Connecting our ‘dumb’ devices

We’ve filled our lives with objects and devices. From kitchen appliances to car keys, from dog leads to table lamps, we’re surrounded by objects of varying usefulness and appeal. Now manufacturers are adding value to these ‘dumb’ devices by adding intelligent services requiring connectivity and allowing them to be accessed, interrogated and controlled remotely.

These services are enabled by smartphones, mobile applications, an array of wireless technologies and increasingly direct to cloud intelligent services. Manufacturers are evolving into service providers and are beginning to explore alternative revenue streams enabled by the additional value they are providing to their customers.

One approach is to increase the level of automation of the service being offered. For example, building temperature controls, where a controlling intelligence makes low-level decisions to ensure comfort.

More advanced services evolve the device from automated to autonomous. Autonomous systems apply intelligence to situations that they haven’t previously encountered. An autonomous temperature control might take into account weather and occupancy predictions in order to ensure that the building is heated appropriately when required.

The ability to control and monitor external devices in this way gives rise to new business models – a one-off product sale can become a longer-term services relationship. The term ‘servitisation’ describes this process of creating value by adding services to products. In the ‘circular economy’ in which our consumption of goods and services is regenerative by design, and shared use is promoted, consumers can get access to assets they may otherwise not be able to afford for a controlled period of time.

Applying connectivity to our ‘dumb’ devices can add huge value, by gathering insights and supplying services tailored to individuals. New services are emerging, spending habits are evolving and whole new business models are being created.

Author, Derek Long, Head of Telecoms and Mobile at Cambridge Consultants

Derek Long, Cambridge Consultants