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Why Mobile Is In A Golden Age, But IoT Has Barely Seen The Light Of Day

About a month ago, Mary Meeker released her much-anticipated Internet Trends report. There was one prevalent thread throughout: growth has stalled.

The U.S. is now a mature market when it comes to internet usage and smartphone sales. Anyone who wants a smartphone has one; essentially everyone has access to the Internet. According to Meeker, even the global smartphone market grew only 10% year-over-year in 2015, compared to 28% in 2014. The smartphone tipping point has come and gone.

This is not cause for concern; rather, it means that smartphones have matured- they have reached their potential in terms of what we want from a device. From the camera, to music, to on-demand services, they’ve given us all we ever imagined from them. And now it’s time to branch out from smartphones into IoT.

Much like the early iPhone, IoT is in an experimental stage, and has barely reached mainstream consciousness (remember, it took about five years from the advent of the iPhone to the point at which it’s unusual not to see everyone at work completely glued to them. And much like the early days of smartphones, IoT is faced with some giant challenges.

As David Pierce of Wired wrote, “How the hell are all these things going to work together? Apple has Homekit; Google has Brillo and Nest; Microsoft has Windows; Samsung has SmartThings. There’s Wemo and Wink and Zigbee and Z-Wave and Thread and I’m not even making any of these up. You can control some things with your fitness tracker, some with a universal remote, and pretty much all of them with your phone. Some of the protocols overlap and support each other; others are more exclusive. But there’s no simple plug-and-play option, no way to walk out of Best Buy with something you know is going to work.”

Not only is IoT facing integration issues, it’s also facing adoption issues. It’s cool to be able to unlock your door, turn on your lights, or make your morning coffee via your smartphone, but it’s hardly normal or expected. Getting up to turn off a light isn’t a pain point yet, just as not being able to check your email while at a stoplight wasn’t a pain point ten years ago.

How Mobile’s Maturation Will Lead To A Golden Age of IoT

For the past three or so years, there’ve been a slew of articles that pop out around the New Year, proclaiming that it will be the year of IoT. And each year has been, in the sense that IoT as a technology has been booming. But in terms of user adoption, we have not yet hit the golden age of IoT.

However, I think we are finally on the cusp of this age: we needed Mary Meeker’s report to show us that mobile is ready to branch out, to connect to other things. Be it to watches, refrigerators, the office whiteboard, or your home thermostat, mobile is now mature enough to branch out.

As the architecture of connected things expands mobile will be the nucleus of them all. So while smartphone user adoption and usage may have stalled, the wealth of things people depend on their smartphones for will not.

How Mobile As The Universal Remote Will Affect Customer Service

Gartner Research estimates there will be 5 billion IoT devices in the market by end of this year and 25 billion by the end of 2020. But as David Pierce pointed out, we are faced with a crisis of connectivity: each IoT device works great on its own, but connecting a life of IoT devices is currently complicated and difficult.

As these issues get resolved over the next ten years, the need for great customer support will increase, and it will need to be based on mobile. Two things will be happening simultaneously: users will be increasingly reliant on their phones, and problems will naturally arise between smartphones and connected devices.

Currently only 7% of Americans partake in even a single smart-home device. This number will skyrocket over the next 10 years. To prepare, companies need to be moving their customer service to mobile– where consumers increasingly live. While the year of IoT might be approaching like a “molasses tidal wave,” make no mistake that it will be a big wave, and it is coming. And at its core will sit the mobile device.

Published July 25, 2016
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