A recurring theme undercutting the enthusiasm surrounding the Internet of Things and smart home at CES this week has been how the shortcomings of the technology could hold back the market. How long will consumers put up with products that don't work, fail to connect to the network, or put their privacy at risk?
A panel of IoT support experts speaking at CES yesterday explained that, while some of the better-known products, like Google's Nest thermostat, are designed with easy setup and connectivity, many others fall short in important areas. Since consumers aren't always necessarily equipped to resolve these issues on their own, these concerns threaten to hold the IoT market back from reaching its lofty projections.
Lee Gruenfeld, vice president of strategic initiatives at Support.com, said his company had an "appalling experience" when it began researching smart home products for support opportunities. It didn't take long for them to find products that were too difficult to install or failed to work as intended.
The difference between IoT products and the PCs that Support.com has historically supported is that consumers don't necessarily need to buy connected appliances, Gruenfeld said. Consumers are more willing to withstand problems with setting up and maintaining PCs, laptops, and smartphones because they are essential devices. Most consumers don't need connected home products, so they may be more willing to abandon them at the first sign of trouble, Gruenfeld said.
Jeremy Hill, vice president of product management and marketing at tech support company Radialpoint, pointed out that many consumers seek out connected home products because they expect them to make their lives easier in some way. But when they encounter interoperability or connectivity issues that require support, they can become discouraged when they find that the purchase became a liability.
A handful of issues are contributing to the problems with connected home products. Stuart Rench, CEO of Ihiji, pointed to what he called the "Kickstarter economy" when describing the desire to be first to market with an attractive-looking product. In the rush to push out a product, some companies may overlook important interoperability factors.
Ratul Sengupta, vice president of client engagement at Sutherland Global Services, attributed many of the issues to the broad range of standards currently being used in the IoT industry. For the time being, the market is full of products that rely on different standards. Gruenfeld suggested that the standardization issue isn't likely to go away soon. While each standard has its own strengths and weaknesses, they're all trying to solve complex problems, he said. That makes it difficult for the industry to agree upon one approach.
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