BLOGTHNG

Product Voice
(Image from Serious Wheels)

Once upon a time, Henry Ford famously summed up the golden age of brand and producer power by saying: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” In the second half of the 20th century he might have chosen his words more diplomatically: “in precisely which paisley trim would Madam like the dashboard re-upholstered?” We moved from the seller’s market economist J.K. Galbraith once described as “a world in which people increasingly served the convenience of organizations which were meant to serve them” to a period of unparalleled consumer control.

In media terms, this represented a shift from an era of what we might call Brand Voice, powered by industrial mass media, to one of Consumer Voice, characterized by higher disposable incomes, the Web and social media. The Internet of Things – physical objects becoming part of the Web – means that we’re entering a third age of Product Voice.

For the first time, products can talk directly to people and systems along the supply chain, while data talks back to the brand with real-time analytics, letting them know who their customers are, what they engage with and how interaction drives sales. A product can tell you what and where it is, how and how much it is being used and allows its authenticity to be verified. Consumers can ‘friend’ their stuff for personalized digital services and experiences, while businesses can ‘follow’ products in real-time from factory floor, to high street to living room. In other words, products are becoming dynamic, web-connected intelligent objects – and they get to have a say in how they are made, sold and used.

Cars
(Image from Serious Wheels)

Brand Voice

Brands came of age in an era of industrial information. At the end of 19th century, the same new technologies that had industrialized the economy, allowing the likes of the Henry Ford to mass produce and mass distribute for mass markets, also shaped the media industries like movie studios and publishing houses. These media corporations were also built with large capital investments in technology infrastructure to allow their cultural goods – newspapers, TV and radio shows, movies – to be mass manufactured, communicated and consumed like Model T Fords. These were factories of cultural content rather than cars, but the media products rolled off industrial production lines in an equivalent way.

Brands were the only ones who had a Voice and household names like Coca Cola and American Express or Singer sewing machines were built telling people what to think and buy using high reach industrial media like national print, radio and broadcast TV. Given the mass reach of media in 1971, Coca Cola really did “teach the world to sing” or at least a large part of it. Their advertising jingle became a top ten hit in the US and UK music charts and is still one of the best selling singles of all time with over 75 different cover versions around the world.

Amazon drone
(Image from Amazon)

Consumer Voice

Around the time Henry was expressing his views on the model T, future retail king Sam was born near Kingfisher, Oklahoma to Thomas and Nancy Lee Walton. The founder of Wal-Mart, the world’s second largest corporation by revenue, succinctly encapsulated this radically altered thinking about consumerism when he later said: “There’s only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the Chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Disposable incomes for UK and US households rose five fold in the last sixty years, which powered the creation of our modern consumer society. As individual buying power increased, consumers had much greater influence over the range, price and individuality of products on offer. When people have more cash, their needs move from necessities to luxuries – this creates more choices to cater for shoppers with wide ranging tastes and the money to indulge them. Then just when consumers had never had it so good, the Web handed them an unprecedented degree of information access and control, including price and product comparison, and social media let them form communities with the power to judge, reject, embrace and endorse the brands in their world.

EVRYTHNG connected

Product Voice

Today, powered by smart cloud software, products use data feedback to personalize and optimize performance over time. They can act as brand-owned digital media assets delivering direct transactions and individualized consumer experiences. Internet of Things technologies mean that physical goods can come with a digital layer of real-time, interactive services, using data to personalize and improve the consumer experience and supply chain operations over time. They are stickier, more differentiated and create new revenue opportunities from subscription or usage-based services.

For instance, Rolls Royce has turned its jet engine product into a service. Thousands of sensors in the engines feed data into proprietary algorithms, which then monitor, diagnose and make predictive recommendations to optimize aircraft maintenance and flight operations.  This lets their customers subscribe to jet engine capacity based on usage (think how Amazon sells cloud services).

EVRYTHNG and Gooee

Similarly, our customer Gooee is using the EVRYTHNG IoT platform to sell lighting as a service.

