Smart thermostats open the door to on-demand services

Parks Associates, an IoT and smart home research firm, released a report suggesting that 13 percent of U.S. broadband households (there were 106 million such homes as of 2016) have installed smart thermostats as of 2017. That’s up from 11 percent in 2016, an increase of approximately 2.1 million homes last year. What does this mean for on-demand services that can tap into smart thermostats (with consumers’ permission)? Let’s brainstorm.

Parks Associates, an IoT and smart home research firm, released a report suggesting that 13 percent of U.S. broadband households (there were 106 million such homes as of 2016) have installed smart thermostats as of 2017. That’s up from 11 percent in 2016, an increase of approximately 2.1 million homes last year.

What does this mean for on-demand services that can tap into smart thermostats (with consumers’ permission)? Let’s brainstorm:

Think of the ADT model. The security company monitors the state of a home and, when there is a break-in, alerts the police. A smart thermostat could provide live monitoring of a home’s temperature and furnace/air conditioning to deliver real-time service. Your furnace fails and before you realize it is not heating the home, a service provider shows up to fix it. With a digital lock in the scenario, consumer might not even need to be home to discover and fix a heating problem in winter. Feels like magic to the homeowner.

Home activity monitoring. Nest’s thermostats have been detecting activity in the home and adjusting temperatures when consumers arrive home. Water heaters cold lower their electrical or gas usage during the day. Tie activity monitoring to a meal-delivery service to trigger the arrival of dinner just after he customer comes in from work. 

Security. The smart thermostat can also detect unexpected entry to a home and signal the customer or a security firm when something is amiss. It may be just one more sensor, but motion/sound detection could replace traditional doors and window security monitors, lowering the price of home security installs and services.

On-demand work tracking. A smart thermostat linked to on-demand service providers’ networks could track when a housekeeper, dog-walker, plant watering service, or other labor enters and leaves the home. Consumers could have validation that their housekeeper worked the full time they were expected to, even when no one was home, from their smart thermostat.

On-demand companies need to anticipate and build business relationships around devices that extend the customer relationship. Smart thermostats, smart speakers, smart thermostat-speakers, electrical and water system monitors, smart refrigerators, smart phones, smart TVs, and myriad other devices can help identify consumer needs before they are detected by consumers themselves. However, these services must respect the customer’s privacy and act in service of their interests, or such tools will seem intrusive. 

Update: Chuck Martin at MediaPost discusses how companies are embracing IoT today, as well. Lots of very interesting results from a survey of 500 executives considering or actively investing in IoT-enabled customer experiences.

 

 

 

Google Assistant announces new hardware partners

In-home on-demand services will turn on voice, phone, smart TV, and PC interfaces. As reported yesterday, Google trails Amazon and Apple in installed branded hardware base. Today, Google announced new hardware partners in automotive, home appliances, cameras, and other industries. JBL, Lenovo, Sony, LG, Altec Lansing, iHome, and others joined the ranks of Google Assistant-compatible devices.

Google claims Assistant is now available on 400 million devices. Availability is different, of course, than actual usage.

 

Talking Cures: Home speakers, audio ads, and the contest for engagement

Amazon will reportedly monetize its site and Alexa channels in 2018 using advertising. Global Web Index, a London-based research company, reports that grocery shoppers seem to love voice speakers. Of 78,000 respondents to a survey, 56 percent are using or plan to buy a speaker in the next six months. But will those consumers love advertising? That’s the important question for marketers considering how to deploy budget effectively.

Advertising isn’t the only customer interface in local. Human relationships, storefronts, out-of-home media, and many other investments are necessary. Adding advertising to an Alexa skill may backfire. As The Economist points out,  there is an uncanny valley problem with voice. When a smart speaker acts too human, the user can become uncomfortable. In short, consumer expectations are tightly linked to what they will tolerate comfortably when dealing with bots.

Adding advertising experience in a bot may violate the consumer’s expectations. Like streaming users, who feel they have paid for media out of their pocket and, consequently, do not welcome advertising, Alexa users are likely to object to the insertion of advertising. IBM Cloud Video found that 72.3 percent of streaming users “felt any type of ad reduced the viewing experience.” Alexa buyers have paid for a channel that promises to do tasks. Advertising remains an interruption to the consumer; it may be a mistake to impose in the smart speaker environment.

Marketers have seen an explosion of channels, in addition to myriad new sales tools to use to distribute experience to the edge of the network. Why revert to advertising, except to create more revenue for the smart speaker vendor? It does not necessarily add to the customer experience. In the local market, in particular, voice ads fail to replace the human connection consumers expect from a device/service they purchased. Perhaps the better move is to augment local salespeople using AI, instead.

The smartest speaker will know when to connect a potential customer to the human who can close the deal and build trust.