So far in 2015 one of the biggest tech story trends has been the Internet of Things, or IoT. If you’re not familiar, the term simply refers to devices that communicate via the Internet without specific human direction each time.
Some of the more well-known examples are the Nest thermostat or any number of home monitoring/security systems ranging from services from Xfinity Home to independent companies like Canary. But if forecasts like IDC’s — that says the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020 — are to come true, we’re going to need to do more than simply turn things on and off with our smartphones.
As a PR firm, we have clients in this area and discuss working with prospects regularly. Although early in the news cycle for this topic, we’re already starting to see reporters, editors and bloggers growing weary of stories about simple household devices that would typically receive no coverage, but are now possibly interesting only because of Internet connectivity — and typically with limited useful online functionality.
However, we continue to see interest surrounding devices that can be summarized into a few general areas:
- Does it meet a need? Just about anything with power can be connected to the Internet, so explain why the connectivity and functionality will fill an actual need. Who cares if you can turn your blender on and off with an iPhone? Instead, lead with a genuine solution, even if the audience is a small. Example: If your elderly parents live alone, you might really appreciate a text every time your mom opens her pill box so you know if she forgot her medication. That’s a fulfilled need.
- Does it really (I mean, really) make a routine task easier? For example, Amazon’s new Dash product is certainly interesting. Simply, consumers can now place a small (but branded) Internet-enabled button throughout their homes or offices where you tend to run out of products. Simply press the button and an automatic order for a specific product is placed using your Amazon Prime account. Place a “Tide” button on your washer, and when you’re almost out of soap? Press the Tide button and get more on your doorstep two days later! Need more paper towels? Press the Bounty button on your kitchen cabinet! Will consumers give up the ability to compare prices for the convenience of literally getting their favorite brands at the push of a button? Time will tell, but it’s certainly a story angle.
- Does it save (meaningful) money? Can an Internet-enabled thermostat save enough money to justify a price tag that is several orders of magnitude higher than a plain set-back thermostat? If your sprinkler system can check accuweather.com and turn off a cycle when it rains, how much money (and water, for example, if you’re in California) can you save? If you can make the case that the device will pay for itself in a reasonable amount of time, it’s a potential story.
- Can it work directly with other devices on the Internet? We’re just starting to see this functionality, so it remains newsworthy for now. However, it still must be meaningful. For example, if selected lights in your home could turn on when a device senses your iPhone is less than a block away, that’s addressing both convenience and potentially safety issues. The same could be true in the morning: Your teenage son left all the lights on (again!), but your home system realizes there are no smart phones in the house, so it shuts the lights off, saving money on electricity bills.
Bottom line — simple connectivity probably won’t generate reporter or blogger interest any longer. Work to find ways to fit connected devices into larger stories of savings, convenience or safety to get the attention of the media.