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Product transformation in the consumer devices market is gaining momentum, and it is proving to be a boon for consumers and manufacturers alike. Gartner says an estimated 25 billion smart connected things will be shipped by 2020, largely driven by consumer products. The stars are in alignment with a convergence of the right technology elements being available at the right price and with the right capabilities—right when consumer interest in all things smart is accelerating.

Whether your business is building new Internet of Things (IoT) offerings from the ground up, or adding cloud capabilities, it’s the ideal climate to invest in a sustainable connected consumer devices strategy. With the smart home market expected to reach $32 billion in the U.S. by 2021, representing a 25% CAGR between now and 2021, according to Gartner, establishing brand recognition is critical to winning and maintaining consumer mindshare.

Think beyond four walls with smart, connected products

Today’s connected consumer experience typically starts at the home with key growth areas being connected audio and entertainment, smart appliances, and security systems. With devices interoperating, the future is all about extending connected consumer experiences beyond the  home and fully integrating throughout the day’s activities. This can start when a consumer leaves home and enters their vehicle, or exits their vehicle and enters their office, or is simply out in their community.

Since device information is available anywhere, consumers can be anywhere and stay attuned to their home—getting an alert, for example, when suspicious activity is detected, or monitoring a pet’s movements. That’s the beauty of connected devices; the value extends well beyond the device itself.

Microsoft is helping manufacturers seize value in the connected consumer devices space in a number ways with an approach that is both modular and holistic. Since Microsoft and partner offerings stretch across a spectrum of capabilities, we can deliver value exactly where your business needs it most.

Let’s look at a few key areas of opportunity and how some innovative companies are already benefiting from these strategies.

Innovate based on product usage insights. With both cloud-based and on-premises offerings, Microsoft offers an unparalleled breadth and depth of capabilities that help you get business value out of your data. You can continually inform your design process by analyzing data from devices themselves, as well as leveraging insights from social media feedback to get immediate insight on customer sentiment, build a better understanding of customer usage and needs, and make device adjustments post-purchase.

Honeywell, for example, is leveraging Azure to help customers unlock the real-world insights available through the interfaces the company provides. Using time-series information from connected devices, Azure Machine Learning, part of the Cortana Intelligence Suite, is helping Honeywell predict device health, prevent device failure, and better understand how customers interact with the systems that run their homes. The data Honeywell collects in Azure also allows them to learn about how consumers use their products, enabling insights for continual product improvements and new value creation for customers.

Delight customers with rich personal experiences. Built on artificial intelligence and cognitive services capabilities, Microsoft’s Cortana Personal Assistant brings together a personalized experience that spans devices and personal productivity, offering the capability to manage the environment around these.

Pivothead used Microsoft Cognitive Services to quickly build a smart device that looks like an ordinary pair of eyeglasses, but actually offers people who are visually impaired a window into the sighted world. Using Microsoft APIs, Pivothead was able to develop very complex and specific capabilities with just a few lines of code, which now opens up a whole new market for the company’s products.

Strengthen customer relationships with intelligent sales & marketing. Connected devices and advances in data analytics also offer a wealth of opportunities to drive more effective sales and marketing efforts. By gaining a stronger understanding of the market and individual customers, you can better target the right buyers—leveraging automated analysis capabilities to deliver greater ROI. Employees can then take those insights to deliver better service, increase cross-sell and upsell, and strengthen relationships with personalized offers.

The Liebherr Group created an extensive social knowledge network using Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Social Engagement. This solution helped the company react to comments, talk to customers, and solve issues, moving customer sentiment from neutral to positive over a six-month period. Liebherr is integrating customer preferences in the next product iteration, identifying potential buyers and contacting them proactively.

Using Microsoft HoloLens, Lowe’s is providing customers in select stores with a new way to experience home improvement. Lowe’s customers can experience a holographic representation of a completely new kitchen, adjust finishes and options instantly, and share their designs easily online. Using this visual approach, Lowe’s can better hone in on what a customer really wants and create a more intuitive, personalized experience.

Create new value through integrated service & support. By establishing a continual connection to your customers and their devices that extends well beyond the initial product purchase, connected devices open up the possibility for new business models and revenue streams. For example, you can transform your customer service from responsive fixes to predictive maintenance or create new channels for continual offers that help you to build long-term relationships, not one-off transactions.

BUNN is leveraging Microsoft Azure IoT services to move from responsive fixes to predictive maintenance to minimize downtime, reduce services costs and transform the customer experience. Honeywell Building Solutions has created an Azure-based IoT software platform that accelerates time-to-market for its connected solutions, creates new software-as-a-service–based revenue streams, and transforms Honeywell’s business model for greater competitive advantage.

Accelerate your connected consumer devices strategy

As these examples illustrate, the opportunities for manufacturers to seize value with cloud-based connected consumer devices are endless. Whether you are planning to use Microsoft’s end-to-end platform, or take advantage of our modular set of offerings, we are ready to meet your business needs using a highly flexible framework. Don’t get left behind; the time to invest in a connected consumer device strategy is today.

Learn more about how Microsoft can help your business. We’d also like to invite you to see this next revolution in digital transformation for yourself by joining us at Hannover Messe 2017 on April 24-28 in Hannover, Germany. Our industrial innovation showcases will demonstrate how some of the top manufacturers in the world are already realizing true business excellence and impactful ROI as a result of their transformations. We’ll give you a hands-on roadmap that will show you how your business can achieve similar results.

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