Planes, Trains and Connected Automobiles: Globalizing the IoT Requires Localization

When it comes to making Internet of Things products and services intuitive and seamless, cultural differences matter.
By Ian Henderson

Create a Familiar Experience
Part of what makes IoT technology so appealing is its ability to replicate physical experiences via connected devices. But before you can reproduce an experience digitally, you need to define users' understanding of what is normal. Take a light switch, for example. Americans are used to turning on the lights by flipping the switch up, whereas Europeans expect to flip it down. The difference is easy enough to figure out if you're traveling abroad, but how will the difference be mediated when light switches exist on a mobile app? In this situation, companies will need to ensure the switch icon will cater specifically to the intended market.

Another hot-button topic in the connected-device industry is connected cars, with companies from Tesla to Google and perhaps even Apple (if the rumors are true) preparing smart vehicles. In fact, connected cars will constitute 75 percent of the automobile market by 2020. And while driving may seem somewhat universal, the experience needs to be localized for different countries. From adjusting which side the driver's seat is on to translating the language of its GPS and in-car data, businesses will need to create a comfortable experience for drivers across the globe.

Consider Tech Support
So, you've successfully rolled out IoT technology in a variety of international markets. You've translated all text on the IoT device interface and accounted for regional differences that may come up in user interactions. But what happens when a customer in Germany, for example, has a question about your product? If your team is based in the United States, will the German customer's questions be understood? Will there be someone readily available to answer questions in that person's native language?

Since the IoT is still a nascent industry, it's inevitable that customers are going to need a degree of technical support. With this in mind, companies launching IoT products abroad need to ensure that customers can access tech support regardless of where they are or what time it is. That can take many forms, depending on the resources available. Whether you employ in-country support specialists, provide localized, email-based customer service or translate FAQ pages on your website, it's important that global customers aren't left to fend for themselves.

The Internet of Everything Is Imminent
Whatever your industry, chances are it's headed toward IoT enablement. If your company has or plans to grow an international presence, it's important to have an eye toward local markets. Those that are first-to-market with localized IoT devices will have the upper hand on existing and emerging competition.

Ian Henderson is the CTO of Rubric, a global localization services provider. With more than 20 years of experience supporting worldwide localization clients, Henderson combines a deep knowledge of globalization issues with an understanding of technology considerations and distributed team management.

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