When I went through all the photos I took at CES earlier today, I was struck by how many pictures I shot of smart beds and related sleeping aids. I can’t for the life of me remember why I did this. Perhaps it was because I was subconsciously drawn to the soothing images of restful slumber by the dreadful jet lag I was suffering, or perhaps it was simply because the booths displaying them were close to mine.
Whatever the reason, the rich variety of products on display for just one single category showed that there is no shortage of innovation in the consumer IoT market. No matter what kind of problem you may have in getting some decent shut-eye, there are elegant, beautifully-designed, and technologically-proven solutions for it in spades.
The question I have floating around my head, however, is whether the demand for consumer IoT products such as smart beds, fitness trackers, and apparel will match the abundant supply. How many people will, for example, be willing to pay a premium for a smart bed when they have a perfectly serviceable dumb one at home even if it does promise to deliver scientifically-proven superior sleeping experience?
The answer is that I have no idea, but I would caution that it didn’t take long for demand for smart watches and tracking devices to slow down once the first couple of generations had been picked up by the fitness enthusiasts who truly valued the information that they could deliver. Driving mainstream adoption for the products among more sedentary segments of the population remains a huge challenge, and will probably have to be accomplished through other routes to market such as partnerships with health insurance companies and corporate HR departments.
While I have no doubt that some form of IoT functionality will become a standard feature in a bed in five or ten years, companies entering the smart slumber space now will face the more immediate task of pushing sales and building the right business model over the next couple of years. No matter how great the technology they may think they have, it will at best only give them a short-term advantage and will not be enough to sustain them in what will be a ferociously competitive market.
Just look what happened to so many early entrants in the PC and smart phone markets. Once the dust had settled, very few were left to enjoy the fruits of their first-mover advantage.