Today, just more than half of us are using our smartphones to interact with the digital world. It’s second nature to send email, tweet, watch a video, Skype with a friend across the world, or post to Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook through these devices. It’s no longer news that always-on connectivity and the ability to surf the Web from just about anywhere are expected by consumers and business buyers alike.
What is news is the fact that our digital devices are quickly becoming even more than powerful, portable computers–they’re turning into remote controls for the world around us. From our automobiles and homes to our toys and even our bodies, smartphones and the apps they run are giving us all the ability to interact, learn, and control our world in new, powerful ways.
Announcements at last week’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) illustrate many of these tools–integrating apps with things to make things that used to be harder easier.
Consider wearable technologies like Fitbit. Its new wristband allows you to instantly and invisibly monitor quality of sleep, calories burned, hours slept, steps taken, and more–virtually eliminating the friction that has kept erstwhile calorie counters from achieving their New Year’s goals.
Then there’s Leap, which makes a USB-sized device that’s actually a 3D interface between you and your computer–meaning you can draw, write, interact, play music, or do about anything you can do with a keyboard or a touchscreen. . .without a keyboard or a touchscreen. Simply wiggle your fingers, point, and voilà.
Auto security and safety company Viper announced SmartStart, an integrated app and hardware that allows you to turn your car on and off, or lock and unlock your doors, with just a Siri command.
It’s easy to think that the ability to do many of these things falls into the category of “so what?” After all, app-enabled stoves, heaters, or refrigerators sound interesting, but they’re not really fulfilling an urgent need. But it’s actually huge because what we’re seeing is yet another example of the fundamental shift in the ways companies interact with, and serve, their customers.
After all, when television remote controls were first introduced, plenty of people said, “Why would you want one of those? All you have to do is get up and change the channel.” Most corporate executives and their business strategies haven’t recognized that the real world and everything in it is being linked like (and to) the Web–but with far greater impact and farther-reaching consequences.
Today it’s an oven or your car. Soon, though, your customers (and your competitors) will increasingly look for even more ways to link and control the myriad interactions between them and with people, places, ideas, and things.
No matter your industry, there is an imperative to use digital innovation to make previously “dumb” touchpoints, products, and services “smart.” It’s just the tip of an ever-expanding iceberg, where companies are building smart, interconnected touchpoints right into their products and services. Not only does this allow firms to empower consumers in new and delightful ways, but it also creates direct connections with their customers to provide the kinds of information needed to better understand, measure, and improve customer experience.
While I recognize that the massive impact of these innovations and the disruptions they’ll drive in your industry may not appear to be immediate, I can assure you it’s far from remote. That’s why now is the time to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to take control of your market–by finding new ways to give control to your customers.