Internet of Things (IoT) technology and devices have been changing the nature of user experience for some time, as consumers gradually adopt mobile app-controlled technology like smart lighting, connected thermostats, home security systems and doorbell alerts. We expect to see that trend accelerate through 2022 and perhaps even pick up more speed in the latter half of 2023, in ways that give consumers and business users more options for connected experiences that continue to narrow the gap between the physical and digital worlds.
Why is this acceleration happening now, and what does it mean for customer experience (CX)? The confluence of technology infrastructure upgrades, rising expectations for digital experiences and the evaporation of public perception of the physical-digital divide are all factors. Here’s what we see trending now, and what it means for brands.
5G Rollout in the U.S. Creates a Better Environment for Connected Devices
5G technology has been in the news recently because the U.S. rollout was delayed around some airports, but overall, the deployment is moving forward now after years of anticipation. People with 5G-enabled devices living and working in areas with an active 5G wireless spectrum will have faster mobile and connected experiences.
Forrester predicts that as 5G coverage expands, smart infrastructure investment will grow by 40% this year. That growth will include new investments in industrial emissions-reduction devices and utilities management tools like smart meters, as well as smart thermostats that adjust customers’ settings to optimize comfort and energy savings based on weather and grid demands, making the customer experience even more connected and seamless. Those experiences, along with 5G-driven speed improvements, may drive adoption of more IoT devices as consumers see more benefits from them.
More Customers Will Embrace Connected Experiences
In addition to better technological support for connected experiences, users are more likely to embrace mobile-IoT experiences because their attitudes are evolving. Forrester forecasts that this year, “around 80% of consumers will see the world as all-digital, with no divide” between online and physical-world experiences.
As people get more comfortable with a unified digital-physical environment, we can expect to see more adoption of IoT devices and appliances that reinforce the merging of physical and digital, from homeowners adjusting their smart thermostat while they’re away on vacation to mobile push notifications that alert users when a load of laundry is finished in the dryer downstairs.
On the B2B side, industrial IoT (IIoT) equipment costs are expected to drop. That will allow more enterprises to adopt or enhance connected monitoring devices that report on production-line equipment health in real time, lighting and HVAC systems that adapt to building usage patterns and product monitoring devices installed by manufacturers that watch equipment in the field to alert customers when that equipment needs preventive maintenance or repair. In each of these use cases, the devices can relay alerts via mobile device to plant managers, repair technicians and other key employees, transforming the employee experience.
More Refinements to Existing Connected Experiences
Smart home devices were one of the earliest use cases for consumer IoT, but the proliferation of competing platforms has made it difficult for customers to find and use the best devices for their needs. Now, these big tech brands are working together on a unified smart home standard that will reduce connectivity hurdles across brands. The goal is to make it easier for consumers to integrate the devices they already own into one system, and to add more devices easily without worrying about compatibility.
Their new standard is being designed to allow users to control devices through whichever smart home mobile apps they already use, even controlling the same smart home device with more than one app. When this new platform debuts, perhaps as soon as midyear, it may give more consumers the confidence to add IoT devices to their home networks or to start using smart home devices.
A Normalization of Mobile-IoT Connected Experiences
For many businesses, this year is the time to explore new ways to enable their customers to interact with their product. For example, making a vending machine purchase used to be a hands-on experience. Now, connected vending machines let users pay on their mobile device and get their product without having to touch the machine, handle currency or insert their card in the machine. Eventually, this will be the new norm.
Because of improvements in technology and compatibility as well as increasing adoption of connected experiences, 2022 could see major strides toward a world where the Internet of Things and connected experiences are viewed as simply things and experiences. The context of IoT opens up a spectrum of possibilities for connecting users to an eternal real-world system — a real-world analog to the metaverse online.
Even more interesting is the possibility that the connected experience trend will accelerate further in late 2023. That’s when Forrester predicts the end of the current chip shortage that will limit IoT growth by as much as 15% this year. When the chip floodgates finally open, we may see even more opportunities to create connected experiences, and even more demand for those experiences as customer and employee expectations continue to evolve.
Michael Martin is an Enterprise Architect for Capgemini Americas specializing in mobile development and solutions implementation for several industries. He was a lead architect for many large ecommerce projects in the 2000-2010 era, and for the last 12 years has led solutions in the mobile ecosystem.