embarking on a business-centric versus a technology-centric approach to building AI-driven IoT applications is key to realizing true value.
It will be essential for IoT companies to (i) understand their own product data and (ii) use these IoT insights to establish valuable business KPIs that they can take action on, such as: (a) boost revenues by increasing customer engagement and drive adoption, (b) reduce costs by improving proactive customer support and reduce cost of truck rolls, (c) differentiate product by delivering new data features, and other measurable outcomes. For smart product manufacturers to execute on this plan, they need to adopt a data-driven IoT strategy and focus on the key use cases that will help them differentiate their offer and build a competitive advantage. This is the beginning of the learning journey.
A business-centric versus a technology-centric approach to building AI-driven IoT applications is key to realizing true value
And yes, with the help of trusted partners and IoT data experts, companies will have to build a well-defined data structure, setup well-organized IoT datasets, and most importantly, clearly understand what they are looking for i.e their business KPIs… then they are better prepared to use the general AI and data science toolkits to enable deep learning and develop innovative AI-driven IoT applications.
During CES 2018, Mnubo had the opportunity of presenting on an exciting panel titled Creating Compelling IoT Services with AI and Data Analytics hosted by Park Associates, the other panelists included Jeremy Warren (CTO of Vivint Smart Home), Pamela Hoppel (Senior Director, Product Marketing at Carrier) and others.
One of the highlights of CES 2018 was that established global manufacturers made significant strides to bring IoT innovation to market. These companies demonstrated clear, consistent themes and actual customer use cases – and what made them stand out was that they were not launching a sideline smart product but rather these top brands were adopting a company-wide IoT strategy.
Legrand’s approach to smart hospitality is a notable example. Their portfolio of IoT-enabled devices, such as the Radiant product line, elevate a hotel property to one that delivers personalized and engaging experiences. Partnering with big brands, such as Samsung and Marriott, the solution brings to market a seamless, transparent and more importantly, a holistic smart hospitality solution – benefiting various stakeholders of the hotel value chain. Leveraging IoT, mobile and voice-enabled technologies, this joint solution integrates multiple products, services and applications to deliver better guest experiences, optimize hotel supply chain and operations, and empower a data-driven industry.
Kohler’s smart bathroom is another great use case of big brands driving innovation. Yes, the bathroom has always been thought of as a fairly simple and mundane room in the home, so you might be wondering how a connected shower and voice-activated mirror could possibly be leading change in the market. But Kohler Konnect, the company’s IoT platform, is enhancing the way consumers interact with and use these common household fixtures. Verdera, which won the CES 2018 Innovation award, the voice-based lighted mirror has Amazon Alexa built-in allowing users to play music, catch up on news, and turn up the heat… all from their bathroom mirror. Initially, it may seem frivolous, but if you stop to consider all of the capabilities and functionalities it integrates across the disparate product types… it starts to make a lot of sense! The Kohler-powered smart bathroom portfolio would enable users to streamline their daily routines, function more efficiently, and most importantly conserve resources like power and water.
Honeywell has done a impressive job of positioning itself in the smart home and residential IoT market. Besides the Lyric product suite focused on home automation products, it is also pioneering the smart home space with its self-monitored security system. Honeywell now boasts one of most comprehensive consumer IoT product portfolios on the market ranging from smart thermostats to humidifiers, air cleaners, cameras, leak and freeze detectors to many more – this coupled with the “works with Honeywell” program, it offers homeowners a complete ecosystem of smart home solutions.
There is a growing number of leading brands that are disrupting the market and challenging the status quo. But, while we are seeing more and more success stories, majority of the smart product manufacturers are still uncertain of the real business value and how to gain measurable RoI from their IoT and AI investments. Companies who lead with a business-centric, data-driven strategy are benefiting from real outcomes – driving user engagement and enhancing the customer experience, transforming their services such as warranty and customer support, focusing their sales and marketing initiatives etc. And lastly, the industry is going to benefit from the AI and IoT partnership… but we need to start at the fundamentals first – I’ll reference this great blog “AI and IoT: Together at Last” by Cisco’s Maciej Kranz to read more on this subject.
Keen to hear your thoughts and experiences from CES 2018… and look forward to meeting you at CES 2019! If you are looking to learn more on how to define a data-driven IoT strategy and drive business outcomes… would be happy to chat or you are welcome to connect with one of Mnubo’s IoT data experts.