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Playing the (IoT) Oregon Trail: 5 Steps to Creating a Connected Product For Your Brand

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You’ve seen the numbers. There are billions of connected products coming to market in the next few years—devices for living rooms, bathrooms, and baby rooms. Are you feeling left behind in the IoT dust? It’s not too late to head out on the trail to IoT success.

Developing a connected product is possible for pretty much any brand these days. It’s just a matter of getting the right people in your company on board to start the process. CIO writer Peter Bendor-Samuel wisely points out that it’s completely possible (and even affordable) to create a connected product. It’s just a matter of getting all the right players in your company on board to get the ball rolling. Here are the steps for your brand to deploy a connected product:

  1. Pick your party. These are the key players of your IoT vision. There should be a representative from each department in your company. This focus group will determine the goal, the resources needed, and steps involved in creating your product.
  2. Do your research. Figure out what’s already in the market and how you will differentiate your product from the rest. Talk with customers to find out what they would like to see in your product and what’s most important to them. Identify what your company can do in-house and areas where you might need help from outside sources.
  3. Create your trail map. Your map should be able to answer these questions: What will customers want in a connected product from our brand? What are our goals for creating a connected product? Who needs to be involved? Who will lead the efforts? What outside resources are needed? How much money do we need to invest? What are the key milestones along the way? What will be our ROI? When will the product deploy? Where will we go on vacation after deployment?
  4. Get buy-in. Once you have your trail map, present it to the higher-ups. They’ll be cutting the checks and will want to ensure your vision matches the rest of the company’s goals. They may even have ideas or resources or questions you haven’t considered; then adjust your roadmap accordingly.
  5. Measure, document, celebrate. Creating a new product line is like playing the Oregon Trail. There will be roadblocks (hopefully not dysentery) and challenges as you head out on the frontier. Along the way, it’ll be important to measure your success and document what’s working and what’s not. And whenever possible, don’t forget to celebrate. Tip: when you’ve reached Oregon, stop by DADO HQ for celebratory drinks and high fives!

Photo credit: KGW

What to Do When Your Device Malfunctions (hint: you’ll need a beer.)

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Pop Quiz:

Your connected device has malfunctioned. What do you do?

  1. Yell a bunch of curse words too inappropriate for a business blog.
  2. Call the device’s customer service number and waste half a day.
  3. Stick it in a box and return it—crusty, burnt BBQ sauce and all.
  4. All of the above.

So none of these answers are actually very helpful. That’s because your device’s connection has a fundamental flaw. Most connected devices today run on cloud-based services. These make it easy for the user to interact with their devices remotely (which is what makes IoT so awesome!).

The downside to solely cloud-based solutions, however, is that when something goes haywire with the device’s connection, the user loses control, and you get curse words and burnt BBQ sauce. Many devices are set to shut off completely if they lose connection, and the user is left not knowing how long they’ve been disconnected and why. You get this screenshot on your phone and nothin’ else:

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But in all sincerity, the repercussions of a malfunctioning connected device can be more serious than a ruined dinner. Take for example, the thermostat that loses connection to the cloud. This could cause pipes to burst and real health risks to the consumer (take a look at The New York Times’ Nick Bilton’s real-world experience).

The solution! You guessed it. The DADO platform runs on a hybrid model of connection so your device can run autonomously even if it loses connection to the cloud. And even better, we’ve programmed a significant set of error handling algorithms so that your device can figure out the problem on its own.

So let’s revisit the quiz above. Maybe the secret answer should be: f) Nothing. Grab a beer and let your device figure itself out.

Photo credit: Bonnie Cha

How to Avoid a Data Vacuum and Be Like Bill Murray

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We’ve talked before about the fact that building a connected device also brings an onslaught of data. Data on who your customers are, how they interact with your device, and when certain functions are being used. Pretty cool, right? But as you know, with great power comes great responsibility.

Let’s back up for a sec: data gets transmitted from your connected device to…where? Where does it go? Wired.com has a great answer and explanation of what standard protocols are being used for data transmission.

Once your data is sent to the giant warehouse in the sky, what happens to it then? That’s theoretically up to you. You can use data to: reduce maintenance and customer service costs; improve your consumer-brand relationship; and increase revenue.

We say “theoretically” because: do you know who owns the data created from your device? You may be surprised to find out it’s not you. That’s because companies know how valuable this stuff is, and they want to capitalize on it too. Luckily, if you’re using the DADO platform, you own the data. (And, btw, did you know we are the ONLY IoT platform where you own and control the data?) So make sure you have the goods before you start making any assumptions.

With all that data, you’ll get the urge to run buck wild with promotions and monitoring consumer behavior. But hold your horses on the push notifications. As Char-Broil’s president and CEO, Christine Robins explains, you’ll want to be smart and take it slow. As we’ve said before, customer privacy and incentives should be integrated with your plan. You’re building genuine trust and a new kind of relationship with your customers. As Bill Murray says in What About Bob?, take baby steps.

