Author(s): Peter Bryer
Amazon recently introduced an invitation-only trial of Dash Buttons: branded, single-purpose Wi-Fi buttons that users can attach to objects around the house. A button could be placed on a dishwasher, for example, and a single press would place detergent into the user's Amazon basket for later review and ordering.
The buttons connect Amazon Prime account holders in the US to the company's Dash Replenishment Service. Amazon is also working with device makers to embed Dash connectivity directly into products like printers and coffee machines for convenient restocking. The ability for household appliances to be connected back to a supplier to support recurring revenue is a long-standing dream of many manufacturers, and could lead to some interesting new subsidized business models.
There was a great deal of scepticism about the introduction of Dash Buttons last week, and many industry observers felt that Amazon had introduced a product for a non-existent problem. There was also concern about the potential commercialisation of the smart home — are connected, branded buttons overly intrusive? They're an interesting experiment and possibly a phase, but are likely to be overtaken by embedded software and connectivity in the appliances, with repeat purchasing managed through individual, dedicated apps.
It's too early to tell if Dash Buttons could really appeal to busy customers, but Amazon is demonstrating a long-term industry vision of a lifestyle with entrenched connectivity, in which even ordinary consumer staples are being hooked into the network of things. The buttons themselves are free to Prime users, an indication of how inexpensive the hardware of connectivity has become. Support from advertisers looking to maintain regular customers and improve purchase loyalty has made networked devices disposable items.
At Mobile World Congress 2015, Diageo — a corporation owning dozens of well-known brands of alcohol — introduced the Johnnie Walker Blue Label connected smart bottle. The company has worked with Norway-based Thinfilm to develop an NFC-enabled bottle that allows consumers to determine the product's authenticity. It also supports an ongoing relationship between the bottle's owner and the brand: a dedicated app allows users to learn more about the Scotch, receive promotions and communicate with the company. The juxtaposition of a whisky brand alongside high-tech consumer electronics at Mobile World Congress could be one of the more interesting signals of the coming level of connectivity in homes.
Unlike Diageo's smart bottle, Amazon Dash Buttons aren't designed for luxury goods but for the likes of washing powder, razor blades and rubbish bags. Even bins are getting in on the connected action.