Internet of Things – Game Changer or gadget?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is, along with blockchain and voice assistants, among the most-discussed digital topics these days. Opinions on the IoT range from the euphoric, through the intrigued about new networking possibilities and all the way to the skeptical about added value for users.
Points of contention set aside, experts do agree on one thing: IoT applications will continue to spread more and more rapidly. It is estimated that 25 to 30 billion connected objects could be in use around the world by as early as 2020. These numbers illustrate just how relevant the subject will be in the future. The fields of application range from consumer products like fitness trackers and connected home systems, through networked production systems for industry 4.0, digital health systems, smart cities and all the way to digital point-of-sale solutions.
How the IoT really creates added value
With any innovation, however, the question must be asked: Is this really a game changer, or just another gadget? From my point of view, a game changer should meet at least two of the following criteria:
- Productivity boost: IoT applications can help make production processes more efficient. For instance, mobile devices or data glasses can help employees in production units to reduce their error rates or to work more efficiently.
- Cost reduction: Significant cost savings can be achieved thanks to IoT solutions. Connected health systems and digitally-enabled remote diagnoses, for example, contribute to optimizing treatment and travel costs and allow patients to receive faster and more targeted care.
- Relevance to customer use: The IoT system has to provide clear added value: A good example would be a smart sound system that connects to streaming services to allow the user to listen to unlimited music at home without CDs or a stereo, and which, in the ideal case, could be steered by voice command.
- New revenue potential: In addition to the sale price of the IoT device itself, additional revenue sources can be tapped through service models such as subscriptions.
IoT beauty tech: The digitally connected hair salon
The beauty tech sector is a relatively recent but rapidly growing segment in the field of IoT applications. Examples of beauty tech products include small UV sensors designed to protect users from the dangers of excessive solar radiation, skin trackers for routine facial analyses and wrinkle prevention, and even connected bathroom mirrors with display and augmented reality functions. At Henkel Beauty Care, we used the Internet of Things to develop the first digitally connected hair salon, a B2B solution for salon owners that offers added value to hair stylists and their customers alike.
In our conversations with hair stylists, we found out that they already have the necessary expertise to evaluate the external condition of hair very accurately, but that they are capable of determining internal characteristics such as the robustness and moisture level of hair on their own. Their perception of a customer’s natural hair color also tends to be subjective, and can be further influenced by the salon’s lighting. These are all important aspects in finding the optimal care products and selecting the appropriate color to achieve the best possible results for customers.
The Schwarzkopf Professional SalonLab is a digitally connected ecosystem for hair salons, made up of three distinct steps: The SalonLab Analyzer, a handheld scanner, starts by measuring the internal condition of hair, its moisture level and its exact color using near-infrared and light sensors. The SalonLab Consultant app then helps stylists complete their hair analyses, displays the measured results graphically and provides the basis for personalized color consultations. Thanks to augmented reality technology, customers can see how a particular color would look on their hair in a live picture on the stylist’s tablet. Finally, the SalonLab Customizer automatically prepares a personalized shampoo tailored to the customer’s unique hair characteristics and prints an individualized label for it. All of this happens directly in the salon.
Our IoT system creates new potential revenue sources for hair stylists, including salon services like hair analyses, personal consultations and individualized products. Henkel Beauty Care is thus laying the groundwork for disruptive, data-driven business models. We, in turn, can use the hair and application data collected via SalonLab in compliance with the latest data protection regulations to develop new products and services.
Game changer or gadget? It’s a question that, for most IoT innovations, can only be answered retrospectively. We at Henkel, just like the Schwarzkopf Professional hair stylists with whom we developed SalonLab, firmly believe in the potential of this innovative IoT system and in its value to customers. I am certain that it will set new trends in the hair styling industry.