Another reason for taking it slow and steady: IoT Evolution World’s Ken Briodagh has an excellent rant about how this year’s CES had all these “awesome” connected devices, and yet all they do is monitor and create gobs of data. If you’re gonna do something with your data, make sure it has a purpose to it. As Ken wisely barks, “GIVE ME FUNCTION.”

Want to learn more about how to build smart value into your connected device? Our very own Frank D’Andrea will be speaking on a panel with a bunch of other cool industry experts at IoT Evolution Expo in Ft Lauderdale, FL. Here are the deets:

Enterprise IoT Track
Panel discussion: “IoT in the Enterprise: Unlocking the Value”
Wednesday, January 27
3:00-3:45 pm

Photo credit: Marcus Guilherme (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

DADO Labs Presents: ‘The Internet of Wings’ at Portland Startup Week

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It’s hard to squeeze a lot of awesome into three hours, but we’ve managed to do it; Portland Startup Week + the Internet of Things + wings. Oh, yes we did.

Join us at our secret world HQ to celebrate Portland Startup Week to sample delectable IoT treats straight from our partners’ IoT appliances (made smart by the DADO Platform). Here are the d to the eats:

Date: February 3, 2016
Time: 2:00-5:00pm
Location: DADO HQ, 321 SW 4th, Ste 700, Portland
The goods: chicken wings, coffee, beer, wine, water, soda

With our first three DADO-driven products hitting the shelves now, see these connected appliances in action before they appear in every household in America:

Stop by for some wings, ask us challenging questions about the DADO Platform, and help us celebrate this smart and vibrant community of startups that we’re honored to be a part of. Add it to your Portland Startup Week schedule here.

Stay S.A.F.E. with IoT security

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Did you get a techy gift for the holidays? You’re not alone. According to Consumer Electronics Association’s Shawn DuBravac, 65% of Americans said they were going to buy a consumer electronics gift this year. Given that most of them are connected devices, that’s a lot of IoT.

And with Santa’s sack full of smart gadgets and appliances comes a sleigh full of security concerns. But don’t worry, we’ve got a way to remember how to build a secure connected device—play it S.A.F.E.

  • START (at the beginning)
    • Security should be integrated with your product from the very start, not just the icing on the sugar cookie (sorry, we’ll stop with the holiday jokes). From firmware to encrypting data to generating new keys, security should be top of mind in every step of the product life cycle.
  • AUDIT
    • Perform an audit of your security before the product launches. Test regularly. Program your device to watch user behavior, learn the norms, and decide when to sound the alarm. Stay on top of security best practices and run your product through them.
  • FIND HELP
    • Speaking of staying on top of security, that’s actually a really tricky job, especially when it’s not in your wheelhouse. Find experts in the field that can consult on IoT security and take the pressure off of you. That way you can focus on what you do best—making really cool Christmas presents.
  • EDUCATE
    • As Lee Gruenfield wisely points out, consumers are looking for ease with IoT, not complicated passwords and authentication. So it’s important for us makers of connected products to educate customers on how their information is secure, and how they can keep themselves safe—all while making it easy for them to do so.

Want to know more about the current landscape of IoT security? Check out this Slideshare or give us a holler.

And don’t forget, if you’re headed to CES, here’s a great discussion to attend on how to stay S.A.F.E.:

The IoT: Mitigating Risks and Harnessing Potential
January 8, 11:30 am—12:30 pm

Beyond Gimmicks: Adding Value To Your Connected Product

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According to Parks Associates’ new market research, 17% of consumers are planning to buy a connected kitchen appliance next year. Are you ready?

The demand for connected devices is real. As Stuart Sikes from Parks Associates forecasts, “We will see even more experimentation and new use cases emerging from these and other categories in 2016.” In order to avoid turning this into an experimentation about gimmicks, companies will need to incorporate real value into their products. Here are some ideas we think can bring some depth and usefulness to the IoT market:

  1. Apps are cool, but so is automation: Yes, it’s a novel idea that you can start brewing your cuppa coffee without leaving your warm bed. But what’s even better is having your coffee roaster know what you like and create a pre-configured roasting profile unique to you (kind of like Behmor’s new coffee maker!). Integrating automated services into your product is key because, frankly, users won’t want to be monitoring all fifty of their connected devices from their phone. They want their devices to get to know them and adjust accordingly. IoT is all about enhancing the quality of life, simply.
  2. Customer Service 2.0: Troubleshooting is really going to be a game changer for connected devices. Not only can you make updates and fixes remotely, but you can also program your devices to alert users of scheduled maintenance and possible issues before they become problems. These bonus features will save both you and the consumer time and money.
  3. Real security is key: According to a recent Design News poll, people are skeptical of the IoT trend, stating that it’s gimmicky and full of security concerns. Understandable. Which is why it’s important to incorporate flexible, state-of-the-art security into your device…something you shouldn’t handle on your own. Security standards are changing all the time, so it’ll be important for your product to change along with them, even after they are in the consumer’s home. (You can learn more about how we handle security here.)

