The truth about … the failure of connected objects
This was to be the Grail of the French high-tech … Today, the Internet of objects is at a standstill. In fact, products are often useless and expensive.
In the world of connected objects, creativity is limitless. To realize this, it was enough to stroll through the alleys of the Consumers Electronic Show (CES), the annual high mass of consumer electronics, which gathered in Las Vegas, from January 5 to 8, geeks came of the whole world. Here, Energysquare proposes a charger wireless for mobile, there, Hydrao who developed the first shower head. There is also Eugène, the garbage bin that helps selective sorting, Octopus, a watch for toddlers, or Rool’in, an electric bicycle wheel … These are the finds of some of the 28 start-ups specialized in The connected objects, selected during a competition organized by Business France. Some carry ingenious innovations, others of kind gadgets. As a toothbrush, fork, shoes, tee-shirt or sextoy connected.
The connected objects had to be the grail of the French high-tech. Two years ago, tricolor start-ups were flaunting in the aisles of the Las Vegas Show. Finally an area where the french touch imposed itself! Obviously, the Internet of objects would be the third digital revolution, after Internet and mobile. Institutes then multiply promising studies: the GfK Institute plans 30 objects connected per household in 2020, the firm Gartner announces 30 billion connected objects in the world, while its rival IDC predicts a business volume of 1,700 billion Dollars …
As for Jawbone, a pioneer in business trackers, it has come close to the financial crash. In France, distributors, such as Fnac and Darty, have reduced the sails on their dedicated spaces. Preferably redeploying objects connected by shelves – such as toys connected to the children’s shelf.
The GfK Institute is putting on 1.5 million wearables (intelligent clothing and accessories) sold in 2016, far from the expected 2 million. Some 740,000 connected watches were sold in the first nine months of 2016, for an average value of 240 euros. “The upsurge will come when there are uses directly linked to the watch, without going through the smartphone: when we can use it as a Navigo card in the metro, for example”, summarizes Michaël Mathieu, director of the markets image and Telecom at GfK.
“This is not a mass phenomenon. Normal people do not even know what a connected object is. And to believe that we will seduce the market with our objects that are worth 200 euros is an illusion. “He himself failed with his latest invention called Mother, a connected object connected to sensors to transmit alerts. He had to review his copy, and launch a range of sensors, Peanuts, sold at 29 euros per unit and declined by uses: Thermo Peanut, a connected thermometer, Guard Peanut, an anti-theft …
To conquer the general public, “the manufacturers of connected objects must go beyond the geeks,” explains Stéphane Bohbot, founder of distributor Lick. After the failure of fanciful start-ups like Hapilabs and its connected range, Business France understood the Morand, its tech manager and innovative services. Another criterion is the price: “The creators of start-ups sometimes forget the distributor’s margin to add, which multiplies their price price levels.
Nearly zero security
Unnecessary, expensive, these connected objects would also be insecure! On October 21, Twitter, Spotify, Netflix and other sites suffered a giant cyber attack. Hackers used tens of millions of connected objects, such as cameras and babyphones, as intermediaries. To block several websites at the same time, they bombarded the servers of Dyn, the infrastructure used by Internet users to reach these sites. A first. And a revelation: on these connected objects, security is almost nil.
As a result of this cyber attack, “vulnerable objects were hurriedly repatriated by a Chinese manufacturer, Xiongmai Technology. There was no update possible, “says Matthieu Bonenfant, security expert at Stormfield. The latter sells massively connected cameras in the United States at low prices. These connected objects “often have a factory default password, type 0000”, he continues. A boon for the pirates of the Web. On December 11th, the American site Business Insider prophesied the end of connected objects. The sector, which consisted of a myriad of start-ups, was to continue to consolidate in 2017.
In France, the national champion Withings was bought by Nokia for 160 million e-health division. The redemption was born of an observation: the difficulty for these young actors to build a name. “The new French brands in this sector have less than 5% awareness among the general public,” said Jean-Marie Philipp, consultant at GfK. Withings is barely mentioned in the partnership he had concluded – even before joining the Finnish group – with L’Oréal to develop a connected hair brush, barded with sensors. Sad end: the brand Withings will no longer be affixed in 2017 on its connected objects, replaced by the Nokia logo.
Netatmo forced to alliance
The other French nugget, Netatmo, also had to ally with two industrial building, Legrand and Velux. With the first, entered its capital in November 2015, it will market in 2017 a dozen electrical outlets and switches connected. With the second, she designed intelligent controls for windows and blinds. In the end, contracts of twenty years – what to see coming for the start-up, little about the amount of sales of thermostats and connected cameras. The puff marketing the Internet of the objects falls little by little. The French Tech no doubt lost one of its emblematic divisions. But its start-ups do not lack playgrounds.