Gooee’s LED light engines not only manage energy usage and lower maintenance costs, they also contain motion and CO2 sensors. This means a connected lighting company can also sell energy management, retail traffic monitoring, security system and fire alarm services. Given the many kinds of data a sensor-packed ‘endpoint’ could gather and manage between business, environment, customer and product, emitting light will be just one of a smart bulb’s valuable qualities.

Another shift is that physical products, constructed in a particular size and shape, never change until you change the product itself, but once it’s connected the digital capability that comes with the product behaves very differently. A connected product uses networked data to keep improving features and performance regardless of physical limitations. In other words, a growing proportion of features, capabilities and value exist outside of the product.

As an example, new connected home products like Wireless Hi-Fi Sonos self-update with new functionality and performance so the product gets better after you’ve bought it with new features and music services. Consumer expectations will start changing fast: whereas traditional products degrade over time, you can expect a smart product to get better the more you use it. After all, my Gmail gives me increased storage and new features over time, so why does my PC gets slower and my TV become last year’s model? One question all product manufacturers should start asking is: how can connectivity and intelligence in my products allow me to compete on self-improving features.

Fan
(Image from Big Ass Fans)

In the 20th century we needed instruction manuals to understand how to use a product because the product lacked the ability to think of itself or access and process information to learn. In the 21st century rather than customer adapting to product, product will adapt to customer. We can expect the products we use to learn our needs, personalize to our preferences and adjust to our behaviors over time. For example, connected sensors in (the magnificently named) Big Ass ceiling fans know when you walk in the room and self-regulate based on temperature and humidity, and your programmed settings.

People’s lives are surrounded by connected interfaces that they use to consume, communicate, transact and experience. Consider the connected car collaboration between Visa, BMW and Pizza Hut. Using a voice-activated Visa Checkout app, drivers can order a pizza on the go for home delivery or Pizza Hut is notified via beacons when you drive into the parking lot so your pizza gets brought to your car. The auto payment system is planned to work for a range of drive-through retail products and service scenarios, from filling up the car at the gas station to parking or picking up the dry cleaning.

Smart product businesses see the greatest potential by plugging in to an ecosystem of apps and devices and sharing data with internal and partner enterprise systems (CRM, ERP, BI) and other clouds (e.g. Homekit, Nest, Smart Things, Wink). The more ecosystem connections your smart product makes, the more value it creates.

Puzzle
(Image from Harbor Research)

Smart, Connected Business

That every business will shift dramatically because of digital technology is certain, that it may be almost unrecognizable is a distinct possibility. Consider that a third of the firms listed in the 1970 Fortune 500 were acquired, merged, or broken up by 1983; managing how IoT Smart Products drive business value is the Critical Success Factor today. Every CEO looks at the market today and knows that the industry they exist in and the business landscape in which they operate will fundamentally change in the next decade.

Internet of Things connectivity, smart products and the real-time flow of data is at the heart of this digital transformation and business disruption. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, 75% of C-suite business leaders are actively using or researching IoT opportunities – a third believe it will unlock new revenue opportunities and inspire new working practices. The EIU says that 96% of companies will be using some kind of IoT solutions within the next three years – 20% for business innovation, 26% on improved customer acquisition and experience and 19% on supply chain efficiencies.

We built the EVRYTHNG cloud platform to make products smart for brands by managing all this IoT data flow to, from and about physical things. We wanted to make it easy for brands to use real-time IoT data to build amazing and powerful new applications and experiences, and to connect products to anything else on the Web.

The fact that everything that can be connected will be is inevitable and impacts every industry, which is why the biggest and bravest global brands are embracing IoT technology at scale, creating systems that will transform business models and operations. Smart products, plus the data-driven business operations and processes that surround them, are at the core.

Consultants and designers see the possibilities to create amazing new consumer experiences using product as a personalized, real-time platform for applications, content and services. Renowned Harvard business strategist Michael Porter believes that smart, connected products represent a third wave of competitive advantage from technology that will make or break all businesses.

In other words, now products have a voice. It’s time to listen.

iHome-iSP5

Earlier this month, we announced that major consumer electronics manufacturer SDI Technologies had selected our IoT Smart Products Platform to power their iHome smart products suite. (Here’s the full press release about iHome.)

