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Early adopters are satisfied with a kit of parts that contain the capabilities they want to buy. But as a market matures, more and more customers are not early adopters; they want to buy more complete solutions. Before they buy a new capability, they say "Show me!" One day, a virtual reality demo will be sufficient in all sectors. But not yet.
So, to give a demonstration, the reseller not only needs a smart connected machine, but it must be connected to functional back-end applications. Start-up configuration, online remote monitoring, remote control, usage and fault logging, predictive maintenance and so on, these are all capabilities that may command a premium price, and typically need a working back-end application to show what they offer.
Everything on this demonstration list is also on a quality control test list at the manufacturer. Not all tests are direct demonstrations, however. So, for example, the QC test related to predictive maintenance could be as simple as a test that status data is reported and transmitted correctly for all operating conditions. Separately, the manufacturer will have demonstrated that correct status data can be interpreted to make predictive maintenance recommendations. So, for QC purpose, passing a test to show the data is OK implies that predictive maintenance will also be OK — but this is not a demonstration.
But at least there is some overlap, so there may be help at hand. The manufacturer may be able to supply a test suite, and perhaps even guidelines on how to configure a demonstration (they’ve probably had to do it for the showroom at headquarters). Some manufacturers will have cloud-hosted back-end software for products in showrooms to use; it may be the same software used by products in the field.
But the devil can be in the detail of these arrangements. If certain functions are enabled with software settings, who configures the showroom machine to do everything, with (free?) access to back-end applications? The customer may not buy all the options, so the manufacturer needs visibility that a machine delivered to a customer has been configured to match the options the customer paid for.
Of course this is well-trodden ground — but in the computer industries. Software downloads, activation protocols, over-the-air-update, remote access capabilities, local and enterprise-wide management, these have all matured over many years to offer the kind of experience acceptable to “majority” (as opposed to “early adopter”) customers. Add the mobile phone industry, and this experience extends to billing, handling multiple service providers, and enabling third-party added-value services.
Learning from these experiences will enable smart connected product manufacturers to equip their resellers to offer the right customer experience for the majority.
In 2020, expect to see smart machine manufacturers and their reseller partners equipped with new and flexible tools to manage on-machine software, communications, and back-end applications. These tools will manage access authorization, configuration, update and billing from arrival of the machine at the reseller’s premises, through multiple trials and demonstrations leading to eventual sale and installation at the customer site.
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