As the fabled story goes, the very first IoT product was a ‘smart toaster’ designed by John Romkey, that could be switched on and off with a single click. Each time a new frontier of technology is crossed, we move farther from the humble yet inventive "smart toaster". In this day and age, businesses invest in the Internet of Things, consumers desire it, and trend-watchers predict its future. The numbers projected globally testify to this phenomenon. As per Statista, the number of IoT devices was 22 billion in 2018, by 2021, it will reach north of 38 billion, and a massive 50 billion by 2030. With the backbone of IoT, physical devices are made smarter with sensors, software, and other technologies that enable them to communicate and exchange information over the Internet. Why are smart and connected devices so important? And more so, why are consumers excited about this irrevocable trend?
The confluence of 5G, AI, and IoT calls for smarter products
5G, the fastest cellular technology known to mankind yet, is not a distant dream but a soon-to-be reality. Telecom operators and system vendors have already started commercialising 5G with live networks lighting up around the world. Back home, it has been indicated that the 5G network may even officially launch as early as next year. Once the 5G networks reach full scalability, an era of connected, intelligent, and artificially intelligent systems will commence. Since users expect breakthrough performance, the devices need to keep up as well. In the era of AIOT, devices will have to deal with vast pools of data. We are looking forward to a future where devices will become more energy efficient with sensors and high-capacity batteries, as well as more processing power and data storage capabilities. Rapid software development will be a key necessity for smooth, lag-free functionality. Using this large, unstructured data, companies will be able to mine actionable insights, improve devices' lifecycle, and train them to be more responsive.
Future trends will become standardised
To push the limits of innovation, devices will support XR technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality as standard features. Over time, other connected products such as smartwatches and smart wearables will have their own 5G chipsets and more computing power to process data on the device, voice-activated displays, natural language processing, and super 8K resolution, to name a few! When 4G networks gained ground, smartphones became faster and more powerful with advanced processors, plenty of storage space to accommodate music and video streaming, a widescreen display to immerse in online games, and a long-lasting battery for hours of uninterrupted use. We are at the cusp of a new inflection point as 5G dawns near.
Always-on consumers expect innovation to meet needs
The ubiquitous nature of connectivity, the proliferation of smartphones, and the democratisation of features have all contributed to the rise of the Connected Consumer. They are characterised by a strong digital footprint, a hyperconnected lifestyle, and a sense of urgency. After the pandemic, the requirements of always-on consumers have evolved. As per Counterpoint research, the shipments of Wi-Fi-enabled smart home devices are projected to grow at a 21 percent CAGR between 2020-2025, with smart TVs and smart speakers acting as key growth drivers. It is only fair to assume that their demands will get more distinctive and differentiated in the age of intelligent connectivity. Smart and connected products will add value with three core principles - productivity, performance, and efficiency.
Gateway to a smart, connected experience
Connected and smart devices will be more than just a static product. They will create lasting memories and value over time. For one, with such products, real-time, personalised insights will become a must-do for companies instead of a generic check in the box. Real-time, hyper-customised information will increase consumer engagement and enhance long-term relationships. Secondly, the ease and efficiency provided by digital assistants make them one of the most desired features to have on smart devices. The advantages of AI-enabled voice assistants are multifarious, ranging from something as mundane as planning out your day to doubling up as your healthcare provider. Lastly, in an on-demand society, convenience is the last word. Imagine, being able to control all smart appliances through a single, connected interface, monitoring feeds, managing security, and more. Wider availability and democratisation will reduce the barriers of entry to the smart, connected lifestyle a user desires.
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In the new world of digital transformation powered by 5G, connected, smart products will have immense value in all industries - healthcare, automotive, agriculture, smart homes, entertainment, and so on. Insights by McKinsey cite that the connected devices industry is projected to add anywhere between $1.2 trillion to $2 trillion to the global GDP by 2030. As one of the early adopters of this phenomenon, the consumer technology industry is at the forefront of democratising its adoption around the world.
The author Madhav Sheth, is VP, realme and CEO, realme India and Europe. The views expressed are personal.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)