Six features of connected products

In terms of game-changing opportunities for marketing and product development in our time, there are few bigger than products that come out of the box digitally enabled.

What happens when everything from your car to a Barbie are designed as sensory devices, connected to the world, with built-in communication channels? What happens when all our products live and breath data, drawing it in and feeding it back out?

This isn’t science fiction, it’s happening right now. And after looking at a few examples of innovators in this space, I think it might be possible to identify six features sets that will be core to the wave of digital product innovation we can expect over the coming years:

  • BUNDLED - Unlocking exclusive digital experiences.
  • SENSITIVE - Collecting and interpreting data.
  • TALKATIVE - Sharing and broadcasting.
  • RESPONSIVE - Responsive to the world.
  • UNIQUE - Personalized to you, and evolves over time based on customer interaction with product.
  • PLATFORMS - Platforms not products.

Although you’ll see many products implement multiple features from this set, some focus on just one.

Bundled

The concept of bundling is simple: offer digital content and experiences exclusively to product owners, as a selling point for the product itself. This can be even more powerful when that access is provided on top of something already being used. i.e. imagine if you bought an MP3 player and it unlocked an exclusive Facebook music feature, only available to owners of that particular device.

Kids are natural born early adopters, and the competition for their attention is fierce, so it’s no surprise to see some of the leading edge examples of bundled digital experiences exist in toys marketed to tots barely out of diapers.

For example, Disney’s Clickables product range is designed to connect directly Disney’s Pixie Hollow virtual world, home to 25 million avatars created by young fans. Collectable physical charms and toys unlock special items and features in the Pixie Hollow world. And if you bump bracelets with your friend in the real world, your avatars automatically become friends in the Pixie Hollow virtual world.

This is obviously an very cool innovation in itself, but what’s possibly more important is that kids are going to grow up thinking its natural that if they bump their toys together, things will happen in a digital space. That’s a revolutionary shift in thought, the expectation that physical objects have a digital life beyond, and the two are inseparably connected.

All about Clickables | Pixie Hollow | Disney Fairies.jpg

Disney is not the only one with this idea. In fact, Webkinz, Barbie Girl MP3 Players, Build-A-Bear, and even the hugely popular Beanie Bears are all featuring unlockable bundled virtual worlds as a key feature of their physical products.

Build-A-Bearville-1.jpg

Not to be outdone, McDonald’s has one of the most innovative bundling strategies I’ve seen yet. They launched their McWorld virtual world back in 2008, which looks like this:

2918760400-4c33aefd0e-500366.jpg (467×285).jpg

For McDonald’s, digital bundling is now integral to their hugely popular Happy Meals. When you buy Happy Meals now, kids don’t just get a toy, they get a unique code. That code unlocks exclusive content in the McWorld virtual world. For example, Star Wars Happy Meals include a Jedi toy, but they also include a code that unlocks an exclusive lightsaber feature within the Darth Vader quest on Happymeal.com.

Not content to stop there, the codes McDonald’s are bundling often unlock limited edition content on partner sites as well as their own. Recent promotions have seen codes unlocking content on the Build-A-Bear site, Beanie Bear’s BeanieLand, and even the LEGO Batman Xbox 360 game. McDonald’s recognized that while building membership in their virtual world could pay off long-term, it’s also important to “fish where the fish are” and ensure they are providing kids with exclusive content on other hugely popular destinations worlds.

Sensitive

No, sensitive products aren’t easily offended. Rather, many connected products are equipped with various sensors and inputs in order to collect and interpret data about you, about itself, and about it’s environment.

Nike+ enabled shoes gather data via an accelerometer.

nike-shoes-fl-3.jpg (400×300).jpg

Botanicalls uses moisture sensors to interpret the condition of the plant’s soil.

botanicalls.jpg (580×386).jpg

FedEx Senseaware gathers temperature, light, and location data.

FedExSenseawareTrackingDevice.jpg (515×337).jpg

All these products are geared to sense and aggregate in order to deliver their added value functions.

