Guest Blog: The power of taking IoT to the mass market

18 Jan 2021 01:18 PM

Analysts have been predicting the future of IoT since before most of us had even considered smart technology, but as the market expands across homes, wearables and tracking technologies, its potential is more tangible than ever.

Whether through increased network capabilities, integrated artificial intelligence or better scalability, we can soon expect to see billions of devices becoming interconnected, enabling humans and machines to interact in real time.

The rollout of 5G is helping to make this a much closer reality. It will be integral to enabling technology to provide new ways to connect. With its dramatically increased speed and latency and power to connect more devices simultaneously, 5G will ensure that the data collected by smart devices is gathered and managed to the best standard – something which is not just key to innovation, but to enabling consumers to better monitor and look after the things that they most value. Put simply, it will become easier to communicate with and protect the people and things we love.

Yet whilst we may be ready from a technology perspective to leap into that future, there’s a greater barrier that we need to overcome first.

Despite the fact that smart homes, devices, cars and connected cities have been on the horizon for years, we are still not seeing mass adoption.

There are two core challenges here: firstly, few of the products which are in the market have the right balance of good design, customer experience and seamlessly connected software to drive real desirability. Secondly, customers don’t really know why they need IoT devices. IoT as a term still doesn’t resonate with many consumers and even for those who are interested, there’s a lack of perceived value. We’ve been here before.

How did the iPhone really drive smartphones to achieve mass market?

Before Apple swept in and dominated the market, there were a host of smart phones on offer, but they didn’t have that right balance of design, connectivity and usefulness for customers to realise that they could provide genuine solutions to their needs.

For mass adoption to really take place, we need to not just drive awareness in the market, but show how the category is relevant to the average consumer. This can only be done by creating products and services that are able to solve challenges that a customer meets daily in a stylish, simple and seamless way. Awareness, relatability and desirability are fundamental to driving mass adoption in the market.  

So if we get this balance right, what will the future of IoT really look like?

We are already seeing 5G unlock a new world of potential in the automotive industry. Whilst driverless cars continue to become more plausible, we will also see new cars being able to increasingly connect with other IoT devices such as smart watches and use that data to enhance and improve the safety of a driving experience. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this with the likes of Ford, who are working to enable driver-assist technologies to be more aware of the person behind the wheel, by determining when the driver is stressed or tired. Being able to utilise data such as a driver’s heart rate enables the car to become much more closely connected with the person inside it, and as a result, much safer.

On the whole, it’s expected that machines will also continue to become “smarter”, not just in relation to their interpretation of human data, but to the extent that they will soon be capable of making decisions and conducting transactions between themselves without the need for human interference.

It’s not difficult to envision a future where machines will be able to automatically discover and interact with other machines, use AI to make informed choices and even make purchasing decisions without the need for human intervention.

Whilst the thought of machines moving independently may strike fear into many, the reality of the future of IoT is much more incremental. In the first instance, it’s much more likely that we’ll be seeing technological developments solve smaller scale problems – such as reduced battery sizes enabling smart technology devices to become much more compact, neater and practical for everyday use, or compatibility issues across devices being eradicated.

Once we’ve overcome these challenges, the opportunities that mass adoption presents are endless – from smarter ways of communicating with our loved ones to the early detection of deadly diseases through our mobile phones to the decarbonisation of our energy systems. There is a real opportunity to make the connected world that analysts have long been predicting a lived reality.

Guest blog by Lutfu Kitapci – Global Managing Director, Vodafone Smart Tech

Lutfu has over 15 years experience at Vodafone, which has seen him work in the Czech Republic, Turkey, Germany and Ireland.

Prior to becoming Global Managing Director for Vodafone Smart Tech, Lutfu worked as the Consumer Business Unit Director in Ireland, where he was accountable for the consumer business P&L leading brand, marketing, digital, products & services, and sales channels. As CBU Director, he transformed the business into a digital focused converged operation from a traditional mobile business as well as building a customer obsessed culture with curiosity, courage, and collaboration as the key values.

Lutfu’s expertise lies in turnaround and growth through building brand equity, digital transformation, leading customer experience, consumer centric products and services and engaged teams. Before joining Vodafone, Lutfu’s career began as a management consultant, working on telecoms projects in Turkey and India.

Lutfu obtained a degree in Business Administration from Koc University in Istanbul and Harvard Business School.