Though at one point of time it seemed like straight out of a sci-fi movie, the concept of internet of things, popularly known by its acronym IoT has been with us for the last few years.
Those of you who have been following Consumer Electronics Show (CES) or the tech evangelists cum geek meets at South by SouthWest (SXSW) would quite naturally be excited by the promise and the scale that IoT can deliver.
Well, that’s the good news. The not so great news is when was the last time you used an IoT connected device and more so for how long? Wearables like FitBit, iWatch, Gear S2 is the closest an Indian consumer can get to experiencing the phenomenon of IoT. However, the wearable tech market hasn’t been able to capture the mindspace of consumers (both at home and globally) due to the high penetration of mobile devices, where an additional device seems more of a luxury. As per industry reports, more than 1.2 billion smartphones are expected to be sold by early 2016 and that just puts into perspective the difference between the consumers fascination (with IoT) and the actual need for another me-too devices with IoT promise.
IoT continues to evolve with quick adoption in some sections of the world led by smart homes, smart cars and smart kitchens market. These are the new toys of the millennials, who will be willing to spend a buck for the sheer experience. The demand though is largely coming from the Europe and the USA where disposable income is relatively higher and the awareness is more due to wider internet penetration. Niche segments in the emerging markets like India may not be too far behind but are sure to witness a surge.
So, are the brands to be blamed for the lack of public interest? The answer is both yes and no. Many brands are competing with their products. Though innovation has been seen from sensors to smartphone-enabled connectivity for home, there isn’t a wow factor anywhere. Even though a refrigerator may be able to track the contents and expiry date, technology remains largely unaffordable. The consumer on the other hand is unaware and mostly confused when it comes to making an informed decision about the smart technologies they should buy. It’s the convenience that drives the audience in this segment with Android and iOS being the front-runners. However, the biggest drawback is that appliances of different brands can hardly communicate to each other.
IoT is the technology of the informed consumer and is only going to get better in future. And all the cues point to this as the disruptor of consumer and enterprise technology in years to come. Just to put into perspective, there are more devices connected to the internet than humans and by 2020, 26 billion devices or ‘things’ will be connected to the internet. For the time being, consumers just have to wait for their ‘eureka’ moment till a brand comes with a single highly desired product which can create mainstream demand. We need another ‘iPod’ moment in this space to transform this vision into reality.
(First published in The Tribune on April 9, 2016)
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