This blog is the final one in our series describing Arrayent’s ‘A4 Program’ – four steps to IoT business transformation, which was unveiled to visitors at our 2017 CES booth in Las Vegas.
ARRAYENT A4 PROGRAM – STEP A4: ‘EVOLVE’
For the ‘first generation’ of consumer IoT/Smart Home products, companies focused on one thing: connectivity. Connectivity was novel—but only up to a point. As has been well documented now by seeing limited consumer adoption, connecting devices to smartphone apps created some interesting gadgets that were tailor-made for early tech adopters. But the novelty of being able to control home devices via smartphone did not appeal much past this limited early adopter audience.
Today, companies who think only about connecting their products are seen as missing the boat. It’s not enough to merely have a connected product. For a product to be truly useful it also must take actions on its own to create an improved user experience. This is the ‘second generation’ of consumer IoT, where products act ‘smart’ all on their own. However, to be smart, products need sensory input to their surroundings, and this is asking a lot of some lower cost, single-function products. Wouldn’t it be helpful for different products in an environment to work together and share their functions to enable enhanced user experiences that are more than the sum of their individual features? This compatibility, and resulting interoperability, is at the core of making products smart. But it requires a new way of looking at how products and services can be compatible.
WHY CAN’T SMART PRODUCTS JUST GET ALONG? THEY CAN, AND NOW THEY DO.
For years, the way product developers approached interoperability was through common local communication protocols—and thus began the ‘standards wars.’ Whether it was because one group wanted to ‘win’ or just had what they thought was a better approach, the end result was a mishmash of radio frequency-specific or other networking schemas that forced brands, and consumers, to pick sides. The cloud is changing all that.
IoT cloud platforms like Arrayent virtualize connected devices in the cloud, creating their digital twins (see our blog post on this). Once different devices are accessible in the cloud, it is possible to enable them to interoperate just as if they were compatible in their local environments. And when devices are part of a different cloud ecosystem, such as Nest, Amazon Echo, or Google Home, device compatibility can be achieved through a cloud-to-cloud ecosystem ‘adaptor.’ The Arrayent EcoAdaptor™ service acts as a translator between cloud ecosystems and allows connected devices to benefit from interoperability with other products and services in the home, making them smarter through association.
In the illustrative example above, a homeowner can activate the scent coming from their Febreze Home™ connected air freshener (a.) via the Febreze Connect™ smartphone app (b.). But when the family is away from home, the Nest learning thermostat (c.) tells the Febreze Home to stop using the scented oil via the Arrayent EcoAdaptor that is certified to Work with Nest’s cloud (d.). When someone arrives back home, the Nest thermostat automatically boosts the scent (e.) and turns on the HVAC fan to spread it through the house. When it’s time for bed, the homeowner can instruct Amazon Echo (f.): “Alexa: tell Febreze to turn on the nightlight” and because of the Arrayent EcoAdaptor that is certified by Amazon Echo/Alexa (g.), the Febreze Home pathway lights will turn on (h.). Lastly, if the Nest Protect Smoke & CO detector signals an alarm (i.), the Febreze Home pathway lights will turn red to help signal the alarm (j.).
The examples of the Febreze Home interoperating with Nest thermostat and smoke detector and Amazon’s Alexa are all made possible by Arrayent’s different EcoAdaptors and the EcoAdaptor service, and how it enables connections to other major ecosystems. This is but one example of how brand manufacturers can plan for their products to evolve over time—well after they were initially sold to the consumer—and without needing to do any custom development. As new products and services are added to people’s homes over time, the brands who embrace this ongoing nature of product interoperability will be the ones whose relationship with consumers will become the strongest.
Open cloud platforms like Nest, Alexa, Google and others, are proving that product interoperability is not only desirable—it’s also essential to turn the smart home into a reality…especially when approaching the mass-market. And although we will still see the rise of new walled-garden ecosystems that contribute to non-interoperability between products, luckily it’s easier than ever to connect products through the cloud instead of waiting for adoption of device communications protocols. If manufacturers adopt systems that build in cloud-to-cloud compatibility as a core part of their value, the ‘smart home’ will evolve without any overt act on the part of its owner. Then, and only then, will the consumer Internet of Things market ‘cross the chasm’ and explode into the mainstream.
And with Wi-Fi chips now costing less than a dollar in low quantities, we will see more and more products that not only have built-in connectivity, but also out-of-the-box compatibility with other products and services around the home. Many will be instantly compatible with digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. And many others will also interact with IFTTT, Amazon Dash, WeChat, security services and back-end CRM platforms like Salesforce, which will bring added behind-the-scenes service value for consumers and brands alike.
We believe that interoperability is one of the keys to EVOLVING consumer IoT/Smart Home products. This is how connected home products can actually become ‘smart’—through interoperability with products from different manufacturers and services from different providers. By enabling products to work together and create richer user experiences, brands bring higher value to consumers than they could provide on their own.
This is one of the reasons Arrayent has invested heavily in expanding its EcoAdaptor Services. At CES, we announced new EcoAdaptors for Amazon Echo/Alexa, Amazon DRS (Dash), Google Home, IFTTT, WeChat, and Salesforce. These join our first Arrayent EcoAdaptor that provided interoperability with the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke and CO detector, and is Works with Nest certified. (See our press release: “Arrayent Announces New EcoAdaptors for Amazon Echo/Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT and More.”) The Arrayent EcoAdaptor service provides consumer product manufacturers with an ‘out of the box’ interface that enables them to enhance their product’s user experience and value through compatibility with other connected products and services. At the same time, EcoAdaptors can help reduce manufacturers’ time-to-deployment and expedite the certification processes with third-party ecosystems in a secure and scalable way.
It is our strong belief that interoperability between products should be the norm and products will just be expected to work together. And until they do, smart homes will continue to be relegated to early adopter gadget geeks. For more technical info on Arrayent EcoAdaptors, start here or visit: Arrayent.com.