Beyond Tablets and Smartphones: Connected Devices and Wireless Marketers

January 19, 2015
5 minutes read

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show revolved around the Internet of Things. Across show floors at the Convention Center and the Sands, more and more connected devices emerged, with manufacturers catering to consumers’ desire to measure, track, and better understand their activities, from energy use, to fitness, to driving habits. Most connected devices rely on a smartphone or tablet as the central controller and information hub, while others function independently, requiring their own line of wireless service (as is the case with connected cars).

Either way, connected devices help drive up consumer data usage, which in turn helps wireless carriers increase ARPU (average revenue per user). As a result, carriers have diversified their offerings, promoting an expanding variety of connected devices to prospects and customers—and we can expect to see even more of this in the future. Below we look at the digital product introductions and innovations that will continue to evolve in 2015:

Personal security lanyards or clips have been promoted by carriers for several years, but this space will continue evolving. At a CES wearables panel, President of Semico Research Jim Feldhan noted, “There’s a need for health monitoring, especially among aging populations… to monitor chronic illnesses, and detect future illnesses.” The evolution of this market will likely provide more opportunities for wireless carriers and other telecommunications providers to offer new devices.

For instance, AT&T has already used direct mail—in particular, statement inserts—to feature its personal emergency-response GPS device, which provides 24/7 monitoring in case of emergency, and is targeted at seniors who wish to retain independence. ADT offers similar Medical Alert Systems emergency buttons, which have been observed in cross-sell emails to home security customers. ADT is expanding its personal emergency systems, however. Senior Director of Marketing at ADT Amy Kabocenell showed me a new wireless emergency device on the CES show floor that seniors can take with them for emergency alert on-the go. This device will launch in February or March. ADT wasn’t able to say which carrier will provide wireless service for it yet.

In addition to personal security devices, business strategies around connected cars and connected home devices are emerging in the wireless space. Thus far, AT&T has been the only provider inviting customers to add a line to their wireless plan for their connected car. AT&T notified customers in letters that it would provide in-vehicle 4G LTE connections for select 2015 models, and has invited customers to turn their car into a hotspot by adding a line to their Mobile Share Value plan for only $10/month. AT&T has also promoted the Audiovox Car Connection Elite, which provides do-it-yourself vehicle monitoring.

Verizon recently announced that it will provide connected services for cars that are unconnected with Verizon Vehicle. The service uses a dongle plugged into standard on-board diagnostics port (found on nearly every car manufactured since 1996), to get diagnostic alerts, roadside assistance, and more for $14.99/month.

59 percent of US consumers expressed interest in using an app or website to control their home

While smart home or home security products have been promoted infrequently by wireless carriers, US Cellular recently launched the OnLook Digital System in its Iowa and Tulsa markets. US Cellular offers three packages on a two-year contract, with every package including 24/7 professional monitoring. AT&T also offers its Digital Life security and automation service, although this service has typically been marketed to its U-verse customers, rather than its wireless customers.

If CES 2015 was any indication, there are an overwhelming number of connected devices and wearables on the market, or soon to be in market. Carriers have a challenge to anticipate which ones will most appeal to consumers. Already, we have observed a huge variety of wearables and connected toys promoted by wireless carriers, particularly around the holidays. Recently, T-Mobile has been observed asking its customers to provide feedback about the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. T-Mobile may be gathering feedback ahead of the Apple smartwatch launch, as well as to help guide how much marketing effort it puts behind these types of wearables, generally.

Many experts, including Consumer Electronics Associations Director of Business Intelligence Jack Cutts, have said that smartwatches will become the go-to wearable over the next three years. Most wearables panelists at CES 2015 seemed to agree that Apple’s smartwatch is likely to drive a significant uptick in smartwatch adoption. Carriers have no doubt been paying attention to this, and it seems likely that the Apple Watch will feature prominently in 2015 wireless marketing efforts.

As far as other connected devices, such as cars and home automation tools, we’ll certainly see these devices playing a more prominent role in wireless marketing efforts, and from a greater variety of providers, in 2015. Mintel has found that 59 percent of US consumers expressed interest in using an app or website to control their home, so the interest in smart home technology is clear. Consumer interest in purchasing a line of service for their connected car, however, remains to be seen. When asked about this at a CES panel, Tim Nixon, CTO of GM Connected Consumer suggested that wireless plans for auto may need to be structured a bit differently. Nixon stated, “We pay attention to user habits. If the data plans are structured right, people are going to buy the data.” 2015 may bring about new ways of positioning wireless for connected cars, particularly if consumers are foregoing the option to add a line for their vehicles to existing share plans. As more consumers purchase connected cars, the opportunity to provide wireless service for these cars will open up. In the meantime, Verizon may have an advantage with its service to connect “unconnected” cars.

For more insights from Mintel Comperemedia, click here.

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s telecommunications thought leader, specializing in competitive trends across wireless, TV, Internet and home security industries. In her previous roles she provided competitive intelligence, analysis, and strategy for technology and telecommunications clients at public relations and advertising agencies.

Emily Groch
Emily Groch

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

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