The Internet of Things (IoT) has certainly become quite the buzzword as of late. It refers to all of our interconnected devices that can – and do – put the power of the internet in our pockets, on our phones, in our watches and jewelry - and even in our clothing. A 2014 Gartner study indicated there would be 4.9 billion internet-connected things in use by the end of 2015, and that number is expected to grow to 25 billion by 2020 - just four short years from now. That is nearly four connected things for every person on the planet.
IoT will have a great impact on our lives, as it will affect all types of global infrastructures, but lately the discussion has turned to a new, much more local use for IoT – your house. IoT use within a home creates what is termed a “smart home” where interconnected and automated devices and systems join to create sophisticated monitoring and control over the home’s functions. The controls can include lighting, temperature, multi-media (TV, stereo, etc.) and window and door operations and security. One of the newest features of the IoT-connected home is commerce. Some companies, like Amazon, have already marketed products that give consumers the ability to automatically replenish various household items and other supplies. MasterCard’s new Commerce for Every Device program is helping to ensure that smartphones, smartwatches and any connected device could become payments enabled.
MasterCard and Coin recently partnered to offer payment support on wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers. In fact, Fitbit recently purchased Coin’s wearable payment technology with the goal of developing a Fitbit device like the company’s new Blaze tracker, which will be not only a fully-functional fitness tracker but also a wearable payments device. MasterCard has also partnered with Samsung’s home appliance division to create the first smart refrigerator that will allow users to order and pay for groceries using a computer screen embedded in the door. The Family Hub refrigerator takes photos of the contents of the fridge and transmits them to the user’s smartphone, who can then select missing items and order them from integrated online grocers. The purchase is secured with a 4-digit PIN number and charged to a preselected credit or debit card. Then there’s Amazon, which has partnered with Whirlpool’s 2016 line of dishwashers, dryers and washers to ensure you never run out of your chosen cleaning supplies by connecting the appliances with specific brands.
Is the IoT-connected smart home a “must-have” or a “nice-to-have” option mostly for tech geeks? It certainly would be nice to have the ability to replenish your refrigerator without going to the store or have your coffee ready for you when you get out of the shower in the morning. Or even to control household functions, like lights and thermostats, when you are away from home or on vacation. Smart appliances can offer that peace of mind to everyone of all age groups, but especially those who, for whatever reason, may not be able to get out much, like seniors or the disabled. However, the appliances can’t be too complicated to set up and use, can’t be too difficult to maintain and repair, and they have to offer secure payments and system reliability, otherwise consumers won’t see the attraction in making the switch from “dumb home” to “smart home.”