With products in over 50 million US homes, and in retail stores in over 70 countries, iHome is already a well-loved consumer electronics brand. Their strategic investment in an the Internet of Things, with EVRYTHNG’s IoT platform behind it, says volumes about their innovative approach and commitment to staying at the cutting edge of the smart home market.

Selecting an IoT platform to turn a smart products vision into reality is no easy task. While there are a number of key considerations, two have particular resonance for iHome:

1. Scalability & reliability
With millions of units in homes around the world, the iHome team knew that scalability and reliability would be critical to their success. When a consumer interacts with a plug, they need an instant response, no matter how other consumers are using their products at the same time.

2. Interoperability
In a world where consumers already use a broad range of products and apps in their digital lives, iHome understood that it was important for their smart products to interact with as many of these as possible, now and in the future. They needed to find an IoT platform built on Web standards with REST APIs to deliver this interoperability out of the box.


SDI Technologies’ Gary Schultz demonstrates the iHome smart plug on Fox News

We’re excited about working with iHome to realise their innovative vision of smart consumer electronics products. With the iSP5 SmartPlug already available for pre-order on iHome.com and the iHome app available on iTunes, we can’t wait to start using it in the office!

Cannes 2015,cannes lions

EVRYTHNG will be at the Cannes Lions and Cannes Innovation festivals next week, presenting, meeting brands and partners and generally banging the IoT drum about Internet of Things opportunities for consumer product manufacturers, particularly from a customer engagement and brand and revenue protection point of view.

On Thursday at 11.25am I’ll be speaking on the Innovation Stage about “Product Voice: The Third Age of Marketing”.

Product Voice: EVRYTHNG,cannes at lions

During the session, I’ll look at how brands can use IoT technologies to give each product its own digital life and re-imagine these physical assets as media channels and information services. Also, how smart, connected products can be plugged into the digital flow of people, things, apps and data systems in our everyday lives. The more connections a product makes, the more value it creates.

If you’re interested in learning more about how EVRYTHNG’s IoT Platform for making consumer products smart can help your brand, we’d love to meet with you at the show. Please get in touch and let us know. Thanks.

EVRYTHNG boosts the juice
Today we’re announcing some important corporate developments for EVRYTHNG: the appointment of two further industry veterans to our leadership team, and $7.5 million in new investment to support continued growth – see the news release here.

John Fogelin

John Fogelin, formerly CTO at Wind River, joins as Executive Vice President of Engineering and will co-lead the technology and engineering team with co-founder & CTO Dom Guinard. John has more than 28 years of experience in technology, including as CTO of category-defining embedded software leader Wind River System and at wearables robotics pioneer Ekso Bionics as VP Engineering. John is also visiting industrial scholar at University of California at Berkeley.

Curt Schacker

Curt Schacker, who joined EVRYTHNG as Executive Vice President & Managing Director for Connected Products last December, is also a Wind River alumnus and Valley veteran. With Curt and John, EVRYTHNG has significantly boosted its embedded systems and connected product experience. Our engineering mission is to deliver an enterprise-class platform-as-a-service operating hundreds of millions of digitally active, cloud-driven products with real-time data, high availability and security.

Neal Matheson

Neal Matheson is formerly Chief Technology Officer and Head of R&D for multinational consumer product giants Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and P&G, and has joined EVRYTHNG’s advisory board. IoT presents significant opportunities in the consumer health and wellness sector, and Neal’s deep domain expertise will expand the company’s footprint among this vertical’s premier brands. Neal will guide EVRYTHNG’s strategic partnerships and programs with health and wellness and consumer product brands seeking to exploit the full potential for IoT in their environments. Chaired by David Bell, the EVRYTHNG advisory board is a group of highly experienced industry insiders, providing EVRYTHNG and EVRYTHNG’s customers with insight, guidance and perspective on the transformative application of IoT to the consumer products marketplace.

With the additional $7.5m we’re announcing, EVRYTHNG will have raised $17.5 million to date. Our lead investors include New York-based private equity investors BHLP LLC and international technology investment firm Atomico, with venture capital firm Dawn Capital, and corporate investors including Cisco Systems, Samsung Ventures and others.

