Things can only get smarter

Samsung UK and Ireland president Andy Griffiths asks what the Internet of Things and the Connected Home mean for consumers and retailers, now and in the future

The Internet of Things and the Connected Home were the key themes emerging from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and we’ve seen these developments supported by a number of product launches in the months since.

While IoT has been a familiar concept in the technology industry for a few years, we’ve really started to see consumer adoption take off more recently. Indeed, there were nearly four billion ‘connected things’ in use in 2014 according to Gartner research, with this number predicted to rise to 25 billion by 2020. The evidence shows this is a trend that is going to take off.

At Samsung, we’ve committed to making all of our devices IoT-enabled by 2020, with all of our TVs enabled by 2017. Alongside the development of IoT, we’ve also been concentrating our efforts on the concept of a truly connected home and today we can already see the shape of things to come in the very near future.

We’re planning to launch our SmartThings products shortly and this will help to further develop the connected-home market in the UK. SmartThings will ensure that, as well as detecting motion and being able to control the household with a smartphone, it will bring together connected devices like never before.

As industry-wide investment in IoT and the connected home continues at a pace, we predict some exciting developments that will transform everything from our entertainment to our energy usage – even how we manage space shortages and overpopulation in cities. In-home virtual reality (VR) rooms will eventually become commonplace, as will washing machines that wait until the cheapest electricity rate is available before turning on. Similarly, technology will soon be able to recon­figure our homes hour by hour, allowing us to work, rest and play in the same spaces.
We are clearly at an incredibly exciting time in the development of technology, with much to look forward to, but what does this mean for retailers of these technologies now, and indeed in the future?

Firstly, retailers will need to consider how they display and sell products to show the connected home in the most engaging way. This relies on devices being connected to other devices to illustrate their uses. So, rather than static displays, retailers will need to consider creating the immersive experiences that the products themselves offer, in order to truly bring them to life and demonstrate their worth to consumers.

Wearable devices, like our Gear VR, are already being used by car retailers such as Audi to provide their customers with immersive retail experiences. Simply by wearing a headset, customers are able to test drive and fully experience their new car, without ever having to leave the building. Wearables and VR devices also provide retailers with logistical opportunities, allowing them, for example, to tour their shopfloor wearing a device that overlays actual sales versus targets, or highlights where products can be restocked or need to be reordered.

Similarly, IoT technologies create a new layer of interaction with the customer. Take, for example, the fridge that knows when a certain item is running low. The user could easily set it up to receive a mobile notification, making sure they never run out of the product again. Connecting these smart technologies to e-commerce sites is a plausible, and likely, next step that retailers will want to be involved in.

As IoT and smart technologies continue to grow in popularity, and the products themselves become more affordable, the retailers that succeed will be those who take full advantage of the opportunities on offer and use the insight offered to create true differentiation from their competitors.