Talkative

For those products that are sensitive, their next key feature is to communicate:

To you
Botanicalls will give you a call or a Tweet when it needs to be watered.

original.jpg (232×508).jpg

To a community
The Withings WiFi scale can be set to communicate weigh-ins to friends on Twitter, for a bit of public peer-pressure.

The Quantified Self.jpg

EcoDrive and Nike+ stats aggregate to help show you how your community is performing and to allow you to participate in challenges.

453224.1-lg.jpg (1024×819).jpg

Broadcast
Occasionally, products can even broadcast information to public space.

For example, RFID reader displays in retail stores are now able to identify products that have been selected and dynamically display information about them.

Or for another well known example, Mini used RFID to power this dynamic outdoor display.

First-ever Talking Billboards Revealed to Mini Motorists | Design News.jpg

Responsive

Connected products can also be responsive to the world, updating themselves based on content generated by people or by real world events.

The form of players in EA’s FIFA 10 Live Season videogame change dynamically based on the actions of those same players in the real world. If Cesc Fabregas is having a blinding season for Arsenal, he’ll be that much stronger in the game as well.

FIFA10_X360_Ligue1LiveSeason_006_619x346.jpg (619×346).jpg

Or showing how products could update based on content generated externally, the collar on the dress worn by Imogen Heap at the Grammy awards displayed a real-time feed of tweets addressed to her.

Grammys_ Imogen Heap Accepts Award Wearing _Twitter Dress_.jpg

Unique

I haven’t seen many examples of this, but it’s a natural next step. As products begin to capture location and activity data, gathering data on how they are used and who you are as the user, as well as the context and environment they are being used in, they can begin to personalize themselves to you, automatically adapting and optimizing themselves.

For example, Intel Labs is developing a new smart TV remote. It aims to recognize who’s holding the remote based on idiosyncracies of their hand motion (yes, seriously) and then once identified, automatically serves up personalized content and menus.

Google Chrome.jpg

Platforms

If your product deals in data, it’s possible to expose that data to the world, allowing other people to build things on top of it, creating additional value for your business and your customers on your behalf.

For example, Ford SYNC AppLink is connecting the car’s in-dash system with 3rd party application platforms, including Google’s Android. This means Android developers will be able to develop apps that run inside the car. It’s not a stretch to assume those Android apps built specifically for AppLink could hook into a Ford SYNC Applink API, drawing data directly from the car in real-time, including driving behaviour and geo-location. The car is built as a platform, not just a product.

Other brilliant examples come from the iPhone and Nintendo DS.

iStetho uses a special adapter for your iPhone plus an iTunes app to turn stethoscope input into visualizations that could be viewed, stored and analyzed.

Video_ iStetho Turns your iPhone into a Stethoscope-1.jpg

Bayer Didget is a blood glucose reader designed for diabetic children instead of their parents. It works as a fully functioning reader device on its own, but it also plugs directly into the Nintendo DS, converting test results into reward points that allow kids to unlock items, levels and mini-games within a DS adventure game called Knock ‘Em Down.

Bayer Drops in with Didget Blood Glucose Monitoring System for Nintendo DS | Game Guru.jpg

Yes, the DS and iPhone are by definition platforms. But I think there’s something in the idea that any physical product that takes in or creates digital input can be built with platform principles in mind, creating many future extension opportunities that the original designers may never have envisioned.

Summary

So, the six opportunity spaces for connected products I’ve spotted so far include:

  • BUNDLED - Unlocking exclusive digital experiences.
  • SENSITIVE - Collecting and interpreting data.
  • TALKATIVE - Sharing and broadcasting.
  • RESPONSIVE - Responsive to the world.
  • UNIQUE - Personalized to you, and evolves over time based on customer interaction with product.
  • PLATFORMS - Platforms not products.

