More and more products depend on their connection to the internet. As soon as a connection cannot be established, the product is unusable. Depending on the product, this is not a problem if it takes an hour or a day. But what if the product has been given “the end of life” status by the manufacturer and it has become unusable because the manufacturer no longer facilitates the cloud applications? Our software engineer Bob Mooij wrote an article about it.
Why do we actually connect products to the cloud?
When using a cloud solution, we store data in an intangible storage location: the cloud. The cloud replaces a tangible storage place, such as your computer or a local server. As a result, the product is functional at any location with internet access: after all, you have the necessary data and programs there.
The link with the cloud has advantages for both manufacturers and consumers.
- For the customer, the product gets extra potential, because it gets more functionalities. Consider, for example, remote access, making complex calculations, saving energy, offering backups, etc.
- The manufacturer gains insight into the device through data, saves production costs, increases brand awareness and visibility, there is cross-selling, he can fix errors in the field, etc.
Enough reasons to make or buy a cloud-connected product.
The end of a cloud application
Every product that is connected to the cloud has an end of life. For example due to the (increasing) costs, the limitation of the physical device (memory, speed), change of environment, etc. It is difficult to predict when this will happen. But when it happens, it impacts both the manufacturer and the consumer.
The consumer then has a product that no longer works as intended. And that causes him to lose confidence in the product, the manufacturer and the seller.
2 Examples that illustrate this problem well (source tweakers.net):
1. Osram Lightify lamps will lose functions next year due to server shutdown
Osram is warning customers that it will shut down the server for its Lightify lighting by the end of 2021. As a result, the networked lighting products lose a large part of their functionality, such as the operation with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. The necessary support and updates will then also end. This leaves only the basic functionality.
2. Sitecom: Wi-Fi cameras no longer work due to bankrupt supplier
Sitecom reported in 2018 that the software for its Wi-Fi cameras will no longer work. This was due to the bankruptcy of the software supplier. It concerns four types of cameras. The cameras then stopped working and the corresponding App could no longer be found in the app store. This may be a reason beyond the company’s control, but it does create an unpleasant situation.
The manufacturer continues to invest after sales
After the sale, the cost of cloud-connected devices to the manufacturer or vendor continues. He must maintain the cloud with security updates. He regularly updates the associated apps for the latest Android / iOS platforms. And the product itself must also receive security updates. That is why it is becoming more common to purchase a subscription for cloud-connected devices to cover those costs. This way you prevent the support from suddenly disappearing after purchase, which has a negative effect on the image of the product, the manufacturer or the seller.
It’s all about trust
Your cloud-connected device can have so many functionalities, bells, whistles and a beautiful design, without trust it is worth nothing. Nobody pays for a product that he knows will not work (in the future) as you would like. For example, because it is poorly secured, privacy is violated, there are bad updates or the functions are not (anymore) supported. As a consumer you get the feeling that you are being “cheated”. And of course you want to prevent that as a manufacturer or seller.
How do you maintain the buyer’s trust?
Be honest with your customers. Make it clear that every cloud-connected product has an end date.
Before selling your product, make an inventory of which services your product needs. Think of a Google voice assistant, an IFTTT, KNMI, etc. Determine what impact it will have for your customer, if those services are no longer available.
Make a forecast when that support will disappear. Adjust your forecast regularly so that it is up to date.
Communicate this knowledge with your customers so that they can make an informed decision when purchasing. Also keep them informed about any (future) developments that affect their product. In short: be transparent and ensure clear expectations management.
What would a cloud strategy mean for you?
For many companies, making products smarter or connecting to the cloud is still an abstract process. The unfamiliarity with the technology is therefore a deterrent. You can also take this development in small steps and therefore experiment with what suits you. Ultimately, it is always about the functions you want to perform. Curious about the possibilities, risks and opportunities for your company? Contact us and we are happy to help you.
Bob Mooij studied Information Technology at the Avans University of Applied Sciences at ‘s Herthogenbosch. He has worked for Altran, Bosch/Nefit and VanderLande. Therefore he worked on different IoT projects and test automation projects. His specialities are IoT related projects that involves firmware, backend, frontend and apps.
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