“Alexa, make me some tea.”

How many smart devices do you have in your home right now? A few years ago, you might have said your phone, computer, and tablet.

Today, the possibilities are endless. You might have a smart TV, fridge, stove, kettle, washing machine, lights, or security systems. You may have smart outlets. Each of these things—and many more—can be connected and managed remotely by a smart home virtual assistant, like Alexa or Siri.

If this is a new concept for you, welcome you to the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

IoT is a booming industry. Estimates range widely, but data suggests there are currently 13 billion IoT devices out in the world. Some forecasts suggest there may be 43 billion connected devices by the end of 2023. That’s more than five times as many connected devices as there are people in the world.

This growth is a massive opportunity for smart home, wearable, and consumer electronics companies, but it also introduces a lot of complexity. Combine a single device with the connectedness of IoT, and you’re suddenly faced with thousands of possible places where things might go wrong.

How can you streamline support across all of the potential connections that exist?

It’s a challenging question—that’s why Incorporating IoT into your product support and growth strategy is a critical strategic consideration for business leaders.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnected network of physical objects equipped with sensors, software, and connectivity. These connected devices, often known as "smart devices," can communicate and interact with each other through the internet. IoT devices can be controlled remotely, and include things like wearable fitness trackers, smart security systems, and smart thermostats.

Here’s a simple example: You tell your smart home system that you always get home at 6pm. With this info, your home’s connected devices automatically turn on your furnace and preheat your oven at 5:45pm. As your car pulls into your driveway, your garage door automatically opens and your security system deactivates. When you open the door to your house, your favorite Spotify playlist starts playing.

It feels like magic—but it’s really just the smart use of connected devices working seamlessly together.

This is the long-term vision behind IoT devices: smart and connected devices that make our lives easier, more efficient, and more convenient.

There are four maturity levels to IoT. Each new level builds on the levels that precede it:

  1. Monitoring: The device can monitor environmental factors or its condition. An example is medical equipment, such as a device that monitors the patient’s health markers, such as blood pressure.
  2. Control: The device has access to software that controls its functions. If your garage door closes itself when your car is parked, it’s functioning at the control stage.
  3. Optimization: This level combines monitoring and control to optimize the product automatically. An example of optimization is a wind turbine that monitors real-time weather conditions and historical data to adjust each blade automatically and capture the maximum amount of wind energy.
  4. Autonomy: The final stage is when devices combine all of the above to operate autonomously. Think of a robot lawn mower equipped with different blades and sensors. It can automatically adjust the blades' speed, depth, and angle, based on the weather, the length of your grass, and the layout of your lawn.

How is IoT disrupting support?
IoT is changing how hardware companies can provide support by its very nature.

Instead of teaching your support agents how the bicycles or washing machines you sell work, these items now have their own software systems. That software gives your customers a much deeper level of control over their devices than they had before. They can now connect that bicycle to a fitness app or the washing machine to their home assistant.

If your customers experience a problem, that problem could be occurring at multiple different levels: with the hardware, the software, or the connection. And for each connection, you could have issues on either side—with your product or with the system it’s connecting to. Troubleshooting across all of these levels quickly gets complicated.

This shift highlights three key ways IoT is changing support:

  1. The need for connectivity
  2. Network support
  3. Proactive care

The need for connectivity
Connectivity has become an essential feature of smart technology.

Connectedness enables devices to communicate with each other. Nowadays, most communication happens via connecting to the internet or a local network, but it’s also possible for devices to connect directly via technology like bluetooth.

IoT devices would still be pretty helpful on their own—they might still be equipped with technology to monitor and optimize their own performance—but connectivity makes them exponentially more powerful. Connectedness enables devices to influence each other, ultimately giving them a version of intelligence.

Maybe your lights are capable of turning on when it gets dark outside. If they’re all connected to motion sensors, they can turn on or off when you enter or leave a room, conserving energy and lowering your electricity bill. Connecting them to a central system that controls them all could enable them to change the hue or brightness based on the time of day or year, so they don’t interfere with your circadian rhythm and your sleep.  

Sounds great in theory, right? Connecting devices and sharing data across all of them is impressive when it works—it can transform your customers’ lives and perception of your product—but it’s unbearably frustrating when it doesn’t work.

The best way to deliver seamless support across multiple connected devices is to enable your customers to connect all of their devices to one central hub—which then enables you to troubleshoot and provide support in the same place. Connecting human support with automated self-service in one space gives you the best odds of satisfying customers and earning their loyalty.

Network support
Troubleshooting issues with connected devices often requires some level of network support. This is particularly true when you’re working with smart home devices—the problem may not lie with your product, but with the network it’s connected to.

Challenges arise because there are so many different networks your customers could be using: local networks, the cloud, bluetooth, and more. Understanding the differences between these technologies and providing support or alternatives when they don’t work is essential for a great customer experience.

On top of the existing network options, support leaders also need to consider the global growth of 5G. Since 5G networks are expected to reach internet speeds that are 10 to 50 times faster than 4G networks, the availability of 5G networks will likely have knock-on effects on smart home appliances. Suddenly, your agents might need to provide different support based on different wifi networks. If your products transfer a ton of data, keeping track of the connection's speed and knowing how network type impacts data transfer adds another complication.

Modern product support teams need to be equipped to deal with a vast array of different scenarios and should leverage technology to help identify the quickest path towards resolving customer issues.

Proactive care
The great news is that IoT comes with a huge opportunity as well.

By definition, IoT devices generally connect to the internet. We’ve talked about how that connectivity can increase the complexity of troubleshooting, but it also opens up a new chapter for support teams: proactive support.

Since these devices are constantly connected, an amazing support experience can happen proactively, on the spot, and in a way that’s both automated and seamless.

The opportunities are endless, but some quick examples of implementing proactive support might include:

  • Having error codes automatically trigger an automation that sends your customer a notification with the steps they need to take to solve the error.
  • Enabling the device to communicate directly with you as the manufacturer (if the customer can’t solve the issue themselves) and having your support team reach out to them immediately
  • Setting up devices to inform your customers of potential issues in advance (e.g. a printer might trigger a text message when it has less than 25% ink left).

The goal of proactive support is to reduce the effort that your customers have to expend. Instead of requiring them to identify the problem and then reach out to you to solve it, you can now preempt that by monitoring the performance of your connected devices in real-time.

IoT in the future

In the future, IoT will inject convenience and intelligence into our everyday lives in a thousand small ways. A system that connects smart home products might:

  • Automatically manage a cleaning routine by turning on a robot vacuum cleaner in different rooms
  • Keep track of security systems, triggering alerts if there’s unexpected movement somewhere while controlling door locks
  • Continuously maintain the ideal room temperature, humidity, and brightness
  • Control windows, curtains, and doors with vocal commands or signals

The technology to do all of these—and far more—already exists. The next mountain to conquer involves figuring out how to create systems and technology that makes these products function in a seamless and dependable fashion. Standards like Matter are growing in popularity, promising reliable and secure connectivity across all approved devices. These next few years will likely bring greater standardization and unification of protocols like Matter—which will eventually make life far simpler for product support teams.

In the interim, the trick is developing a support strategy that can handle the increasing complexity brought on by IoT.

Automate your support for IoT

We’re living through a technological revolution. The best way to stand out from the crowd is to develop your strategy in a way that doesn’t just account for IoT—build a strategy that’s based on IoT.

Mavenoid is explicitly built for hardware companies. It can handle tough problems, simplify troubleshooting, and help you create a seamless experience for your customers—no matter what device, network, or level of connectedness they’re operating on.

It’s time to take your product support to the next level. Request a demo of Mavenoid today.