I recently listened to an episode of Andreessen Horowitz’s excellent a16z podcast, posted on the heels of CES 2016 by Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky. Though they touch on a lot of things, the title says it all for me — “Software is What Distinguishes the Hardware Winners” — I couldn’t agree more.
I walked the halls at CES myself this year, and one consistent takeaway was just that — that the hardware pieces are, in many respects, commodities, and what makes a product stand out is the elegance of the software experience that goes along with it. I don’t mean to sell short some truly inspirational product design, not at all. But when you have 14 connected refrigerators vying for your attention, what you notice and what really differentiates one from the other for consumers is how they interact with the app.
Coway is a Seoul-based manufacturer of household appliances and a market leader in Korea, Asia, and soon, the U.S. We’ve been engaged to concept, design, and develop the mobile applications for one of their upcoming products (their first in the U.S.), the Airmega air purifier. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware, designed by some experienced product designers, and connected to the internet and the user through an iOS or Android app. Think Nest for air purification.
As good-looking and well-made as the Airmega is, the app really puts the product over the top and makes it special. The mobile experience delivers meaningful extensions of product functionality, like the ability to control the unit from anywhere you have an internet connection, home or away. It also allows you to track and view current and historical air quality in your home, set timers, track filter life, and a lot more. The Airmega experience for a consumer quickly becomes the user experience delivered by the mobile application, first and foremost.
And it was nice to see that out of the swirling multitudes of CES, the app got noticed! We got two shout-outs before the show wrapped, one from Mashable and the other from Boing Boing. Great news for us and for Coway!
We couldn’t be more excited about the product and can’t wait for it to hit the market. And we’re fortunate that our good friends at Coway saw the critical importance of the app to their mission early on and sought us out. They’ve created a world class consumer product, and I’m proud that we played our part in that.
So for all you IoT product folks out there, please don’t focus on just the hardware, at the expense of the software. You should budget and plan for a robust design and development phase for the app, and if you do it well your product will win.
Feel free to reach out to us with your IoT projects, at email@example.com, I’ll see your email!