I see myself as an advanced technology user – not a geek but certainly above average. Lately, I started to feel something which I would call »tech stress«. We have had three smartphones, two iPads, two notebook computers, two Smart TVs, two Apple TVs and a PlayStation in our household for quite some time – so far, so good. But then there came this new Smart Watch, a networked camera in the foyer of our house, and my electrician recently tried to convince me to install sensors, monitoring whether our doors and windows are closed. My little technology world seems getting bigger and bigger – more devices, more apps, more chaos.
Call it chaos, call it mesh – it’s going to be big and everywhere
Where will this chaos lead? Ericsson is a serious company and they know a lot about technology. Their research department publishes every once in a while a research paper called Mobility Report. This report covers predictions of the future – which have mostly proven to be correct. Now, in their latest report they talk about the year 2021 and that there will be 28 billion (!) devices connected to the internet. It’s the Internet of Things (IoT) of which we have all heard about so many times before. The analysts of Gartner estimate that, in the same year, 1 million IoT devices will be purchased and installed every single hour. Our technology world seems getting bigger and bigger? It is getting bigger, really big.
Apple launched Apple Watch, Samsung acquired SmartThings and Google bought Nest – there is no doubt that the last couple of months will be seen as a time where wearable devices, smart home equipment and other networked ‘things’ went mainstream. The Internet of Things is becoming reality and it is changing how we use technology. Where consumers in the past few years consciously interacted with devices and apps, the Internet of Things turns the know customer experience into an invisible ambient experience.
The post-app era is not the end of apps but a new beginning
With the rise of smartphones, any interaction started with turning on the phone, downloading an app, and then deliberately using them – it was the common way and it was the only way to interact with your smartphone or tablet. The new customer experience happens in the background, under the surface, in the air – everywhere. Gartner calls it the »device mesh« which is a dynamic network where all devices operate in conjunction with each other, rather than in isolation. As ZDNet’s Larry Dignan puts it: “The device mesh is a spin on the Internet of things, but will ultimately tie in augmented and virtual reality as well as experiences that are always on.”
Newly designed apps will be largely invisible to consumers and eliminate the need to physically interact with devices. The good news for me with my feared “tech chaos”: As a consumer, I do not really need to care about apps, their compatibility and their functionality any longer. They will run as a service in the background and connect the different devices and exchange data without me even noticing. Gartner is speaking of the “post-app era” which entails the end of apps as we know them. Apps will become invisible services, tiny little robots that run automatically.
Ambient customer experience, ambient service and support
One great example of the new customer experience is Google Now. Simply put, Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant, which organizes your daily routine. Unlike traditional office and calendar apps, it runs in the background and pulls and pushes all necessary information without the consumer having to do anything. Yonatan Zunger, Google’s Chief Architect for the service, speaks of “ambient computing, a computing that is seamlessly present wherever you are, so easily accessible that you barely even realize that you're interacting with a computer – a worldwide reality.”
An interesting take on the new “Device Mesh” and “Ambient Customer Experience” is the new challenge for customer care. If consumers do not actively interact with their devices any longer, how will they notice if something stopped working? Customer service will have to become more intelligent, too. Luckily, new network enabled devices in the era of the Internet of Things offer new capabilities to request service and receive it instantly. At B2X, we have taken a first step into that direction with SMARTAPP, which can check a device for defects and identify problems in real time. The diagnosed data can be shared with a customer support agent who can help to fix a problem remotely or refer consumers to the closest service center. And what are you doing to navigate consumers safely through the new “Device Mesh”?