Tag Archives: smart tvs

Smart Things and the Customer Experience

The inanimate world around us is coming alive, powered by smart things and AI. It is difficult to name an object for which there is not a smart version.

Garage doors, thermostats, doorbells, appliances? Check.

Shoes, belts, hats, shirts? Check.

Cars, trucks, boats, drones? Check.

Just about anything you can imagine, and some bizarre things that would probably never cross your mind, have smart versions that connect to the internet and can be controlled by mobile apps or even take action on their own. The potential is great, and the implications for insurance are many. But one thing about smart things that has a mixed record so far is how humans communicate with them. In some cases, the customer experience is well-thought-out and will contribute to adoption. In other cases, the experience is downright awful.

Without naming specific companies, here are a few examples of good and bad experiences with smart things.

  • Smart TVs:
    I am starting here because some of these are terribly frustrating. Many require interaction via remote control devices, pop-up keyboards on the TV screen and the down-down-over-over-over maneuvering on the keyboard for EACH LETTER. It reminds me of the early texting days with triple taps.
  • Smart tags:
    Small devices that attach to keys, slide into wallets or get packed into suitcases are widely available. I’ve tried many of these devices and have discovered that some are simple, fast and easy to install and use, while others are a nightmare. One device I ordered was extremely hard just to get out of the package! Another one required you to slide it open to install a battery, but I almost gave up trying to pry it open. Alternatively, I have some that I use that took me less than a minute to set up, and they just work.
  • Telematics devices:
    There seems to be a migration away from dongles, which is a good thing. In some cars, you have to be a contortionist to get your body into position to plug the dongle into the OBD port. Mobile-app-based telematics are easier to set up, and the user interfaces are usually modern.
  • Wearables:
    I’ve had three different fitness wearables. Generally, the experience is good, although sometimes the data entry to set up a profile and do regular logging gets tedious.
  • Vehicle information/entertainment systems:
    The ability to initiate a phone call or change the radio station with a voice command is great – when it works. There are some commands that are just never interpreted correctly, or never interpreted at all.

See also: How to Make Smart Devices More Secure  

I could continue with examples of smart home devices, virtual reality/augmented reality headsets and glasses and other smart objects. Many of you can relate from your own experiences: some are slick, easy and fun – and others tedious and frustrating. There are several lessons here that insurers should keep in mind in any venture where they are providing or leveraging smart devices to policyholders.

  • Recognize that customer experience goes beyond the mobile app.
    The ordering, shipping, opening the box and reading the initial instruction booklet are all part of the experience. Some insurers discovered how important this can be after sending out dongles for telematics devices.
  • Make sure it works!
    I have returned more than one smart item, including a bathroom scale that was supposed to synch with a fitness wearable that never worked, even after several calls to tech support. It is the ultimate poor customer experience when something does not work as advertised.
  • Resist the urge to collect too much information.
    Especially during set-up, just collect what is minimally required to get it going, not extra information that you desire for marketing and other purposes. When an individual buys a smart device, he is anxious to get it up and running.
  • Ensure that tech support is accessible.
    “Fill out this form, and we will contact you within the next 48 hours” is not a good way to go. Most people are excited about their new device and don’t want to wait this long for a response. At the very least, provide a live chat session.

See also: ‘It’s the Customer Experience, Stupid’  

The connected world of smart things is exciting and offers many possible ways to enrich our daily lives, improve business operations and make the world safer. The functionality of a smart device is very important. But don’t forget that the customer experience will play a large role in the adoption of smart things.

12 Issues Inhibiting the Internet of Things

While the Internet of Things (IoT) accounts for approximately 1.9 billion devices today, it is expected to be more than 9 billion devices by 2018—roughly equal to the number of smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, wearable computers and PCs combined. But, for the IoT to scale beyond early adopters, it must overcome specific challenges within three main categories: technology, privacy/security and measurement.

Following are 12 hurdles that are hampering the growth of the IoT:

1. Basic Infrastructure Immaturity

IoT technology is still being explored, and the required infrastructure must be developed before it can gain widespread adoption. This is a broad topic, but advancement is needed across the board in sensors themselves, sensor interfaces, sensor-specific micro controllers, data management, communication protocols and targeted application tools, platforms and interfaces. The cost of sensors, especially more sophisticated multi-media sensors, also needs to shrink for usage to expand into mid-market companies.

