Connected On Command
Connected tech products—smart home accessories, GPS-enabled trackers, Bluetooth-enabled speakers and more—are flooding today’s marketplace, and many of these items have already transitioned into the promotional products industry.
Connected products are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), a system of connected devices with the ability to interact and transfer data over a network. In the retail market, IoT gives consumers more control over devices such as TVs and thermostats.
IoT devices use a variety of methods to connect and share data. The most common platforms through which these devices connect are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; other devices use LTE or even satellite connections to communicate.
Thanks to the explosive growth of the IoT, typically inert objects have become responsive, interactive and smart. Devices that would otherwise be static are now dynamic because they possess digital intelligence.
Creations Of Innovation
As the number of connected devices continues to rise, promotional product suppliers are incorporating them into their product offerings, with the goal of delivering innovative solutions to end users.
“It seems that people are universally interested in products that will make their lives easier and more connected,” says Carrie Lewis, marketing/trade marketing communications specialist for supplier BIC Graphic USA. “This means these types of promo items are desirable, useful and could have an extended lifespan. A focus on convenience is key with this type of product.”
Gwen Brey, marketing coordinator for supplier Beacon Promotions, says customers are looking for connected products as lifestyle gifts. “There is a strong interest in connected promotional products,” Brey says. “We see many requests come through for Bluetooth and wireless speakers and headphones. We are also seeing requests for items that have Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa built in.”
It seems connected products have created a good deal of opportunity for the promotional products industry’s suppliers, particularly those that specialize in technology. Brookelynn Miller, sales and marketing coordinator for supplier Origaudio, agrees.
“Not only are we seeing a huge need for tech items, but we’re seeing a demand for unique, useful and fun tech items,” Miller says. “This could include innovative smart buttons, drones, smart home technology and tech wearables. The tech category in the industry has evolved to meet the demand. I anticipate this category to only grow in the future.”
Peter Hirsch, president of supplier Hirsch Gifts, is also seeing a growing interest for connected technology products such as smart accessories, trackers and other connected products. And he sees that growth boosting the industry’s overall sales volume.
“This is definitely a growth area,” Hirsch says about connected products. “As market leaders in tech retail launch more connected products, the promotional product opportunity will grow.”
Cons Of Connectivity
Like many things, the IoT can be used for helpful or harmful ends. Connected products do come with their own special challenges, including issues with privacy, safety and security. After all, the shadow side of software is malware.
“The consumer needs to be aware that data mining and other cyber security risks as well as legal liability in terms of sharing information exist,” Hirsch says. “The key is buying from trusted sources.”
Lewis says testing and evaluating product safety has become even more important as the demand for tech products increases. “UL and Qi certifications are two examples of common marks to look for when it comes to evaluating a tech product’s safety,” Lewis adds. “Providing products that are tested to applicable standards helps to avoid unsafe malfunctions. These can help both suppliers and distributors feel confident when suggesting products to their customers.”
Don’t let the name Internet of Things fool you. The IoT is not limited to purely internet-based connectivity. Bluetooth technology is now emerging as a gold-standard protocol that is expanding the functionality and capacity of IoT connected devices.
“As a brand known for our technology products, we always get questions about the latest and greatest in the tech world,” says Brookelynn Miller, sales and marketing coordinator for supplier Origaudio. “There’s a level of expectation these days that items connect wirelessly via Bluetooth.”
“For instance, our Flyington Selfie Drone uses connectivity via Wi-Fi,” she adds. “I find that a lot of our customers who haven’t read the instructions assume it connects via Bluetooth before stumbling upon the fact that our pocket-sized drone does indeed use its own Wi-Fi network.”
Miller says Bluetooth items are becoming even more popular than those that connect to Wi-Fi.
“I think Bluetooth is getting to be universal,” she adds. “There’s an unpronounced assumption that if something connects wirelessly, it uses Bluetooth—at least when it comes to tech items in our industry.”
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Brittany Glenn is a Plano, Texas-based writer and a former associate editor of PPB.