Have you seen other connected products that include these features?
Do you have suggestions for other additions to the list, or a different
way of grouping them?
What areas of connected products do you think will be most prolific over the coming years, and where will the most impactful innovations come from?

Bookmark and Share

58 Responses to “Six features of connected products”


  1. 1 canon 8d release date

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

  2. 2 Ethyl

    Hi there, I discovered your web site by means of Google at the same time as searching for a similar subject, your site got here up, it looks good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  3. 3 Tyree Devit

    You could definitely see your expertise within the paintings you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  4. 4 verzekeringen vergelijken

    I discovered your weblog web site on google and verify a number of of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the superb operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you afterward!…

  5. 5 discount air suspension kits

    Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it tough to set up your own blog? Im not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. Im thinking about making my own but Im not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Cheers

  6. 6 Hae Highley

    My sister saved this website for me and I have been reading through it for the past several hours. This is really going to assist me and my friends for our class project. By the way, I like the way you write.

  7. 7 Arica Cosio

    Great Share! Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

  8. 8 Melba Rainer

    I used to be able to find good info from your blog posts.

  9. 9 Chase Hildesheim

    What’s up, I just wanted to mention, you’re wrong. Your article doesn’t make any sense.

  10. 10 Ted

    It will be hard to find educated persons within this issue, but you be understood as you no doubt know exactly what you are referring to! Regards

  11. 11 Mickey

    I think this is among the most important info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  12. 12 //www. obegr盲nsat-mlmwealth-online. com e-post

    Could I simply say nice to read a relief to find somebody who essentially realizes just what they’re discussing on the internet. You actually understand how to bring a difficulty to light and allow it to necessary. Even more people should learn this particular and comprehend it aspect of the story. I cannot believe you are not very popular as you clearly have the gift.

  13. 13 Women Entrepreneurs

    Dear Anirudhya,

  14. 14 Women Entrepreneurs

    The post is cool but I am having trouble reading it I might be having problems with my browser.

  15. 15 Norberto

    Very good written story. It will be supportive to anyone who usess it, as well as me. Keep doing what you are doing - i will definitely read more posts.

  16. 16 Al

    Usually I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, very great post.

  17. 17 Oda

    Hello.This post was really fascinating, particularly because I was investigating for thoughts on this subject last Wednesday.

  18. 18 Rob

    Good web site! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your feed which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

  19. 19 raspberry macaroon

    Im speechless. It is a superb weblog and very attractive too. Nice work! Thats no longer in reality much coming from an novice publisher like me, nevertheless its all I may say after diving into your posts. Great grammar and vocabulary. Not like different blogs. You truly realize what you?re talking about too. Such a lot that you simply made me want to explore more. Your weblog has turn into a stepping stone for me, my friend.

  20. 20 Theresa

    Many thanks for taking the time to explain the terminlogy for the beginners!

  21. 21 Naoma

    I have to convey my admiration for your kind-heartedness supporting people that have the need for help with this particular field. Your personal commitment to passing the solution all around appeared to be rather functional and have regularly empowered folks just like me to realize their targets. The valuable publication denotes a lot a person like me and additionally to my office colleagues. With thanks; from each one of us.

  22. 22 simonly

    Really cool site. Thank you for writing.

  23. 23 zynga poker chips for sale

    My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on a number of websites for about a year and am anxious about switching to another platform. I have heard great things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content into it? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  24. 24 Georgette Touney

    This one is an inspiration personally to uncover out far more related to this subject. I need to confess your data prolonged my sentiments as well as I am going to right now take your feed to stay updated on every coming weblog posts you might probably create. You’re worthy of thanks for a job completely achieved!

  25. 25 Farrah Hutchcroft

    This design is incredible! You certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  26. 26 Dale

    Hi there, I found your blog by way of Google while searching for a comparable matter, your website got here up, it looks good. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  27. 27 Patrick

    I am now not certain where you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend some time learning much more or figuring out more. Thank you for wonderful info I was searching for this info for my mission.

