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Connected objects: let's not forget the object!

Developing a connected object and making a success of your project, the keys to success

Mass-market connected devices still have not found much of an audience and have still to meet the tremendous success that was predicted for them only five years ago.
The reasons are well-established: their perceived value is too low and their price too high.
First of all, let us just rule out pointless inventions like connected toilet paper holders to focus instead on actually useful products. Even when a product’s connected capabilities are actually considered useful, the price difference with the standard equivalent remains too substantial (see figure 1).

Is that reason enough to retire the idea of developing mass-market products with smart capabilities? Of course not. Some rare success stories attest to the fact that it is possible. But after the frenzy of the last few years, industrial companies now need to go back to the basics of product development: perceived value, cost management and time to market. The bottom line is, if you’re considering launching a smart device, be smart and place the device first!


 

However, we have noticed that smart capabilities caused issues in our clients’ usual product development process on three distinct levels.
The first problem is increased difficulty to assess with precision the actual perceived value for consumers to make sure that the development team is heading in the right direction.
The second lies in the need to rapidly acquire expertise in and assess new and unfamiliar technologies — electronic sensors, networks, etc. — during the development phase.
The last issue is the added complexity, which interferes with quality assurance and time to market. Industrial companies wishing to go in that direction will be meeting new partners and facing new challenges: online privacy legislation, data security, data management, application development, etc.

In short, there are three conditions to reach success:

  • confirm the product’s perceived value as soon as possible;
  • keep control over design and costs;
  • adjust to a more complex ecosystem to keep your time to market goal.

The choice to develop a connected product can be justified by one of several distinct strategic goals, presetned below in an Ansoff matrix(2):

Confirming the relevance of a concept can prove quite challenging for experienced professionals used to developing standard products, especially when it comes to unfamiliar technologies and features.
At this point, conducting a PoC (Proof of Concept) can help solve this difficulty, while providing a chance to actually experiment with various options in terms of materials and software solutions — thus exploring user experience (UX).
For instance, one of our clients used an iPad to simulate the control panel of an air compressor, using a PowerPoint presentation to mimic the user interface. This inventive solution was an opportunity to have potential consumers test two concepts before any financial decisions were made.

The use and monetization of product-generated data is equally strategic and can take one of three forms (see fi gure 3):

  • CRM :

    connecting consumer profi les with product uses;

  • predictive maintenance: :

    learning how to anticipate failures depending on how the product is used;

  • Marketing Analytics :

    studying product-generated data to produce useful indicators.

Ultimately, the decision should also be guided by the following question: are profit and productivity increases superior to the total cost of developing smart capabilities (TCCA: total cost of connecting assets)?

This is the second condition for success: keeping control of design and costs.

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