2. Few Standards

Connections between platforms are now only starting to emerge. (E.g., I want to turn my lights on when I walk in the house and turn down the temperature, turn on some music and lock all my doors – that’s four different ecosystems, from four different manufacturers.) Competing protocols will create demand for bridge devices. Some progress is emerging in the connected home with Apple and Google announcements, but the same must happen in the enterprise space.

3. Security Immaturity

Many products are built by smaller companies or leverage open source environments that do not have the resources or time to implement the proper security models. A recent study shows that 70% of consumer-oriented IoT devices are vulnerable to hacking. No IoT-specific security framework exists yet; however, the PCI Data Security Standard may find applicability with IoT, or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Risk Management Guide for ITS may.

4. Physical Security Tampering

IoT endpoints are often physically accessible by the very people who would want to meddle with their results: customers interfering with their smart meter, for example, to reduce their energy bill or re-enable a terminated supply.

5. Privacy Pitfalls

Privacy risks will arise as data is collected and aggregated. The collation of multiple points of data can swiftly become personal information as events are reviewed in the context of location, time, recurrence, etc.

6. Data Islands

If you thought big data was big, you haven’t see anything yet. The real value of the IoT is when you overlay data from different things — but right now you can’t because devices are operating on different platforms (see #2). Consider that the connected house generates more than 200 megabytes of data a day, and that it’s all contained within data silos.

7. Information, but Not Insights

All the data processed will create information, eventually intelligence – but we aren’t there yet. Big data tools will be used to collect, store, analyze and distribute these large data sets to generate valuable insights, create new products and services, optimize scenarios and so on. Sensing data accurately and in timely ways is only half of the battle. Data needs to be funneled into existing back-end systems, fused with other data sources, analytics and mobile devices and made available to partners, customers and employees.

8. Power Consumption and Batteries

50 billion things are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020 – how will all of it be powered? Battery life and consumption of energy to power sensors and actuators needs to be managed more effectively. Wireless protocols and technologies optimized for low data rates and low power consumption are important. Three categories of wireless networking technologies are either available or under development that are better suited for IoT, including personal area networks, longer-range sensors and mesh networks and application-specific networks.

9. New Platforms with New Languages and Technologies

Many companies lack the skills to capitalize on the IoT. IoT requires a loosely coupled, modular software environment based on application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable endpoint data collection and interaction. Emerging Web platforms using RESTful APIs can simplify programming, deliver event-driven processes in real time, provide a common set of patterns and abstractions and enable scale. New tools, search engines and APIs are emerging to facilitate rapid prototyping and development of IoT applications.

10. Enterprise Network Incompatibility

Many IoT devices aren’t manageable as part of the enterprise network infrastructure. Enterprise-class network management will need to extend into the IoT-connected endpoints to understand basic availability of the devices as well as manage software and security updates. While we don’t need the same level of management access as we do to more sophisticated servers, we do need basic, reliable ways to observe, manage and troubleshoot. Right now, we have to deal with manual and runaway software updates. Either there’s limited or no automated software updates or there are automatic updates with no way to stop them.

11. Device Overload

Another issue is scale. Enterprises are used to managing networks of hundreds or thousands of devices. The IoT has the potential to increase these numbers exponentially. So the ways we currently procure, monitor, manage and maintain will need to be revisited.

12. New Communications and Data Architectures

To preserve power consumption and drive down overall cost, IoT endpoints are often limited in storage, processing and communications capabilities. Endpoints that push raw data to the cloud allow for additional processing as well as richer analytics by aggregating data across several endpoints. In the cloud, a “context computer” can combine endpoint data with data from other services via APIs to smartly update, reconfigure and expand the capabilities of IoT devices.

The IoT will be a multi-trillion industry by 2020. But entrepreneurs need to clear the hurdles that threaten to keep the IoT from reaching its full potential.

This article was co-written with Daniel Eckert. The article draws on PwC’s 6th Annual Data IQ Survey. The article first appeared on LinkedIn.