IoT & Embedded Technology Blog

Extracting Elusive Value from the Embedded Cloud – A Consumer Perspective – Part 1

As part of a series supporting the recently published M2M/ Embedded Cloud reports, I explored a few M2M benefits for the industrial machine markets and wind power industry. As I extend this blog series, I wanted to look at a few ways that Machine to Machine M2M connectivity can provide many benefits to consumers in their everyday life and, as a result can provide more revenue opportunities to the businesses that embrace this new age of embedded cloud M2M connectivity.

A Rich Environment for M2M Connectivity: 

Appliances: These days most appliances have, at the very least embedded processors. As I mentioned in a previous blog from the ESC/Design West show, suppliers such as Inside Secure, Lantronix, Silex, and Texas Instruments and others give appliance manufacturers many options to have their products connect to networks and mobile devices.  These M2M features could act as a driver for new product sales but, also a method of increasing service revenue from field upgrades.

Mobile Devices: Most consumers or, at a minimum, at least one person in a household have very capable mobile products that can be used as Human Machine Interfaces (HMI).  Therefore, many appliances could have the capabilities of a dedicated full featured panel and keyboard interface without having the expense of adding that hardware.

As part of this blog series, I thought I would look at a few typical household/consumer activities as a place where M2M could deliver value to many stakeholders. In part 1, we look to laundry and a trip to the supermarket.  In part 2 we look to food storage and preparation.

Laundry a “Clean” Opportunity for M2M:

Smart Grid: In a residence that has a smart meter, the power used can be measured with respect to time with lower rates for off peak usage. Laundry is a task that usually has some flexibility in when it can be done. Using their mobile HMI, a person could program the washer/dryer to run during an optimal time period for lower power costs. In a full M2M configuration, communication between the laundry appliances and the grid operator through the cloud or directly to the smart meter could add the needed timing and precision.

Commercial/Facility: For those where in-residence laundry machines are not an option, M2M could provide benefits as HMIs could allow consumers to reserve Laundromat machines in advance or at least know machine were availability before in advance.  The mobile devices and M2M could provide other benefits like cashless transactions, locking the machines to prevent theft/tampering, and alerting the user that a load is complete.

A Trip to the Store with M2M:

Setting the Route: Let’s consider a consumer that has a shopping list that takes into account some food and other things they are planning to buy. The nearby supermarket specials have been downloaded onto their mobile device and an application coupled with an embedded GPS can provide the consumer with a cost effective and efficient plan to buy what they need at the best prices.  The consumer’s HMI also might have information about traffic and or what might be the best times to go to the store to avoid crowding and long lines. The consumer’s HMI could possibly help them find item locations in the store with the assistance of a store provided application.  All together, this  allows the consumer to spend less time shopping, get the needed items for the best price, and save gas/travel expenses.

Other Possible M2M Benefits:

  • The supermarkets can level the peak demand for personnel and connect the customer to their goods to a degree never before possible.
  • Printed supermarket fliers are expensive to produce and distribute and, they likely have to be planned far in advance in anticipation of items being available. M2M can make the system much more responsive if prime produce, meats or seafood are suddenly available or, unexpectedly not available.
  • Consumers can avoid situations where the store they select is out of stock on an item that they need.
  • Produce is an “experience good” in that sometimes you have to buy it and try it to see if it is really good. An application that would allow consumers to rate a particular batch of product would be really valuable to store owners as well as fellow customers. A store application could look at situations where customers buy a small amount of a product one day and return the next day and buy a lot more. This repeat buy index would be representative of a really good lot of produce.
  • As the consumer is on the route to the store, their HMI might give them offers. Say for example their car has M2M and it needs an oil change and the supplier en-route has an open service bay waiting. That would be a win from many perspectives.

Summary: I see an environment where embedded cloud/M2M connectivity will be increasingly added to things like appliances, and automobiles. Using mobile devices, and automotive infotainment systems as HMI, many benefits can be seen by the consumers, manufacturers, grid operators, retail store and supermarket owners as well as other service providers. In many cases, these applications and the values created are real or easily achievable in the 2012/2013 timeframe. This is the recipe for success. Speaking of recipes, if you liked this blog, the next one will look at food products and how M2M and the Embedded Cloud can provide value with respect to the food products people buy and often throw out later.