IoT is an impending tidal wave that you can’t afford to ignore. (For example, check out how Verizon is boosting their revenue with the IoT.) In order to make the wisest investment, you’ll need to go beyond moving the “on” button from your product to a smart phone. There are a bajillion different ways to amp up your IoT game. Give us a call, and we can brainstorm with you on how your brand can create something really cool.

P.S. Getting ready for CES? There are lots of sessions with experts talking about harnessing the power of the IoT. We recommend adding these talks to your CES itinerary:

Growth in IoT: Entertainment, Smart Home, Health
January 6, 11:50 am—1:05 pm

IoT: Smart Home Solutions and Value-Added Services
January 7, 9—10 am

Two Things That Make For Excellent IoT Support

Support key on computer keyboard. Very selective focus on part of the key.

With the wave of newly connected devices, the industry is already seeing a huge increase in the need for support services. And you’ll win big if you do it right (we heart this scenario of some excellent IoT support!). A top-notch support program will decrease your time spent on issues that arise, reduce overall support costs, and automate support processes.

This doesn’t mean it’ll take over human-to-human interaction—it enhances it. Lee Gruenfield at Support.com has a great explanation of how costs for support services can spiral out of control, and how you can avoid it by mixing up a nice combo of humans and smart tech. In order for you to invest wisely in providing support for your smart products, you’ll want to keep in mind these two buzz words: compatibility and security.

Compatibility

Consumers not only expect connected devices to show real-time data, they demand real-time support. That means no matter what is happening with the rest of their home network bandwidth, you’ll need to see what’s going on inside the device to provide help.

Your software needs to run efficiently and work seamlessly with other devices using either open APIs or other platforms that don’t rely on proprietary software. Consumers don’t want to keep track of which platform goes with which device. They just want you to help them now.

Security

With automated and connected support services comes security concerns. In fact, according to Parks Associates, 70% of smart device users worry about it. The benefits of connected support services leave the potential for third-party users to gather information about consumers and even gain control of devices. So using a platform that can evolve with the industry’s latest and greatest security standards (like DADO!) is paramount.

Think about it: it’s often when you need help that your opinion of a brand gets solidified. Having smart, secure support will ensure that your device upholds your brand value.

If you want to learn more about what other companies are doing to manage the load and develop creative solutions for IoT support services, check out this whitepaper. Having quality support is going to be the overriding trend in IoT, especially when consumers will be expecting real-time solutions. You’ll need to act fast and smart. Your brand depends on it.

Happy Holidays with Char-Broil and Smoked Turkeys

smokersheaderThis has been an exciting week at DADO Labs! Many of our team members got to have fresh smoked turkey from their Char-Broil Simple Smokers; we were invited to present at the IoT Evolution Conference in Fort Lauderdale; and OUR FIRST DADO PRODUCTS HIT THE MARKET!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Char-Broil launched its SmartChef™ line of connected products—powered by DADO Labs. Char-Broil launched its Simple Smoker ($299) and Digital Electric Smoker ($399) with the Char-Broil app and SmartChef technology—lovingly known around here as the DADO Platform.

The best part of the Char-Broil launch was the love and care they put into their marketing campaign. They nailed some funny, short commercials. Check one of them out here.

Our team got into the spirit and shared pics of their most excellent results—three gorgeous smoked turkeys.

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The Simple Smoker and Digital Electric Smoker are available for purchase on the Char-Broil website and Amazon, and we expect them to start showing up in retail locations in early spring.

In other news, DADO Labs will be on stage at the IoT Evolution Expo in Fort Lauderdale in January. Our VP of Software and Business Development will be a part of the Enterprise IoT track discussing how brands can unlock the value of the IoT through strategic partnerships. If you’re attending, we’d love to meet up with you.

We’re looking forward to connecting with brands ready to jump into the IoT economy and learn how the DADO Platform can work for them.

What To Ask On the First Date (with potential IoT partners)

It’s official: your brand is ready to jump into the IoT (Internet of Things). You’ve run the numbers, you’ve set a clear business goal for your IoT solution, and now you’ve started researching who will effectively partner with you to meet these goals. Like all new business partners, you need to shop around. See who the players are and decide who will be the right fit for you. But how will you know who the right fit is when you hardly speak the IoT language? Finding an IoT partner can be confusing and challenging. So we’ve got a cheat sheet of questions for you to start the conversation:

How will you strategize with me to deliver a smart, operational IoT product?

