For all of its benefits, auto-replenishment has been expensive, time-consuming, and out of reach for companies with modest budgets and limited resources; until now.
Ahh, the future: Two flying cars in every garage, household robots to handle menial chores, and drone-delivered gourmet meals every night. But in the meantime—with 85% of the world’s devices yet to be connected—there are still plenty of “dumb” realities to contend with. We’re still re-washing yesterday’s soggy laundry, running to the corner store for dryer sheets, and scraping off last night’s dinner plates because we forgot to run the dishwasher. It’s time to face the truth about our disconnected lives and find solutions that bridge the gap while we wait for smart-home utopia.
Bridging the IoT Gap
At some point, fully connected products will become the norm, and eventually the only option. Until then, the world’s homes are filled with millions of dumb appliances in good working condition that are too expensive to upgrade, or too much of a hassle to replace. These are the perfect targets for mixing the old and the new, adding smart features to existing products at a fraction of the cost. Brands like Nest and Honeywell recognized this opportunity early on with HVAC systems, enabling consumers to turn their 20-year-old furnace into a smart appliance for $150 rather than spending $5,000-$10,000 on a replacement. Similarly, there are $60 devices that let you control a decades-old garage door through your phone or voice assistant.
At some point, fully connected products will become the norm, and eventually the only option.
As we move through these awkward pre-teen years of smart home and IoT adoption, we’ll be faced with these decisions more frequently: wade through features and reviews to find the right futuristic product, spend thousands of dollars to purchase it, arrange installation, and risk an underwhelming “smart” experience…or use a low-cost invention to add smart features to our current devices today.
When we first tackled the smart device gap at Vectorform, it was a passion project focused on our least favorite chores: doing laundry and washing dishes. The average American spends 100 hours per year doing laundry and saves 230 hours per year using a dishwasher, so these hard-working appliances seemed like natural targets for improving quality of life all around. Our resulting patent-pending invention, dubbed “Rumble”, is a battery-powered device—smaller than a deck of cards—that adheres to the side of a dishwasher, washing machine, or clothes dryer. Simply connect Rumble to wifi via a smartphone app, and the old appliance is transformed into a smart machine.
We initially set out to have Rumble answer the one question that vexed us most: When is the appliance done running? We were able to answer that quickly using accelerometers, but we found ourselves wanting more. What other conveniences could Rumble offer? Could it become smart enough to start making some simple decisions on its own? The answers led to user-friendly features that bump Rumble to the head of the class.
Replenishment and Beyond
As one of the earliest members of Amazonʼs Dash Replenishment Services (DRS) Partner Program, Vectorform is a leader in auto-replenishment solutions. The first step to replenishment is keeping track of inventory, which Rumble can do automatically because it knows how often the appliance is being used. Once the device determines you’re running low on your favorite dryer sheets or detergent pods—which you select when you first set up the app—Rumble will automatically order more from Amazon, and they’ll arrive on your doorstep in a few days. Not life-changing; but in today’s hyper-personalized world, convenience is replacing necessity as the mother of invention…and with 35,000 other decisions to make in the average day, it’s nice to have one less thing to think about.
Automatic replenishment is a great feature when an appliance is running perfectly, but what about when things go wrong? Because Rumble is already analyzing signals to know when a device starts or stops, it’s able to send an immediate alert if a washer becomes unbalanced and shuts itself off. There’s also a long-term advantage we’re exploring in future iterations: using machine learning to help the device get to know a specific appliance. Imagine Rumble being able to track the overall health and wear & tear of a washing machine, and proactively recommend repairs or replacements before it breaks down. The advantages to a household budget (or a laundromat’s profits or hotel chain’s P&L) would be significant, as they could avoid the excess costs of unplanned purchases or after-hours service calls.
A Rapid-Prototype Platform
At Vectorform, we see auto-replenishment as a logical next step in the progression of IoT. As smart devices begin to make more decisions for us, focus will shift from merely creating connected products to creating devices that automatically reorder our preferred items.
Rather than waiting for this smarter future to arrive, Vectorform has created a way to accelerate its arrival. Our Delivery of Things (DoT) platform enables us to rapidly prototype and support IoT devices with auto- replenishment, significantly reducing the time and cost typically associated with development. We were able to get Rumble up and running in a fraction of the time it would have taken otherwise: instead of months, it took only weeks. After testing it on ourselves, we’re confident Vectoform’s DoT platform is set to help brands lower their IoT costs and increase their speed to market—both critical advantages in the fast-moving world of smart consumer products.
Want to know more about Vectorform’s Delivery of Things (DoT) platform and how it can accelerate your IoT strategy? Contact us!