There are more connected devices on earth than there are people. In fact, according to Gartner, the number of IoT-enabled devices worldwide will jump from 8.4 billion to 20.4 billion by 2020. From mobile phones to appliances, light bulbs to earbuds, speakers to security cameras, so-called “smart devices” are changing the way we live and work—even the way we cook.
IoT isn’t just “flash-in-the-pan” technology. It goes beyond the hype. McKinsey predicts the continued integration of our physical and digital worlds could generate between $4-11 trillion a year in economic value by 2025. If you add up the value at the top end of that estimate, it comes out to about 11 per cent of the world’s economy. But, just how smart are these devices, really? Sure, they’re connected to the internet. And yes, they can collect data and make adjustments based on your preferences. But, to truly be considered “smart,” these devices need to do more than collect data. They need to be able to make decisions on the data they collect. That’s where CPaaS, cloud communications platform as a service, comes in.
Smart devices are great and save time, but, by and large, they’re still reactive. As technology evolves, CPaaS will make them proactive. Think about smart devices today as glorified versions of a vending machine: you still have to input your preference to get what you want. Going forward, cloud-based communications platforms will be able to relay the right information to the right people at the right time. Suddenly, that vending machine is more like full-service restaurant, and the CPaaS suite of APIs is the wait staff—they take your order at your table in the front, bring it to the back where the food is prepared, and then return with the food you wanted. And, the whole time, you’re sitting at your table and chatting with your friends. That’s exactly the type of seamless customer experience that can happen as CPaaS integrates further with IoT.
A smarter espresso machine
Here’s a real-world example. You love your “smart” espresso maker. It doesn’t just fill your mug, froth up some foam and keep you caffeinated. It also keeps track of your schedule, personalises your coffee and lets you know when your capsule supply runs low. It also alerts you when there’s a problem that needs fixing. But that’s as far as it goes. After that initial alert, you still have to pause your day to wait on hold —trying to explain the issue yourself, without much context, to a support agent who will, hopefully, understand what’s gone wrong.
What if that espresso maker could be a bit smarter, and go one step further? Instead of just displaying a blinking red light and an error message, the espresso maker could spot the issue, share the necessary context with remote support, and fix itself. Your morning continues uninterrupted, and you get the caffeine jolt you need to jumpstart your day.
That’s the future IoT + CPaaS will enable: smart support. In today’s increasingly on-the-go, connected world, devices need to do more than indicate there’s a problem. They need to help diagnose the problem. CPaaS does more than bridge the disconnect between connected devices. It turns connected devices into decision-makers. Through real-time communications features like voice, video and rich messaging, CPaaS makes contextual conversations possible between people, computers and gadgets.
And, it doesn’t stop at espresso. There’s no limit to the types of devices that CPaaS platforms can link, because just about any IoT device can become intelligent and integrated into a larger workflow. Even devices from unrelated systems can begin to talk to one another. For example, integrating hospital refrigerator systems with building management and communications, or setting up a home or office security system that links connected door locks and video doorbells with monitoring sensors and energy management.
Because cloud communications platforms are open and agile enough to integrate countless types of services, the possibilities for this type of two-way communication are endless.
- They could be cost-saving, like a fleet of delivery trucks using CPaaS to connect IoT sensors directly to support agents, to monitor the condition and weight of the truck, and determine when it should be serviced, or if the cargo has shifted.
- They could be time-saving, like a modem connecting directly to service agents, and providing them with the information they need to solve the issue, instead of having to call a customer service line.
- They could be life-saving, like a wristband that allows the elderly to remain at home by monitoring their health in real-time, and then alerting a call centre staffed with nurses with detailed information as soon as it detects an irregularity.
Of course, triggering communications is one thing. But CPaaS goes a step further. As the connector that transforms data into direct communication, CPaaS allows IoT devices to respond to issues, instead of just react to them. Cloud communications platforms are open and agile enough to allow businesses to interact with stakeholders at every stage of the support chain on whichever combination of channels they prefer, on whatever time frame fits into their busy lifestyles.
Using a caffeine fix as an example again, let’s say coffee beans are running low at your neighbourhood coffee shop. CPaaS could allow the machine to alert support agents directly, who could then contact delivery drivers via a smartphone app while they’re out on their routes. If they happen to have the right shipment on hand, the coffee shop manager could be notified in-app that the driver is on the way. Or, if the manager doesn’t have that app, he or she could receive a text message or voice notification that the driver is en route.
CPaaS ensures there’s no disruption to customer service, while providing enough real-time context to let businesses to allocate the right mix staff and resources to resolve the issue. Consumers’ busy, on-the-go lives require agile, mobile solutions that are not only accessible, affordable and easy for businesses to implement, but also flexible enough to adjust to consumers’ changing needs. That type of end-to-end service is the type of on-demand experience people have come to expect in nearly every industry across the board.
To create a great IoT experience for customers, you need a solution that takes an action, enables a reaction, and bridges to a seamless solution. By integrating CPaaS, IoT can become stronger and more intelligent than we imagined. And that’s the future of communications we envision—smarter, connected, more convenient, and...more caffeinated.
Robert Vis, founder and CEO, MessageBird
Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay