Smart Device, Smarter Services

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My recent treadmill purchase literally drove home the point that Intelligent Device Manufacturers are fundamentally transforming themselves into software-centric, service-driven businesses.

The treadmill features a built-in Android Tablet computer.  It is connected to my home wireless network and displays the news, accesses email, lets me watch videos and more. The treadmill also connects to the manufacturer's cloud-based application. This application lets me program a workout using Google Maps. For example, I could plot a route around my neighborhood and save it in the cloud. Periodically, the treadmill connects to the cloud application, downloads the workout and programs it in with accurate details such as elevation and distance. I can also track my progress towards fitness goals by viewing my workout history with time, distance, incline, calories burned and pulse in the cloud application and also on the treadmill. I can download workouts planned by other consumers in exotic parts of the globe—the plan is rendered in the treadmill on a Google Map. The cloud application also has running events that I can compete in, in real time. I can also find a fitness coach online who can tailor a program and monitor my progress. And finally, I can also share my workout programs via Facebook or Google+.  

This example illustrates several trends we are observing in the broader Intelligent Device Manufacturer space:

  • Adoption of Android well beyond mobile use cases into industrial equipment.
  • Internet-enabled devices are growing as the treadmill example shows. Internet connectivity is a key enabler for several use cases including firmware updates, software updates and data upload/downloads (e.g. workout programs for the treadmill).
  • Connectivity and software on devices are transforming business models. My treadmill's manufacturer has created a "hardware plus services" model since the cloud application that the treadmill connects to requires an annual subscription to give me access to my workout history and all the sharing features.
  • Many devices are capable of creating an app store and partner ecosystem for manufacturers. For my treadmill, fitness professionals from anywhere in the world can work with me and get paid for their services. Likewise, many fitness apps could be developed for the treadmill ecosystem.
  • Social media features are being built into devices.

What are your experiences with smart devices?

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