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Smart Appliances Give Manufacturers a Strategic and Financial Edge

Many companies globally are undergoing digital transformations, using technology advances such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance product performance and everyday business operations. This digital transformation is now making its way into the home, as more of our appliances are connected to WiFi or cellular networks and controlled via mobile apps. 

Turning coffee makers and refrigerators into smart devices is a good business move for manufacturers. “It comes down to asking how do I leverage technology to become more competitive, differentiate myself from the competition, unlock the value of the data and generate new revenue streams?” explained Prashanth Shetty, Vice President, Global Marketing with Ayla Networks. These are the building blocks of the digital transformation in the home appliance market, where the end goal is to meet growing customer demand to deliver a better customer experience.

Manufacturers of home appliances have been under extreme competition for years. The introduction of IoT moved the competition to a new level. Smart appliances can add space between a manufacturer and its top competitors with features that make the consumer’s life easier and also drive new growth opportunities. Also, Shetty pointed out, IoT-enabled appliances can for the first time build an enduring relationship between manufacturer and customer. In the past, the customer bought the appliance and that was that. The manufacturer had no idea how often the appliance was used, how well it worked, or if it created brand loyalty. With sensors built into appliances, manufacturers now have data feedback on the customer interaction with the appliance. That feedback can be used to improve the product in newer models. 

Brand names moving to IoT

Many familiar brand names are making the move to IoT-enabled devices. Shark Ninja is a multi-brand appliance company whose product set includes everything from vacuum cleaners to ovens, food processors and cookers . The company launched an IoT-connected version of their robotic vacuum cleaner and is leading the market in customer experience and product quality. Hamilton Beach recently launched the FlexBrew smart coffee brewer and Kenmore Appliances is focused on connected refrigerators and laundry machines. Many other recognized brand names have signed up with Ayla to expand their IoT investments in order to reduce returns and tap into new growth avenues with dozens of new products coming online. 

Adopting IoT technology

A key part to the development of connected appliances is understanding how to adopt IoT. But building home-grown IoT capabilities is extremely challenging – integration is complex and very expensive, unless you have limitless supply of capital and R&D resources.

The most cost-effective option to adopt IoT technology in appliances is to work with a third-party commercial platform like Ayla. A pre-built platform is a ready-to-use turnkey option that easily integrates multiple services such as device connectivity, voice integration, data collection and automated firmware upgrades. “Buy, don’t build, because it works out of the box, , less expensive, less risky, and time to market will be at least 5X quicker,” said Shetty.

IoT is no longer a choice, but an imperative

IoT is still seen as a new-fangled technology, but one with a lot of growth potential. Now that consumers have gotten a taste of smart devices in their home, they are demanding more more. It’s up to manufacturers to keep up with that demand. Brands that wait to add IoT connectivity to their product line are missing out, and not just on higher sales but also on other benefits  of IoT – reduced number of returns and service costs, improved customer data, and overall better profit margin. By adopting  IoT now, within a year, you can leverage a pre-built, pre-integrated platform that will maximize the odds of market success.

Sue Poremba, [email protected]

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