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article imageOp-Ed: Amazon + gadgets + internet = Your appliances shop online for you

By Paul Wallis     Mar 1, 2016 in Internet
Sydney - Amazon has taken a lead in the new incarnation of The internet of Things — an environment where everything is connected to the net. How about a machine that automatically orders new stuff when you run out? That’s what Amazon’s Dash does.
Dash replenishment services software is one of the very first applications of the theory of the Internet of Things as it’s been espoused for years. The Internet of Things will connect your home to anything and everything, is the theory. In the case of Dash, your Brita Infinity pitcher water jug tracks your usage, and when you’ve used 40 gallons, reorders your jug filters online for you using Wi-Fi. The Dash-style software can also be used in fridges, where you simply select your order, etc. Samsung is getting the same idea up and running for its printers. It’s quick, it’s convenient, saves you some time and money running around shopping, simplifies your purchasing process; it’s a basically good idea. It could even cut down traffic on the roads.
Big future revenue stream in startup stage, you think? Right. This is your instant interface with Amazon reordering, and also those selling on Amazon. Dash and Dash-like software can be applied to just about any regular buying process, at least in theory.
Major benefits for consumers and businesses
The business values are good, too. Businesses like food and drink manufacturers and distributors can buy advertising on Dash, meaning you have instant access to favorite brands, and perhaps featured specials, etc. This is core retail advertising, but this time it’s in context with your actual needs. It’s a big possible plus, and the basic ordering process is already familiar to anyone who shops online. No great learning curve required.
In broader terms, applying the internet of Things to the economy, it has a few other upsides. Amazon may also be creating a much more agile, efficient business environment for all kinds of businesses, manufacturers, and products if this thing gets off the ground. Global exposure, top quality business practices, it’s actually a very good economic model.
Arguably the single strongest idea in this scenario is that instead of consumers staggering around stores in mid-flight between life, job, home, and other strange things, you can actually sit down and think about what you want, make an informed decision, and see what you’re spending.
To some extent, this is a natural evolution of shopping online. The values for consumers are:
1. Speed and efficiency – How much time do you spend dithering through the process of trying to buy things?
2. Money saving – Less “handling” when buying, less road costs for consumers, easy to track transactions.
3. Consumer laws and rights aren’t affected by this process.
Too good to be true? Yes, unless a few problems get proper attention.
The good news is very good. The potential downsides and possible practical problems, however, can’t go unaddressed and could get quite nasty.
The basics:
Security - Anyone who works online will tell you without hesitation that the major deal with doing business online is security. Amazon, in my experience, are pretty good from ordering to delivery, but not invulnerable. The idea that you need to worry about how secure or insecure your fridge’s software may or may not be doesn’t bear thinking about. At the other end, a denial of service attack could do incredible, expensive damage.
Transaction issues – Any kind of commercial transaction can have complications. The new move to Blockchain accounting may be the natural fix for managing a gigantic revenue stream, but underestimating the difficulties isn’t an option. The usual problem with a new business operation is that some new scam that nobody ever thought of before suddenly throws a rock in to the wedding cake.
Crime – Crime goes where the money goes, particularly online. Invent a new massive cash stream and it’ll drop in to see what it can do. ID theft could be pure poison in an internet of Things where your Things are using your ID, for example. Other types of fraud, notably bogus sellers, are another natural risk.
Future consumer issues – Changing the way a product is sold doesn’t affect your consumer rights. It may, however, affect your rights in specific transactions. The fact that there are so many third party suppliers in the internet of Things is a possible major black hole for problems if anything goes wrong, for example.
Say you order your water, and get Coke instead. A normal minor risk of a glitch in any ordering process. Who’s liable? You’re supposed to get what you paid for — but how do you tidy up the mess, get the wrong products back, revise payments, etc. in this environment? How do suppliers fix their ends? In some cases, simple problems like these can be a lot costlier than complex problems, simply because they’re easy mistakes to make, and more of them are made.
You’ve got an instant third wheel; there is no transaction with the correct supplier, money may have been credited to the wrong supplier for the wrong goods, and the only option is a laborious accounting process, and a pretty frustrating experience for the consumer. All it takes is one basic data entry error to achieve this. Bearing in mind that 5% of all data entered contains errors, and apply that scale to a business the size of Amazon. It’s the damage control time and process that leaves the consumer behind the eight ball.
“Dependent” consumers – A lot of people can’t go out and shop normally for various very serious reasons. Invalids, the aged, and the sick are basically “dependent” on whatever remote shopping options are available to them. It’s not a great, or necessarily safe, commercial environment for them. The Internet of Things may be a godsend, or a case of having to depend on whatever degree of efficiency is applied. If an order has problems as described above, a glitch also leaves dependent consumers without food and water. See any class and major civil actions in this mix?
Dash could be the Model T of future online business. There’s a lot to be said in favor of it. The risks, however, could be worth billions per year. My advice would be to model and road-test the hell out of it and build a good knowledge base for both problem prevention and fixes. This is too good an idea to allow in to the obvious minefields of doing business online. Get it right now, instead of the usual process of finding new bullets to dodge, and it’ll be great.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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