The race to bring IoT or Internet-of-Things devices to consumer homes is a few years old now. Right now, it’s a plodding sort of race. Most people are familiar with the Nest home thermostat, then their smoke detector that has had its share of issues. There’s the rather fun but nowhere near essential Phillips Hue lightbulbs that you can change colours with from your smartphone. It is very early days for these connected devices. Yet adoption remains small market scale.
The Real Opportunity for IoT Devices In The Home
Where the real opportunity to build a beachhead market rests is with the 60+ market. And the competition is beginning to heat up for this market. There are several key factors why smarthome device markers would do well to target this market;
Those aged 35 and under often don’t have significant disposable income, so smarthome devices remain a luxury more than a need. Products that fill needs always do better than those that fill a want. It’s a basic marketing principle that remains valid even in a digital age. Research by the PEW Centre shows how those 55+ are adopting smartphones and tablets as the image from The Economist shows below;
Smarthome devices that will likely underperform in the 60+ market are those with always-on cameras. An older generation finds cameras invasive and they take their privacy very seriously. Smarthome products that will likely succeed are those that use sound and spacial monitoring. One such device is HomeExcept, a very clever device that uses thermal sensing to monitor a home for patterns. If there’s one constant as we age it’s that we like our patterns, or daily routines if you will. The HomeExcept provides a mobile dashboard via a smartphone app that kids or care takers can monitor. It’s subtle and hangs out in the background and relies on the cellular network rather than potentially spotty WiFi. Clever. Such invisible devices are more likely to succeed with senior citizens.
Devices like the Amazon Echo could have applications built on them that leverage sound monitoring for similar patterns. The added benefit is that they can also be used for ordering need products like milk or detergent.
Positioned properly, smarthome devices for seniors stand to be an excellent entrance market for IoT device creators. Eventually we will see smart toilets that have built-in sensors to monitor blood sugars, hydration and perhaps other health conditions. If smartphone apps are tied to these devices it will force makers to develop very good UX or they will fail. Designing for seniors forces simplicity, which will translate well into other, younger market segments.
Smarthome creators would do well to look harder at the 60+ market, perhaps pivoting to this market for initial entry. There’s more money available than younger markets in both disposable income and healthcare for the 60+ market such as care homes. The population in the developed world is ageing. Done right, smarthome devices can solve a lot of problems. But developing the marketing message and positioning must be as carefully thought out as the UX and underlying technologies.
What do you think?
Virtual Reality launched into the stratosphere of hype in late 2015 through early 2016. Sony made much fanfare as did Facebook with its investments into the world of VR, although no one can seem to point out exactly why. Now VR is suffering some dizziness as people get ill after extended use. Augmented Reality sort of sparked and popped a few years ago…and sputtered along in the fringe of tech as a marketing wow tool. Google Glass didn’t do AR any favours either. Then along came Pokemon Go and AR had its biggest boost in years, except no one really talked about the AR that made it al possible. These two technologies have been percolating in the tech world for a few years now with occasional bursts of pundit-driven hype.
Why Does Augmented Reality Struggle?
It’s not an easy question to answer. The first push of AR technology into the real-world was Google Glass. Its adherents were promptly labelled “Glassholes” and shortly thereafter, Google Glass became marginalized. Other companies tried to jump on the AR bandwagon with glasses, all remain in that delicate life and death balance on the thin rim of bleeding edge technology. Based on my 25+ years on the front lines of technology, AR just isn’t seen by the consumer market as a “need” or really even a “want” as it doesn’t have a strong value proposition.
Is There a Market for AR?
Yes, very much so. In fact, there is some very real, very profitable opportunities for the use of AR. Most of these rest within the manufacturing, healthcare, law enforcement and similar industries. Police could use AR glasses to collect evidence and show information. Mechanics can use AR glasses to overlay instructions for machinery when working on repairs. AR is very useful, but probably not in the consumer market for sometime. It needs social acceptability which isn’t there yet.
Why Does Virtual Reality Struggle?
No one wants to walk down the high street with a massive object on their face. That’s obvious. For the most part, these devices are large, clunky and uncomfortable over long periods of time. Then there’s the whole spatial sickness thing (although that problem is being solved.) VR struggles because consumers perceive it to be only useful for video games. Because that’s who’s largely using it.
Is There a Market for VR?
Just like AR, there is some great market potential for VR. Training for police and military, surgery, emergency responders, nurses…VR can be an excellent training product. It may help in explorations as well. But broader consumer adoption that sees lower price points and massive volumes is, I think, a few years away yet.
Both AR and VR are excellent, nascent technologies. But they will remain niche applications for sometime. Consumers are only just beginning to realize the power and potential of SmartPhones and right now, that is the dominant tool to most consumers and professionals. Yes, VR can be adapted to use with SmartPhones, but it’s clunky at best. AR is inherently available through SmartPhones as well and that may be how they slowly gain acceptance.
What are your thoughts?