When Connectivity Becomes Compulsory

App-Enabled devices make the New York Times!
August 13, 2012
When staying in-house is a short sighted idea
September 12, 2012
Show all

Now, some companies can’t sell a product unless it’s “smart.”

 

Something that might start off its commercial life as an expensive luxury option, or even a gimmick, often over the years becomes indispensible. Who, after all, would these days buy a car without air conditioning, or a TV without a remote control?

We’re beginning to see that process play out in the field of connected home electronics. In a growing number of cases, manufacturers are finding they have no choice but to transform their products into “smart devices;” that is, controllable remotely over the Internet via a smartphone. A few years ago, that sort of connectivity might have been an optional add-on that appealed to only a niche group of customers. Now, it’s crucial to the success of the product.

A great example involves a market that we at Arrayent have a lot of experience with: uninterrupted power supplies for custom home theater installations. These are high-end undertakings in which a special dealer or installer transforms a room into a full-fledged home theater by using not only the best audio and video equipment, but also convenience and comfort features such as lighting controls and acoustical insulation.

A long-time Arrayent customer, Monster Cable, has been making a high-end UPS unit for this market called the 3700. This is much, much more than the simple power strip plus rechargeable batteries that people might think of. Among the many features of the 3700: Internet connectivity that allows the installer or dealer to monitor the status of the AV equipment in the room from a remote location — along with the ability to power off and then on of a component that for some reason has stopped working.

Dealers and installers instantly appreciate the usefulness of that online connectivity (just like installers in numerous other industries.) When an AV installation isn’t working, it’s the installer that gets the call from the disgruntled customer. In the past, keeping the customer happy has meant long sessions on the phone, trying every scenario to get the system up and running. Or, worse, it meant sending a truck out to the customer’s home, with all the direct and indirect costs such a trip entails.

With the 3700, though, when dealer get that call, they can check online and immediately see the status of each component in the system. A unit can be powered on and off remotely; more often than not, this resets everything and gets the show back on the road.

Here’s the interesting part about these “smart” UPS systems. Once Monster made a splash in the industry with its 3700, its competitors all announced that they were adding the same capability to their versions of the product. This happened because dealers got hooked on the convenience afforded them by the connectivity, and began demanding it. Now, no one in the custom home theater market makes a power system that can’t be remotely controlled via the Internet and a smartphone. The feature has gone from an add-on to a must-have.

That same process is happening before our eyes in a number of other industries. In a few years, no one will dream of buying a home thermostat that they can’t peek in on via their smartphone. The list of similar categories keeps getting longer: Home lighting, entry and security gates, and garage door openers. Even, soon, kitchen appliances.

No manufacturer wants to wake up one day and find that the market has passed them by. Planning a connectivity strategy now is one way of keeping that from happening. It’s what we at Arrayent help companies do; get in touch and we will show you how we can do it for you.

By: Shane Dyer, President of Arrayent