The right partner will have done their research on who you are as a brand and will be just as passionate about its integrity as you are. They won’t try to overrun your business by suggesting a complete overhaul of your products—they will suggest a tiered approach, providing opportunities for small successes first and build on them in the future.

How will partnering with you increase my profit?

First of all, we suggest watching this quick explanation for why an IoT partner makes sense. A partner that understands your business goals as well as the ins and outs of the IoT world will provide faster time-to-market and security you can always trust.

How will you support me throughout the process?

An IoT partner should provide more than the right plug-in and then wave you goodbye. Creating an IoT product inherently produces an overwhelming amount of data that a traditional enterprise isn’t used to. An IoT partner should be able to provide solutions for not only managing this data but also leveraging it to grow your profits even more, all the while keeping your data safe.

What kinds of IoT products are you already working on?

You’ll want to look for a partner that provides scalable, agile services to accommodate different use cases and existing technology experience within your enterprise. Meaning, they should be familiar with your industry and know how to maximize the benefits of a smart IoT platform for your specific needs. Having an experienced partner with a finger on the pulse of the IoT landscape will ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Looking for more unbiased advice? Gartner has a great report on how to dip your toes into finding the right IoT business solution for you. You can also give us a call with any questions—including the ones above!

3 Lessons For Brands From the Smart Kitchen Summit

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is an arms race focused on disrupting incumbents and brands grabbing their share of a multi-trillion-dollar pie. If you’re an existing appliance manufacturer out to “win”  – or even stake a claim – in the IoT, you’ll need to reimagine your brand and seize the strategic advantages you have over late entrants and “disruptors” in your category (more on disruptors here).  For your brand to be successful in the IoT, you’ll need to 1) Build products people love AND have connected features, 2) Disrupt your business, and 3) Collaborate.

Smart Kitchen Summit

Last week in Seattle, I had the privilege of attending the first ever Smart Kitchen Summit. Michael Wolf and his team brought brands, manufacturers, startups, and retailers from around the world to learn how the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting our relationship with our kitchens.  As expected, I got to meet and hear from a number of IoT startups who are bringing smart appliances to market. But, more interestingly, I learned first-hand about the challenges traditional, big-brand appliance manufacturers face when trying to enter into the IoT economy.

1) Build products people love AND have connected features

No one is sure how any individual connected device will be received, but Jen Miller, Global Digital & Social Marketing Director for Coca-Cola said it most succinctly in a recent tweet:

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Brands need to challenge their assumptions about what their first generation of connected appliances should do. Throughout the Smart Kitchen Summit, there was general agreement that “great connected appliances” were “great appliances” first with connected features that offered value because of their connectivity. In a nutshell, great connected products are:

  • an improvement in the consumer’s experience
  • easy to use
  • able to inspire consumers to want more connected features

What’s left is the fun part – or, as Anova CEO Stephen Svajian posed to the crowd, “What can you do now that traditional devices can connect that you couldn’t do before?”

2) Disrupt yourself – reimagine yourself or fall behind.

While the IoT is still in its early days, it’s important for brands to be perceived as having the “First Mover Advantage.”  This will be easy for disruptive start-ups, but not so easy for entrenched, incumbent brands who are focused on traditional appliance metrics and margins. Traditional brands need to recognize that there is not a 3-5-year window through which they can wait-and-see where this “new-fangled interwebs gizmo market” is heading. In fact, it is more important for the consumer brands that consumers already know and love establish a beach-head in the kitchen with a solid, connected feature set to help nudge consumers – and the market – into the next generation of valuable features.

To compete in the IoT, brands need to disrupt their old ways of thinking and adopt a Lean Startup mentality, buck their own cultural status quo, and take intelligent risks with a small product line of connected appliances. Further, they will need to design the physical appliances with an eye toward early adopters and then cascade these improvements to the mass market. Finally, appliance manufacturers will need to reimagine themselves not only as hardline goods producers, but also as technology companies. When entering the IoT, big brands have big responsibility to get it right – consumers have a long memory for bad experiences.

3) Collaborate

The good news for appliance manufacturers and traditional big brands is that they don’t have to go it alone. IoT platform companies, like DADO Labs, allow brands to focus on what they do best, while providing a turnkey, IoT platform that simplifies the creation of connected product lines.

When choosing an IoT platform partner, big brands should look for a collaboration partner that has:

  • experience with bringing other big brands to the IoT
  • an end-to-end solution – from hardware/firmware expertise to native app development
  • a robust cloud, data, and analytics package to help manage, make sense of, and monetize the steady stream of data

Lastly, you should look for an IoT platform partner that understands your brand and that will be as focused on protecting your brand as you are.

You can watch all sessions from the Smart Kitchen Summit here.

Frank D’Andrea is the Vice President of Software and Business Development at DADO Labs.