No technology is spreading as fast right now as the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT marketplace can be divided into three categories: Government IoT (GIoT), Industrial IoT (IIoT), and Consumer IoT (CIoT).
With GIoT, you have smart cities, with services such as connected infrastructure, emergency notification, and autonomous vehicles. With IIoT, you have smart enterprises, with services such as predictive maintenance and predictive analytics, which utilizes machine learning to make a prediction about things like when to schedule maintenance for your factory. You also have healthcare, which has devices such as smart blood pressure monitors, smart garments to measure a patient’s EKG reading, and many other connected devices, all working together to enable the remote monitoring of patients’ vitals. And with CIoT, you have smart homes with home automation and smart appliances.
One of the hottest emerging trends in CIoT is conversational commerce. Just as the name sounds, conversational commerce refers to using natural language within a messenger application (such as text (SMS), Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) or using voice assistants (such as Siri, Alexa, and others) to interact with a business for an inquiry, purchase, or customer service.
For example, you can text your smart refrigerator “Do we have milk?” Using a combination of artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP), your refrigerator will text you back, “Yes, but at your current rate of consumption, it will be gone tomorrow. Would you like for me to place an order with Peapod?”
Here’s another interesting scenario: the smart coffee maker. Imagine this. One very tired morning, you whip out your phone and text your coffee maker: “Make me a coffee, extra strong, black, no sugar.” Your coffeemaker obediently texts you back a confirmation. Then, you get another text: “Hey boss, coffee maker here! My filter needs changing in five more uses. The three-pack is on sale this week at Amazon. Would you like for me to buy it for you?” Amazed, you text back, “Yes.” It responds, “Done. Delivery confirmed for this Wednesday.” Just like that!
A funny thing happened to me recently, which highlights the benefits of conversational commerce. I was trying to go to sleep one night, and my smoke detector starts chirping. You know how annoying it is when that happens? The house is dead quiet, then all of a sudden, a loud “CHIRP!” Then it gets quiet for a few minutes, you drift off to sleep, and another “CHIRP!” After a few minutes, I get out of bed, rummage around the house to find a brand new 9V battery (because we have an entire collection of used ones!), get out the step stool, climb up, and replace the battery.
I go back to bed, drift off to sleep, and then “CHIRRRRP!” I flew up into a sitting position. “What in the world?!?” I get up, walk over to the smoke detector to see what’s going on, and it’s quiet. “How can that be?”, I wonder. “I just put in a new battery!” Then I remember that we have another smoke detector downstairs. Perhaps that one also needs a new battery? I rummage around the “drawer” for another battery, go downstairs and replace the battery of that smoke detector. Then, relief! It’s finally quiet in the house!
I drift off into a peaceful slumber, when a loud “CHIRRRP!” pierces the air, once again! “I don’t get it! Where is it coming from?” I walk out into the hall and stand right under the smoke detector. It’s silent as if it’s mocking me! I’m staring at it as if to dare it to make another sound. Finally, it emits another loud “CHIRRRP!” That’s it! I get out the step stool and take down the smoke detector. I remove the battery and go back to sleep.
You would not believe it, but a minute later, the peace and quiet is pierced by another ear-splitting “CHIRRRP!” At this time, everyone in the house is now wide awake. We now have search parties going on throughout the house, attempting to locate the rogue smoke detector that’s causing us so much misery. Fortunately, I have a very smart 8-year-old son who located the offending smoke detector mid-chirp! It turns out, we had a spare one on the bathroom shelf, hidden from sight, all the way in the back of the closet. I disconnect the battery, and it’s finally peace at last.
With conversational commerce, when the smoke detector senses that the battery is running low, it can send me a text message informing me which smoke detector (i.e., bedroom, hallway, kitchen) it is, how much battery life is left, and encourage me to replace the battery before it starts chirping. It can even offer to order the battery for me from Amazon so that I don’t have to go out to the store and buy one. The benefits are two-fold: for me, the consumer, I have peace of mind knowing that my family is protected by a smoke detector. I also have peace of mind knowing my sleep won’t get interrupted by ear-splitting noises in the middle of the night. The smoke detector manufacturer also benefits because as the facilitator of the battery sale, they are in essence a channel partner of the retailer (i.e., Amazon), which entitles them to earn commissions for every replacement battery.
Conversational commerce is also now catching on in IIoT. For example, if an assembly line motor were to start wearing out, the predictive maintenance solution will alert the plant manager, and automatically order a replacement motor with a preferred retailer, such as CDW. The next day, when the manager shows up for work, a box is waiting for them at their desk, and a maintenance window, along with a service technician, has already been automatically scheduled.
As a manufacturer, think of how implementing the right technology for your IoT solution, enables you to change the nature of a sale from a transaction to a recurring stream of revenue. This is a very powerful thought indeed.
In conclusion, IoT technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in our daily lives. As the technology matures, we will find additional ways with which to benefit from the technology. Perhaps one of the most exciting drivers that will fund the innovation and development of the technology, is its role in creating new streams of revenue that weren’t even imaginable just a few short years ago.
My question for you is, how will innovation create new sources of revenue for your business?