We’ve entered an era of hyper-connectivity or “the state of being constantly connected.” We see this in everyday interactions with instant messaging, social media, and mobile phones. More specifically, hyper-connectivity exists between computing devices to networks with cloud storage, location awareness, and artificial intelligence. Through the development of artificial intelligence emerge new and innovative smart products that are changing our world.
The advancement of new technological capabilities are entirely reshaping and creating new industries. Instead of basic phones or watches, we now we have smart phones, smart watches, smart TVs, and the list goes on. So what makes these seemingly ordinary products so smart? Let’s take a look at a new product called the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ created by Withings. Take a quick look at the video below to learn a little more about the product.
As you can see, The ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ may look like a normal weight scale, but its capabilities and functionality goes above and beyond displaying a number on a screen. It measures your weight, body composition, heart rate, and even the air quality and temperature in that room. Once stepping on the scale it will automatically recognize who are and access your profile. Next, it will analyze your body in which that information will transfer directly to your smartphone.
Tapping the center of the scale will access air quality function. Air pollution can cause health problems such as headaches, sore throats, respiratory problems as well as disrupt sleep. This information is also tracked and stored as a graph in your smartphone.
Within the HealthMate application on your IOS or Android smartphone, not only does it track the information from the scale, but you can also use it as your own personal fitness tracker. On your profile you can create weight goals, record your fitness activity, and track your overall health with tips and reminders.
Smart, Connected Product Components
According to an article, “How Smart, Connected Products are Transforming Competition” by Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann, there are three components contained within ‘smart’ products. These are the physical, smart, and connectivity components.
To look at Porter and Heppelmen’s first component, the scale is physically made up of mechanical and electrical parts. Simply, that includes the materials used to put the product together such as metal, glass, LED screens, and more.
Next, comes the smart component. Within the scale’s physical parts, there is an enhanced interface that is operated through sensors, microprocessors, and smart software. These smart components allow the scale to be able to automatically detect users identification and then determine their weight, body mass index, and heart rate. Additionally, the embedded operating system can determine the air quality of the room through different sensors within the product. Pretty smart, right?
Finally, we have the connectivity component, or the wireless protocols for communicating. This component is seen with the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ in the way it communicates, transfers, and stores data wirelessly to your smartphone. This component is further described as being “one-to-many” It not only connects to one smartphone, it can connect to up to eight different profiles simultaneously.
Impact on Industry Structure
As mentioned earlier, these smart products have a huge impact on the industry structure. According to the article by Porter and Heppelmann, “competition is driven by five competitive forces: the bargaining power of buyers, the nature and the nature and intensity of the rivalry among existing competitors, the threat of new entrants, the threat of substitute products or services, and the bargaining power of suppliers.”
1. The first force is the bargaining power of buyers. Not only do smart, connected products expand product differentiation and customization; they also allow companies to form close relationships with their customers. Buyers’ costs of switching to a new supplier also increase, thereby reducing buyers’ bargaining power. However, that buying power can increase by providing them with a better understanding of product performance and more specifically segmenting their market.
2.The second force is the rivalry among competitors. These new products are changing the competitive landscape and by opening up new services, they offer unique value propositions and more specific market segments. As an example, the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ is able to provide not only the user’s weight, but also their heart rate, BMI, and air quality, eliminating the need of an individual product for each feature. An air quality system has never had to compete with a weight scale…until now.
3. Next, we have the threat of new entrants. With high levels of technology comes complex product design and IT infrastructure. The components of the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ go beyond basic functionality of a scale and the connectivity of it requires extensive wireless communication of data. Besides the barrier of price and product complexity, first movers in the industry reap the benefits of first introducing the new smart product as well as collecting data and improving the product.
4. Not only do we have the threat of new entrants, but also the threat of substitutes. Although it’s very unlikely to have an easy substitute with the new technology of a product such as the ‘Smart Body Analyzer,’ the product itself will substitute for conventional devices such as a heart rate monitor, weight scale, and air quality products.
5. Lastly, we have the bargaining power of suppliers. Although the smart components are adding value to products now, they will soon be able to be made cheaper or even replaced overtime, affecting the total cost and ultimately the power of suppliers. If the supplier has talent and capabilities that are essential to differentiation, then the bargaining power of those suppliers can be high.
After researching the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ thoroughly, I believe it is an amazing and truly innovative idea. I have never used this product but I would be interested to use it in the future. The reviews of the product are excellent, receiving a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Personally, I don’t necessarily need all of that information at this time in my life because I happen to be young and lead an active lifestyle. However, I think it provides very useful combination of health monitoring technology that makes it quick and easy for people to stay on top of their health. It’s quite expensive for someone my age to invest in but I think if multiple people were using it, such as a family, it would be rather inexpensive way to keep track of their health.
Looking to the Future
Although the ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ seems like a great innovation to healthcare, I think it can go even further. I strongly believe that this product, as well as every other smart health-monitoring product in the market right now, that there is another step for them to take. For individuals who need constant monitoring, such as the elderly or sick, these smart devices have the potential to be a constant link and communication with their doctor. If doctors can have access to this information, they can more efficiently monitor patients and determine any problems immediately. Monitoring your weight to lose some pounds after the holidays is one thing, but I think that expanding these hyper-connective capabilities could be the future of the healthcare industry.
“Withings’ next gen scale does everything but the ironing. These guys are part of a move that is set to revolutionalise and democratise healthcare, putting our health in their hands.”
– Guardian Online