Every morning, Bill Lee, Vice President of Consumer Electronics & Home Appliance Retail at Samsung, wakes up at 4:45 a.m. When he steps out of bed, a motion sensor pings a nearby smart plug, which triggers the ceramic heater that warms up the floor.
He spent about $110 on these products and MacGyvered them together. He also recognizes that most consumers don’t fully take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) by using their smart products in unison.
“Imagine a ringing doorbell that enables consumers to see who’s at the door from their smartphone,” says Lee, a keynote speaker at Worldwide Business Research’s recent Future Stores event in Seattle. “Imagine that same doorbell in an ecosystem that can flash a red light when someone’s at the door. Maybe you have a baby sleeping or an important package coming and don’t want to miss that visual cue.”
Challenges and opportunities within the connected home
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide IoT spending reached $674 billion last year. IDC projected that number to increase by 14.6% by the end of 2018 and reach $1 trillion by 2020.
In Lee’s opinion, the IoT’s main detractor is that it has “a lot of codependencies.” Your WiFi connection and whether your smartphone has its operating system’s latest version both color your user experience.
“The good news is, every smart item has its own app,” adds Lee. “The bad news is… every single device has its own app.”
The challenge there is that most smartphones are filled with unused apps. Lee points out that 71% of U.S. households have at least one Samsung device; 27% have at least three. When Samsung acquired SmartThings, an open platform for smart home devices and the IoT, the intention was to streamline those devices.
SmartThings’ app allows users to control, automate and monitor their various smart devices, including motion sensors, locks, electrical outlets, speakers, thermostats and garage door openers.
“It enables you to hook up all your products and unite them together,” says Lee. “For example, there’s a refrigerator with cameras that push the contents to any device so you can keep a freshness inventory.”
There’s also a robot vacuum that guarantees coverage of every square inch of your home. It does this by developing an algorithm based on the surface area of the ceiling, which is less likely to have anomalies than the floor.
If the IoT is a kitchen, Samsung wants to be the chef
The Internet has created the opportunity for the average consumer to become more educated about products and consumer electronics. Lee points out that social media is the world’s largest focus group. According to Twitter research, 69% of people who follow small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) have made a purchase because of something they saw on the platform. On Instagram, the two most-followed consumer brands, Nike and Victoria’s Secret, have 138.5 million followers between them.
Part of Samsung’s marketing strategy also involves reaching consumers not where they live, but where they work.
“The K-Cup was born from two entrepreneurs who wanted to tackle a basic business quandary: How do you keep the coffee pot fresh and warm in office break rooms? You can’t brew a fresh pot and leave it sitting there,” says Lee. “Rather than consumers, they went to businesses, which they knew would be an amazing Trojan horse. Ergo, there are now a gazillion K-Cups in people’s homes.
However consumers discover smart products, they need to be seamless and provide a great balance between the hardware and apps. Lee believes the experience would be even better with just one app, of course. He also compares the IoT to a kitchen — and Samsung hopes to be the cook.
“There’s a high level of prepping that needs to happen, much like a chef puts high-quality ingredients together to create a sum greater than its parts,” he says. “At Samsung, we have a heavy responsibility to provide entertainment, comfort, and safety, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.”