This blog comes in a two part series; outlining the challenges and solutions to solving what might be the most crucial component in the success of any connected product, the mobile application.

The Internet of Things is changing the way consumers interact with their devices, presenting both an opportunity and a challenge for traditional device manufacturers.  Historically, the only interactions a consumer had with a manufacturer, or its brand, were confined to that single moment in time in which the end user was actually using the device -- the manufacturer’s brand was tied directly to the hardware, limiting their amount of “face” time with the customer.  However, IoT changes all of that, giving a manufacturer’s brand a new “face” and brings the primary interaction point right to the palm of the consumer’s hand, no matter where they are or what they are doing.

But what does this all mean for manufacturers? Well, for the very first time, it means that a traditional device manufacturer’s brand is NOT tied solely to the device, but to the ongoing service presented by this new and flexible interaction point.  Although this newfound service allows for a direct connection to the consumer, facilitating the potential for an ongoing relationship, it also opens the door to a potentially fatal mistake, overlooking the importance of building a great mobile app.  shutterstock_262707608Users have become accustom to high quality, high performing applications.  This means that manufacturers can build the most secure, reliable, seamless, and feature-rich IoT product in history, but if the mobile application is poor, the entire product will be viewed as sub par or even as a failure in the eyes of its users.

With great power comes great responsibility.

What makes the IoT user experience (UX) different and more challenging to address than its unconnected counterparts? Well, to name a few:

  • There is a wider variety of device form factors, many of which may not have any screens
  • Some devices may be “set and forget” type products that may not always be connected to the Internet
  • The simplest of tasks can become very complex very quickly as the device now forms part of a system that may include multiple devices with different functionality, services, and users
  • Devices have many different sets of functionality so a distributed user experience will become very important – you need to have great UX across the entire system regardless of the devices
  • Historically, real world devices have not been expected to be interrupted by the internet as other web based services have been; i.e. skype, web browsing, etc. – “real world” devices are expected to respond to us immediately and reliably
  • Latency and making sure that things stay consistent across all mobile applications and devices; i.e. if I set the temperate on the thermostat from 68 to 72, what will my phone show until the thermostat retrieves the latest update?
  • Services can run in many more places; i.e. rules – is it up to the user to know this if they want to use the service

In many cases when launching connected products the focus is often around the development and ongoing support of these connected devices post deployment, leaving the mobile application as an after thought. However, as the new face of a manufacturer’s brand, this couldn’t be more wrong and should be something that is thought about from the beginning.

Keep an eye out for the second blog in this series, The Power of Mobile in IoT – The Solution, to learn how to solve what might be the most crucial component in the success of your connected product, the mobile application.