At Xively Xperience, Advice on Building IoT Connected Product Businesses

Keeping a long-term focus, listening to feedback from end users, and embracing tech support as an opportunity rather than a burden were among the recommendations from executives in the trenches of Internet of Things product development.
By Daniel P. Dern
Oct 05, 2015

Connecting an object to the Internet, whether it's a light bulb, thermostat, pacemaker, home security system or coffeemaker—or building-wide HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning], power, lighting, plumbing and security, a fleet of cars, or global manufacturing plants—is becoming easier, thanks to increasingly ubiquitous wired and wireless connectivity, increasingly small and inexpensive sensors and radios, and the cloud with its vast, elastic processing and storage capacity.

And there are a lot of things being connected to the Internet. According to a June 2015 report by IDC, there will be 29 billion connected devices by 2020, creating a $1.7 trillion Internet of Things market.

At the Xperience 2015 conference, Frank Gillett, Forrester Research's VP and principal analyst (left) moderates a panel called "Building and Launching Successful Connected Products." Panelists, left to right: Ben Stagg, Halo Smartlabs' CEO; Stephen Goodman, VP of Radius; Gil Reiter, Texas Instruments' director of strategic marketing for IoT; and Jeremy Hill, Radical Point's director of product management. (Photo: Daniel P. Dern)
Roughly 200 attendees from companies including Cisco, EMC, Goodyear, Schneider Electric and Steelcase attended LogMeIn's Xively Xperience 2015 conference, held last week in Boston, to learn more about leveraging the IoT. "Xperience is for senior executives at companies that are thinking about or already have started an IoT product line and are looking for useful, actionable information to make the IoT work in their business," said Michael Simon, the CEO of LogMeIn, parent company of Xively, an IoT platform and application solution for enterprises building connected products and services.

"I see four levels of value for IoT," said Jeffrey M. Kaplan, the managing director at consultancy Thinkstrategies, who attended the event. "It lets you react more quickly when something goes wrong. You can proactively anticipate issues and try to mitigate risks. You can better inform your current business to be more efficient and effective. And it can be transformational, creating entirely new business opportunities. IoT is all about use cases."

Learning From Experience

The IoT, like mobile and cloud technologies, can drive industry-wide business-model changes, as companies like Uber and AirBnB have shown. But during a session called "Learning from Experience: Connected Product Success Stories," panelists said they've discovered that focusing on their customers' interests and on long-term returns has been vital to successful IoT product rollouts.

"We learned that you need to talk with your customers," said Tim O'Keeffe, the CEO of Symmons Industries, a plumbing manufacturer that sells the Symmons Inflow showerhead to hotels. The product comes with a wall-mounted display that tracks shower duration, water temperature and flow rate to encourage guests to reduce water and energy consumption, while allowing hotel managers to monitor usage or detect problems via a Xively interface. O'Keefe noted that how customers will adopt connected products is important. "Think about how people will install and use it. Integrating the connectivity into our showerhead was too much. It had to be 'screw this in behind the showerhead, and have a module on the wall.'"

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