The collective fantasy of the connected home you can control with your smartphone is finally becoming a reality. More than a billion Internet of Things-enabled devices will be shipped this year, and as the number is increasing exponentially, so is the competition. Apple, Google and Samsung are all producing their own operating systems, each one determined to link the 50 billion objects that will belong to IoT by 2020.
Yet while early adopters see vast potential in the smart home market, it has yet to catch on with the majority of consumers. Creating the definitive connected home requires both functional technology and marketing acumen – a combination that even the most gifted brands currently struggle with.
Apple excels at selling a lifestyle of interconnected devices, with the iPhone at the forefront. Ranked fourth in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Consumer Electronics, the brand employs exceptionally curated marketing efforts, abstaining from creating a brand presence on social platforms where it is unable to control the conversation.
Those efforts have paid off. The iPhone inspires more loyalty than any other smartphone, motivating users to invest in other Apple devices. Strong Apple Watch sales helped the brand surge ahead of Samsung in the growing wearables arena, with market share estimated at 75%. That robust branding makes it tempting to predict that when it comes to IoT, Apple can easily vanquish its competition.
Yet for all the hype, Apple’s IoT contribution – the HomeKit system, which uses a common language to link home devices by any manufacturer and can be controlled via Siri – suffers from limited functionality. Naming and grouping devices presents technical issues, and voice commands hit various snags. As Fortune tech reporter Stacey Higginbotham puts it: “If you want to get into home automation right this moment, I wouldn’t hitch your wagon to Apple’s ecosystem.”
While Apple has outmaneuvered Samsung in wearables, Samsung represents a credible threat when it comes to the connected home. Since abandoning open source software Tizen in favor of platform-agnostic SmartThings in 2014, the brand has been moving steadily towards its IoT vision. SmartThings promises to let you “easily monitor, control, and secure your home from anywhere,” offering a range of smart devices that can all be controlled by smartphone. Download the SmartThings app, and a guided quiz helps you put together your own Smart Home –a seamless experience that helped Samsung pull ahead of Apple to win the top spot in L2’s Index.
However, while Samsung has created an impressive experience with SmartThings, the brand also needs to sell a lifestyle. Consumers might not see Samsung as a lifestyle brand, the way that they have seen Apple for more than a decade. This could make them reluctant to invest in the costly connected devices that would make IoT a reality.