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GfK's thoughts on the 2016 Smart Summit


First thoughts
The GfK team (Ranj Dale, Gavin Sugden and Imran Choudhary) went to the Smart Summit in London last month with high hopes and excitement. The first thing we noticed was the size of the event. It was certainly bigger than last year’s event with more exhibits on display from a wider range of manufacturers and suppliers showing their smart solutions and products. 

We had expectations of seeing new and exciting advances on display, as well as seeing the industry’s learnings in how it packages and positions the overall benefits for both consumers and enterprise. The reality is that whilst this is starting to happen, it’s still not as much as we’d hoped. It’s been a couple of years since the likes of Hive and similar products came to the market, but much of the industry is still adopting a feature led approach rather than a benefits led approach, which is what will be needed for mass market adoption. There are certainly more players in the game, but they still seem to be playing in the same way; focussing on features rather than how this smart tech can solve pain points.

Retailers and Manufactures on focussing on the mass market
Our Head of Technology UK, Ranj Dale, chaired and led a panel debate on how retailers and manufacturers can drive mass market adoption. Whilst hearing some great insight from the panel, there still seemed to be an inward industry focus rather than a championing of the consumer.

In terms of who controls this move to mass market, at least for now, the retailers and manufacturers appear to be in the driver’s seat, but ultimately it will be the consumer who needs to control it and it will be the consumer who decides its fate. With only leading edge consumers currently buying into smart technologies, and with the majority of questions to OEMs from consumers focussing around wider interoperability, there is a lot more work yet to be done by the industry. 

Working together to provide interoperable, benefit led products, will surely help in educating the wider consumer base. Our experience indicates that the key barriers to overcome for mass market adoption to happen, are around the user experience, interoperability and concerns around data security.  Most potential customers don’t feel too proud about the smart products in question which creates a further barrier.

With so many players entering the smart area, consumers are soon going to be overloaded with too much information from too many angles around what to do when wanting a smart product for their home. Can you imagine your parents buying smart products for their home and self-installing without any issues? It is exactly this that needs to be addressed if smart home products are to make it to mass market.

What about Enterprise?
For enterprise there was much promise on display. The VR discussions demonstrated how there is appetite for VR from a B2B and B2C perspective and this certainly looks like an exciting part of the industry. There’s already relatively good awareness in the consumer world around the concept of VR and in most cases, these new technologies are best introduced via the enterprise sector first, before then making their way to the rest of the world. 

With IoT, many of the solutions and products brought to the market are providing a smart way of doing something without carving out the full potential IoT offers to companies. Simply enabling companies to use a new technology to do something they already can, usually at an elevated cost, doesn’t resonate too strongly. A lot of the products and solutions seemed to be missing a trick. Those currently successful at embedding into businesses are showing their understanding of the ‘internet of things’ being more about the ‘internet of lots of little things’, where many things working together, can lead to a real competitive advantage. 

Smart solutions that provide real time information with live data streams about how business products and services are being used by the end user, offer manufacturers and businesses a chance to enhance logistics, streamline inventory and ultimately influence the customer experience. For now, too few are positioning their solutions along this line.

Conclusion and hopes for next year
Our hopes for next year’s summit include seeing more development from OEMs around a seamless, interoperable, user experience by really focussing on solving consumer pain points rather than showcasing features of smart home products. Many are starting to realise how it’s not going to be possible for everyone to control and own the ecosystem in a closed ‘end to end’ fashion. 

It’s too early to know which horses to back at this stage but eventually it’s likely that there will be a range of platforms that consumers may interact with in their homes. Smart products need to ensure they are compatible with these platforms and being on board early in this aspect can only help.  We want to see greater synchronicity between retailers and OEMs in how they plan to educate the wider market, and finally we hope to see the next game-changing developments. 

For more insights to the smart home please visit http://connected-consumer.gfk.com/smart-home/

Imran Choudhary