After Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of Nest Labs, a lot of people are trying to predict what’s next in the home. During the last few months, I’ve met with dozens of startups trying to create platforms for the Internet of Things - both in the home, and in the enterprise for industrial applications.
I think a lot of these startups don’t understand where IoT technology applications are headed. I believe in the value of “silos” - individual use cases that work well on a stand-alone basis, but don’t have a lot of interaction with other “silos”. In the home, I’ve installed Sonos in most of the rooms in my house. I really don’t see the utility in connecting my Sonos equipment to my Nest equipment. Or my lighting. Or my locks. I already have the convergence layer I need - my smartphone.
Yes, it would be nice to have hot, fresh coffee ready for me as soon as I wake up in the morning. But the challenge is not in automatically brewing the coffee before I get out of bed, or using motion sensors to detect me stirring in my sleep. I still have to change the filter, wash the carafe, and fill it with beans.
The real value in connecting the coffeemaker to the Internet will be for the manufacturer. Imagine a world where any device that’s powered and plugged into the wall can capture usage data for manufacturers. What if Keurig or Breville knew exactly how often their coffeemakers were used? Which features were used? Does usage of the device fall off, or remain constant with time?
Imagine an Internet-connected refrigerator that monitors how often its water dispenser was used, and then sends owners fresh filters when appropriate. Imagine lamps that can tell when the light bulbs burn out, and automatically sends replacements. Imagine coffeemakers that measure usage and work with Amazon or Google to replenish your filters and beans.
This is the future of smart devices and appliances. When parts are cheap enough, every device will “phone home” to their manufacturers (via BLE, LTE, or WiFi), and savvy companies will use this data to quickly discover features and capabilities their users really want - and build better differentiated products more quickly as a result. They’ll also be able to learn how things break, and improve product reliability faster as well.
Just like today’s top performing web properties, A/B testing is coming soon to appliances and anything else that’s plugged into the wall. Just like when you take a Sonos speaker out of the sealed bag that has a “user agreement” attached to it, most of our electronic devices and appliances will come with Terms of Service as well.