News & Updates

4 Key Principles for Providing Tech Support for the Internet of Things

By Tal / August 4, 2015

Internet-connected devices have been around for decades now and that connection has shifted from wired connected devices to wireless enabled devices.

This has led to a proliferation of devices that extend beyond traditional laptops or printers to what we see in the home today: wireless connected thermostats, lighting, door locks, garage door openers, and other gadgets enriching common household tasks.

With the introduction of IPv6, the future of wireless connected devices is virtually unlimited. To put this into perspective, IPv4 allowed for 4.3 billion unique IP addresses. With the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), expected to go well beyond 25 billion devices by 2020, IPv6 has made room for 340 undecillion unique IP addresses. That’s 340 trillion followed by 24 zeros!

As uptake of connected devices grows, so will customer expectations

In 2014, smart home device penetration grew from 12% to 16% of all broadband households, according to a recent Parks & Associates report.

As we introduce more devices, it will become increasingly complicated to support the vast ecosystem of smart home technologies. For broadband providers and connected device makers, this presents new opportunities to expand service offerings into the connected home with full scope technical support.

To ensure your company delivers on the promise of an end-to-end, connected-customer experience, here are 4 key principles that will be fundamental to your success.

1. Anchor your business around customer experience

The connected devices we adopt are performing increasingly critical tasks: securing the home, health monitoring and maintaining the home’s environment—which is essential when it’s -40° C outside!

That said, to a consumer, the “Internet of Things” is really an “Internet of Services”. We have very high expectations that our devices will work. If they don’t, we expect to get support that meets our expectations for resolving the issues quickly.

"Customer-centric brands recognize that a product is not a complete product without great support."

Customer-centric brands recognize that a product is not a complete product without great support. Offering full scope, technical support that helps users solve their IoT problems, regardless of who the manufacturer is, or where the actual problem lies in the technical stack, will help to differentiate your products and services in the IoT space.

2. Broaden your IoT partnerships

Interconnected environments mean that when something technical goes wrong, it can be related to any of several different programs, hardware and devices.This can make diagnosing and fixing IoT-related issues time-consuming and complex, driving the need for collaboration between service providers, manufacturers and vendors.

IoT products need to interoperate, and for that to happen, device makers need a common framework for devices and apps to communicate, centered around meeting end-users’ needs.

For example, at AppHelp, we recently became members of the AllSeen Alliance. AllSeen is a non-profit, open-source consortium made up of more than 170 member companies that are helping to accelerate interoperability for the Internet of Things through a common communications framework based on AllJoyn; akin to Esperanto for the IoT.

We believe that by designing devices to speak a common language, we can remove much of the complexity of diagnosing and treating IoT issues, while also informing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to fix common IoT device problems.

3. Keep abreast of top-selling IoT devices

Your support program should monitor the marketplace, so you’ll be prepared when customers start calling you about new devices.

Each of our connected lives is a little bit different and made up of various types of devices and services that are unique to us. This makes it critical to know who the new device manufacturers are and the technical problems that are being reported.

Some of my go-to references include:

4. Make security a linchpin of your IoT technical support offering

With events like Chrysler recalling 1.4 million vehicles after two vigilante hackers were able to remotely hijack a Jeep through a vulnerability in its UConnect® software, the security of Things is top-of-mind for everyone.

The hackers were able to take over steering, transmission… and even disable the brakes.

Parks & Associates research finds that “70% of smart home device owners are concerned about unauthorized access to their home control devices as well as to the data generated by these devices”.

Adding protection services to your IoT support offering can help give your customers peace-of-mind, while benefiting your bottom line.

"34% of the consumers surveyed by Parks & Associates said they were interested in having a premium service that helps to manage their privacy online and monitor their network to protect their personal data."

Now is the time to prepare for the challenges ahead

A recent article from the Brookings Institute states, “If there is going to be some public policy guidance on the openness and interoperability of the IoT, now is the time to craft it.”

Broadband providers and connected device makers are perfectly positioned to advance this dialogue and to become the IoT support center of choice. Being able to deliver basic tutorials, troubleshoot connectivity issues and help people securely setup and configure devices will be critical.

Finally, for a much more complete picture, download our free eBook How to Support the Internet of Things to learn how to cost-effectively provide tech support for the Internet of Things and become your customers’ trusted IoT advisor.