  28. 28 Zachery

    Very efficiently written article. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work - i will definitely read more posts.

  29. 29 Dalton

    Mir gefaellt das verwendete Theme. Sehr schoen uebersichtlich. Wo kann man das Theme downloaden?

  30. 30 Michelle

    I will immediately snatch your rss as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly permit me recognize so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  31. 31 Herman Sallade

    Odd , your post turns up with a black hue to it, what shade is the primary color on your web site or is it a seo problem?

  32. 32 Hiltrud

    great issues altogether, you just won a brand new reader. What might you suggest in regards to your publish that you simply made a few days in the past? Any positive?

  33. 33 Justin

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  34. 34 Nancie Tock

    true story!

  35. 35 nupo kur

    great issues altogether, you just won a emblem new reader. What could you recommend in regards to your post that you simply made some days ago? Any positive?

  36. 36 een website maken

    I haven¡¦t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are good quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

  37. 37 Local debt problems

    Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my web site thus i came to “go back the choose”.I’m attempting to find things to improve my website!I guess its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  38. 38 mikrolån

    I think other site proprietors should take this website as an model, very clean and great user friendly style and design, as well as the content. You are an expert in this topic!

  39. 39 Trees Reddit

    You are my breathing in, I possess few web logs and rarely run out from post :). “The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” by Frederick Douglas.

  40. 40 great ass

    Hi there your website url: http://geoffnorthcott.com/blog/2010/07/six-features-of-connected-products/ seems to be redirecting to a completely different webpage when I click the home page button. You may want to have this checked.

  41. 41 vicente fernandez son

    I really like and appreciate your blog post. Much obliged.

  42. 42 Shelia Bott

    I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues? A few of my blog audience have complained about my site not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any suggestions to help fix this issue?

  43. 43 masters medical

    Real nice pattern and superb subject matter, hardly anything else we require : D.

  44. 44 Bianca Alvarez

    Great - I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your website. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related info ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add discussion boards or something, website theme . a tones way for your customer to communicate. Nice task.

  45. 45 Read More

    I’ve loaded your site in 3 totally different browsers and I must say this website loads a lot quicker then most. Would you mind e-mailing me the name of your web hosting company? My personal email is: Delila.Darling@gmx.com. I will even sign up through your own affiliate link if you’d like. Thanks

  46. 46 reiki hand positions

    This is funnily enough just the thing I’ve been searching for! Excellent and thankyou!

  47. 47 Continued

    I dugg some of you post as I thought they were extremely helpful very beneficial

  48. 48 Hair Diet

    I got what you mean, regards for posting. Woh I am thankful to find this website through google.

  49. 49 how to make a website for kids

    I have been examinating out many of your stories and i must say pretty good stuff. I will surely bookmark your blog.

  50. 50 bali workshop

    I feel there may be considered a several duplicates, but an exceedingly helpful record! I’ve tweeted this. Numerous thanks for sharing!

  51. 51 Brandon Marshall Navy Jersey

    Zune and iPod: Most people compare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It’s very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.

  52. 52 Dawn Youngs

    Great article. Super work!

  53. 53 Davis Magliocca

    You completed a number of nice points there. I did a search on the issue and found most folks will consent with your blog.

  54. 54 used cars bedfordshire sale

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you should write more on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but usually people don’t discuss such subjects. To the next! Best wishes!

  55. 55 roofer in kingswinford

    I’ve heard this kind of thing somewhere else, but you did it better!

  56. 56 Isreal Hutchkiss

    Thanks planning on taking the full time to write this! Most definitely lunch break material.

  57. 57 Jacinta Ankrum

    Howdy. Fantastically safe site!! Man .. Glorious .. Brilliant .. I am going to bookmark your blog and acquire the feeds also…I am comfortable to search out thus a great deal cooperative info proper at this point surrounded by the post. Express gratitude you for sharing.

  58. 58 xbox 360 console easter eggs

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this topic here on your internet site.

Leave a Reply