How Connectivity Will Need To Evolve

Editor’s note: Kevin Young is the senior vice president of product experience and Eric Bogner is a principal at Continuum

Intelligent processing and awareness tools are providing sense-making capabilities, augmenting our ability to easily interpret data, and making information more accessible. These capabilities will allow a more frictionless relationship between us, our objects and environments.

At the same time, we’re still in the formative stages of the connected era, and companies are trying to understand how to make connectivity meaningful for consumers. As a result, there is a proliferation of early-market products that make consumers question the value of connected products.

It’s also often articulated that individual gadgets exist somewhat independently, and a major concern for the value these products can bring to our lives lies in the fact that there is no common architecture or platform for developers to build on.

Studies have also proven that IoT products — wearables in particular — are often abandoned after six months.

We don’t expect the technology community to arrive at a standard common infrastructure in the coming year, but connectivity does need to evolve to ensure new and existing products stick around in 2015 and beyond.

Better connecting IoT devices to each other, to their users, and to larger common populations will position them to stay relevant for consumers, which will in turn drive business return for their manufacturers.

We see four ways connectivity must evolve in 2015.

Community Building

Smart IoT companies will build communities — on and offline. Communities provide advice, coaching and ongoing support. Going online to build networks isn’t a new concept, as Facebook has proven for the last decade. Fitness wearable manufacturer Jawbone is exploring the social side of IoT by enabling companies to motivate their employees to be healthier by encouraging tracking results and friendly competition.

They’re building an in-person network to encourage healthy living — and ongoing use of their product. Growing networks provide fertile ground for ever-increasing real-time collaborations and translations, as well as multi-channel connections.

Partnership Formation

Others will form partnerships. This year saw companies like Google realize there was an opportunity in healthcare diagnostics and Fitbit get more fashionable. Partnerships were formed by companies who saw the limit of their expertise and the benefit to acquiring additional capabilities through a development or licensing relationship.

In 2015, IoT companies will leverage partnerships to access broader networks. New York insurance provider Oscar Health recently partnered with Misfit Wearables, and in January members will be able to connect their fitness trackers to the Oscar Health app and earn Amazon cash when they walk.

Commitment to Design

Connected products need to encourage commitment through their design. Fitness trackers, health monitors, and even devices designed to enhance our daily lives (think: Oculus Rift) require some shifts in routine and changes in behavior. When Unilever’s home beauty brand iluminage launched an Internet-connected laser intended to treat facial wrinkles in the home, they purposely leveraged a deliberate physical design. Early consumer research confirmed target users would be comfortable leaving the product on their bathroom counters because of its aesthetic appeal, and this repeated reminder encouraged use.

Smarter Products

It’s also time to start thinking: being connected is not enough. Products will need to get smarter. They will learn and adapt to you. They’ll anticipate your behavior and become the concierge for your life, removing friction in your everyday work and life activities. They’ll be the ones offering advice and support to keep our lives fluid with style and ease. The result will be that content follows context, providing guidance and insight that adapt to our changing needs. Nest and driving mobile app Waze are starting to do this, but rely heavily on user data.

Connectivity means devices can no longer stand on their own to provide value to their users. As the Internet of Things continues to pervade our lives, smart companies will build connections beyond synching products to databases. They will connect people to each other and will help us all live more seamless, integrated lives.