As EVRYTHNG continues to experience increasing demand from global consumer product manufacturers who see the massive benefits of IoT to transform their businesses, having strong executive leadership, world class experience, and sound financial support becomes ever more vital. John and Neal both bring unique, exemplary skill sets from their domains of expertise, which will allow us to scale and further solidify our position as a leader in the IoT market.

Over the last year, EVRYTHNG has experienced significant growth, working with global consumer product brands including Diageo, Mondelez, Unilever and iHome among others. In addition, we have expanded its platform and IoT partnerships, with Avery Dennison and ThinFilm Electronics in smart packaging for consumable products, Trueffect in first-party data solutions for smart products, and Marvell in embedded systems for appliances and durable products. Now with offices in London, New York and San Francisco, EVRYTHNG is positioned as a global platform for global consumer brands.

The IoT market is moving fast. Exciting times ahead.

 

This story first appeared in VentureBeat
View the full press release on EVRYTHNG’s new appointments and funding

Image courtesy of Andreas Kambanis, via Flickr

Web of Things

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to participate to the first face to face meeting of the W3C Web of Things (WoT) Interest Group (IG).

Vlad and I have been working on and actively promoting an Internet of Things (IoT) that uses Web protocols (also known as “Web of Things”) since 2007 – and it’s the way that EVRYTHNG’s IoT Smart Products Platform is architected too, so this group is pretty important. It’s also important because it’s an opportunity to take the work we’ve done and turn it into recommendations and standards that will build out the IoT industry.

The membership of the group is already growing currently: 104 individuals from 43 member companies, including consumer electronics heavyweights like Siemens, Intel, Cisco, LG, Sony and Ericsson.

What quickly became clear was that most of the members shared 2 main concerns: integration, and semantics.

(I’m going to provide a high-level description here – but if you want to get into the technical details, check out the companion blog post on the Web of Things.)

 

Integration
The IoT space is already bloated with standards and alliances – so there’s a real need to think about a point of convergence. First of all, there’s a question around where things converge at the network level – though it seems that we’re quickly moving towards agreement that IPv6 and 6LoWPAN are the right way to go.

Then, there’s the question of where applications converge. The whole concept of the Web of Things is founded on the basis that applications should converge at Web protocols. Just as the Web made the Internet of documents successful and accessible, the Web of Things can push the Internet of Things to the next level and greatly facilitate the integration of Things to applications.

Given this is the W3C’s Web of Things Interest Group, there’s general agreement on the Web being the place for applications; the real issue is then is how? At EVRYTHNG – and in the Web of Things community – we’re proponents of REST, because it’s fundamentally web-based. This seems to be the prevailing opinion, and we’re hopeful that it will become the default standard, especially since the REST architectural style is already implemented by a number of ubiquitous protocols such as HTTP (or CoAP, more about that on the technical companion blog post on the Web of Things.)

Semantics
Even if we were all to agree to adopt the RESTful approach as a common standard, we still have a problem: We now have lots of accessible Things, but in silos. Unless all these smart Things are semantically described in the same or at least in compatible ways – using a number of agreed upon taxonomies – it’s unnecessarily difficult to enable these things to interact with each other.

So our next challenge is to agree semantic descriptions of Things. One opinion is that Things should use fundamentally different taxonomies depending on what they are. At EVRYTHNG, we’re in favor of a different approach: a simple and uniform taxonomy that provides a set way of describing Things, described in the EVRYTHNG API. Because there’s no one right way to model all the Things in the world, we also know we need to support extensions to this model to accommodate all the weird and wonderful specialities of Things. A large deployment of such an approach approach would make it much easier for all of applications to discover and communicate with all kinds of Things without needing custom code for each new Thing. In frame of the W3C WoT IG we are currently working on a proposal based on our hand-on experience in building uniform APIs for millions of Things, we’ll keep you posted on the progress!

What happens next?
To solve these burning issues, the W3C WoT IG kicked off two task forces: a “Thing Description” task force, looking at the semantic layer of the Web of Things; and a “Scripting API and Protocol Mapping” task force, looking into protocol recommendations, protocols bindings, REST resources and binding to scripting languages (JavaScript).

EVRYTHNG actively joined both task forces and we’re looking forward to see what will come out to make Things talk Web!