You’re only as good as your connectivity

Now more than ever, people want to stay close to the people and things they love – and consumers are seeking practical solutions to stay connected to what matters most to them

This has led to a substantial growth in the smart tech category in recent years, and by 2027, 41 billion smart devices are predicted to be in existence and the market is expected to grow to over $2.4 trillion.

Despite its rapid expansion, the consumer IoT space is still relatively nascent, and few of the products developed so far have been good enough to drive mass adoption and continuous engagement. We are seeing a consistent problem; IoT players are either focusing on their connectivity and tech capabilities, or on their customer experiences. Very few, if any, are doing both.

At the same time, our relationship with technology is changing; a recent study by Lenovo found that we are using technology more than ever to drive empathy and build more human connections. Of course, Covid has played a significant role in this shift, but if technology providers continue to view their products as a series of hardware elements, they’ll continue to miss the mark.

What people need right now from their IoT providers are technological solutions that bring people together and facilitate a new kind of emotional connection. In order to achieve this, products need to be looked at as a totality of beautifully designed hardware that blends into your life, intuitive and easy to use software and, crucially, powerful connectivity.

Despite its importance in helping create a positive user experience, many IoT solutions providers are seeing connectivity as more of an afterthought than a key component of their products. Many are still relying solely on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and despite obvious limitations, Bluetooth continues to be the most widely adopted in wireless products. Even with a host of options out there, we’re still not seeing companies blending key connectivity capabilities together, and this is holding back IoT’s potential to genuinely improve everyday living. Without this blend, products become one-dimensional and lack versatility; a Bluetooth-only device is redundant without proximity to your phone, a Wi-Fi product useless without a network.

Truly connected technology has the potential to unlock seamless end-user experiences, global scalability and flexibility for IoT players, but that shouldn’t have to mean re-inventing the wheel.

In fact, drawing on established networks can have huge benefits in creating a feeling of trust and security amongst users.

Connectivity has always been at the centre of Vodafone’s offering, and whilst our devices do tap into our mobile network, they do not rely on this alone. Even with 112 million pre-existing IoT customers, the benefits of integrating multiple tracking technologies are unparalleled, which is why we incorporate GPS, Wi-Fi, Cellular and Bluetooth into our products. Using a blend of solutions ensures a dependable connection across almost all scenarios and locations; something which is crucial when building products that enable people to stay close to the things that they love regardless of distance.

Inevitably, connectivity alone isn’t going to solve the problem of mass adoption; the iPhone didn’t transform the smart phone category with a single feature. But if we can successfully combine great customer experience, intuitive technology and global connectivity, it has the power to become a blueprint for entire product suites and service offerings. This is forming an integral part of the Vodafone Smart Tech business – all our products are unified under a shared platform capability and

incorporate elements of one another. A seemingly simple feature perhaps, but one that will prove crucial as the market expands.

If we’re really going seize the opportunity to use the Internet of things to help build emotional connections, then connectivity needs to be at the core of everything we build. Fast forward 5 years, and the entire IoT category will be connected through the same design language and connectivity network – taking all the best elements of each to create a world-class experience. But until that point, we need to remain relentlessly focused on how we make sure our connected devices are just that – because designing products that are genuinely able to solve customer problems and help them connect with and protect the things they love won’t be possible at scale without it.

As ownership increases, so will the expectations of our users, and as IoT providers, we need to make sure we’re keeping up.

About the Author

Lutfu Kitapci is Global Managing Director at Vodafone Smart Tech. Our smart devices connect to our global network, so you can get updates to your smartphone from far away and keep in touch with the things you care about.

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