Interview: Thoughts on the Connected Cloud

Anousheh Ansari Addresses The World Telecommunication and Information Society Day
May 18, 2018
Prodea’s Arrayent Platform Included as Key Player in the IoT Middleware Market
June 20, 2018
Show all

We sat down with Prodea’s VP Marketing, Peter Radsliff, to get his thoughts on connected products and the IoT cloud after he spoke at the HardwareCon conference.

Q.There is a sense that connectivity and cloud storage
have become commodities. How are cloud platforms differentiating themselves and adding value for their customers?

Radsliff: IoT platforms would do well to refocus their efforts on activities that help their customers monetize IoT. This means no less than an entire retooling away from only producing technology building blocks and towards enabling valuable end-user services. Sometimes that means guiding customers towards services that will have a material effect on transforming their businesses. That’s why it is more important than ever for platform companies to become more than just a technology vendor, instead, becoming a true business partner to their customers. This will result in internal shifts towards process consulting and product management advice all aimed at driving the platform customer’s business forward.

Q. Connected products have been in the marketplace for several years now so we’ve had time to learn a few things about scalability, the evolution of data needs, and managing long-term cloud costs. What are the most common oversights when it comes to designing products and services from the ground up for data-driven services?

Radsliff: The most common oversights as I see them are:

  1. Still not having a firm understanding of why a connected version of a product will be better and more valuable to the end user just because it is connected. There are plenty of tepid value propositions out there, but few that drive new levels of business that have a clear ROI above the cost of maintaining a product that is ‘always on.’
  2. A lack of investment in user experience design for end-user apps. Even though it’s the app (web or smartphone) that provides the brand and user experience for a connected product, many times we see corners cut in the research and design processes for this critical aspect of connected products. This often results in a poor app store rating which reflects just as badly on the hardware product as it does on the app.
  3. Regulatory compliance for worldwide sales from the beginning of the product development cycle. There are still many companies that don’t put in the work required to ensure their services comply with data privacy regulations across the globe. For hardware manufacturers, handling user and usage data may be new to their organizations. For manufacturers who employ 3rd-party IoT platforms, they should ensure that regional data privacy regulations are complied with so they don’t have a problem with sales abroad.
  4. Not considering interoperability with other products and services as an integral part of a product’s value proposition is a struggle we see with many companies. For example, some products ship out of the box with the ability to be controlled by a smart speaker. But what happens when a new smart speaker is launched by another company? Are purchasers of the previous product notified? Will that previous product by upgraded in the field to incorporate new interoperability? This speaks as much to the relationship between the brand and the user as it does with technology as it could strongly promote brand retention for future sales. Sadly, many (if not most) companies do not plan for this with their connected products.

Q. How are cloud computing needs straining the capabilities of manufacturers?

Radsliff: Cloud computing and connected products are at the heart of the next wave of digital transformation of businesses today. The efforts of IT groups have not traditionally been connected with product groups at manufacturing companies. Their skills may not be up to running product lines in addition to organizational needs. Companies who have spent years becoming world-class at manufacturing are now facing the need to become world-class at software development and network operations. And those who try to do this themselves may find that they don’t have the necessary talent in their local communities to satisfy the hiring needs of the entire company. That is why it is absolutely vital for manufacturers to have a long term strategic plan around this issue. And why it is important for them to form strong relationships with IoT platform vendors who can satisfy their needs now or for the long term. Otherwise, they will find themselves losing market share to those companies who have taken the leap to transform their businesses, product lines and organizational plans around having connected products.

Q. When we envision the business value of IoT data, we can imagine a long list of possible uses but the first level has been focused on operational efficiency. Talk about the current value of data largely in creating operational efficiencies. How can product development and product management leaders quantify the savings through operational efficiency to validate investment in the required technologies?

Radsliff: An underused value of IoT is for product development research. Traditionally, companies do market and competitive research, make their bets, develop and launch products, and evaluate how well they did by gauging sales. What if instead they had a one-to-one relationship with each product user, they knew when and how the product was being used, they discovered what un-envisioned uses or actions occurred with their users, which then led to a new generation of products that exploited this knowledge for competitive advantage and to capture market share?  IoT data is the best product development and marketing research that money can buy, but do most companies allocate some of those budgets towards paying for product connectivity? IoT demands and entirely new view of where money is spent, and for what reasons within the company. Using old ROI models just end up masking the true value of IoT data.