Three Support Industry Trends to Watch After CES 2015
There’s nothing like an enormous consumer trade show like CES to get a read on the pulse of the technology industry.
The CES theme of 2015 was “connected.” Attendees could hardly take more than a few steps through the two million square feet of exhibit space without hearing about connected devices, software and products. And those of us in the support arena need to get ready. The huge push for connectivity, coined the “Internet of Things” (IoT), has important implications for the support industry.
As revealed in a panel discussion at CES last week, leaders in the support world are facing a number of important questions.
Whither the Hub?
When the Internet of Things conversation first began, everyone imagined that consumers would control all of their connected devices with their home computers. Manufacturers of connected devices had to ensure that their products provided a control interface on a desktop or laptop—Mac® or Windows®—and that was all.
Today, we recognize that it is not the home computer that is providing that central hub. It’s a consumer’s smartphone.
Even then, it’s not straightforward because users often have more than one mobile device to control their connected home electronics. Multiply that by the number of family members living in the home and the whole idea of establishing one central control hub is completely turned on its ear.
The takeaway: Users want to control connected devices however they choose. Support needs to be prepared to guide customers through whatever control environment they happen to be using.
As the industry stands right now, leaders are just beginning to form standards to define common architectures to connect smart devices, machines, people, processes and data. But the rate of innovation is fast and furious, and companies don’t want to miss the IoT train as they wait for standards to be created.
As someone once said so wisely, “The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” Developers of IoT products are creating their own platforms and architectures, generating a wide variety of environments and a much more complex task for the support industry.
The takeaway: Industry standards will eventually be adopted, but, until then, support needs to keep up with the complex demands of diverse environments.
What About the Data?
All of those connected applications, devices and appliances do a great job of building up data. For many of them, collecting and responding to data is a core aspect of their functionality.
- A smartphone app records prescription information so it can remind you to take your medication.
- Your wearable fitness device records activity habits to encourage healthier routines.
- The connected thermostat on the wall detects usage patterns and adjusts accordingly.
All of these products work because they collect data. But who owns this data and who should have access to it?
Our first instinct is to say that surely, the data belongs to the customer. But does it remain private? Or does the customer stand to benefit more if the data is shared?
Take the example of a smart home thermostat. If the thermostat is inactive for a period of time, the data may reveal that the customer is out of town, information which, in the wrong hands, could create a security risk.
If instead the thermostat is unusually active, the data might reveal that a door was left open following a break-in. The customer stands to benefit from discovering this information early and getting the authorities involved.
Clearly, there’s no easy answer to the question about data and its privacy.
The support industry is particularly affected by the data question, as access to data gives us the ability to provide more effective and efficient support. The more we convince customers that we can help them by having access to their data, the better off they will be. To do that, we have to be fiercely protective of that information.
The takeaway: The support industry is an important voice in the discussion about data and the Internet of Things. Support.com’s unique relationship with the customer can help build the trust necessary to share private data.
As Internet of Things business leaders work to resolve some of these key questions, the support industry brings an important perspective. Considering these issues through the unique lens of the support team will ensure that the Internet of Things industry continues to grow and sustains a healthy working relationship with support.
Download the Parks Associates whitepaper, The Internet of Things: Implications for Support Services & Solutions and learn about the growing importance of support in the Internet of Things industry.