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Setting Sights on a Consumer Centric IoT Enabled World - Future Perspectives for Consumer Durables

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Soumendra MohantyHead – Data & AnalyticsL&T InfotechHeadquartered in Mumbai, L&T Infotech is a multinational Technology Consulting & IT services company enabling businesses to accelerate their business transformation journey by offering a suite of solutions in the areas of Internet of Things, Digital Consulting, Big Data Analytics, and Business Process Automation.

Imagine a scene from a sci-fi movie from the 80s or 90s where a car door opens upon sensing the driver, the air-conditioning automatically switches on and the car even greets the driver before setting off on its course. With the rapid proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), this scenario is no longer part of a fictional movie, but has become a reality.

While new business models are emerging, both for the consumers and producers, the growth of ‘as a service’ brings into perspective a holistic ecosystem. Take the example of an elevator company – it is no longer considering itself as a manufacturer, rather they consider themselves in the business of transportation - moving people from one place to another although vertically.

The IoT is essentially a global 'network of things' that includes several devices, appliances, equipment, and machinery with the intelligence to seamlessly connect, communicate and control or manage each other to perform a set of tasks with minimum intervention. The goal of IoT is to enable things to be connected any time, any place, and with anything or anyone. In short, IoT is not a technology, but a concept.

IoT is rapidly emerging as next biggest wave in the development of the Internet. Companies are actively exploring IoT solutions and services to enhance operational efficiency and invigorate their business models. IoT applications, such as ‘intelligent’ meters and appliances, connected cars and wearable are generating unprecedented volumes of enterprise and consumer data. Consequently to derive invaluable insight from the amassed data, companies are aggressively leveraging Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and other disruptive technologies.

Impact of IoT on the Consumer Durables Industry

In the consumer durables industry, IoT applications can be broadly divided into two segments – industrial and consumer. The industrial segment includes industrial and retail automation. The consumer segment is driven by smart automation in lifestyle, home and consumer durable products.
The consumer durables industry is not new to the IoT concept. Controlling the home air-conditioning with your smart phone or wearables that monitor your body statistics while jogging –such products are being developed rapidly. The advances in the usability and efficiency of these products are further driven by IoT.
Understanding the customer’s buying process is an important part of any business strategy. While the customer’s journey continues to be the same barring a few new aspects such as e-commerce, IoT has added a new phase to include usage and the acceptance of new services. For the consumer durables industry, much like retail, consumer experience is now a critical aspect of their business. With increasing competition, consumer durables companies can no longer just meet their customers’ short term needs. This is further compounded by the fluidity of product needs across industries.

Emerging Business Models for the Consumer Durables Industry

The IoT is and will continue to erode traditional business models. Understanding how connected devices and things will impact lifestyles will ensure that companies are better positioned for better profitability and success. Consumer durables companies that have been visionary in the adoption of IoT have made significant changes in their business models – either with a complete business transformation or through acquisitions.

Consumers today have turned into producers, actively defining what products we want and what kind of services we like



As consumer durables companies evolve into connected products companies, they must also recognize and address the ensuing challenges. A case in point is a leading multinational manufacturing conglomerate, with special focus on electronics. The company made several acquisitions focusing on their IoT and Artificial Intelligence strategy. It also combined its existing IoT services into a single united IoT platform referred to as SmartThings Cloud. Their aim is to provide a single platform enabled with a nine-point security check.

In another instance, a leading Europe based consumer durables manufacturer has also forayed into the connected homes space. The company has worked actively with over 300 brands to unlock the potential of IoT through the Open Connectivity Foundation so that companies can create products that work seamlessly together. Another key component is partnerships with the large ecosystems including Google and Amazon to create new experiences for customers through voice and Artificial Intelligence.

These cases are indicative of the new and emerging business models that consumer durables companies need to adopt. Leveraging IoT and combining products and services enhanced through the use of AI and other automation technologies is the way forward.

Conclusion

As we review this new emerging business scenario and evaluate the disruptive thinking that goes into it, we see ourselves as not just mere consumers of products and/or services, but as producers. Consumers today have turned into producers, actively defining what products we want and what kind of services we like. But as consumer durables companies recognize and navigate agile adoption of IoT and other automation technologies, they must also recognize challenges of security, data breaches and supply chain.

At the cross section of the physical and digital convergence, it is extremely important to embrace disruption as the way of life and doing business. Companies that are prepared to experiment, learn fast and adapt to changing conditions, are certain to stay ahead of the curve.