Giving Users Greater IoT Device Control

It’s not exactly a big secret that the IoT is shaking up the manufacturing world as we know it.  Before the IoT-age, product companies had no idea who their customers were unless they went to the trouble of filling out a warranty card or registering their product. And let’s be honest, that hardly ever happened.  Why?  Because the product still worked whether it was registered or not.  And often times, registering it didn’t offer customers any benefit.

The IoT changes all of that. One of the IoT’s key benefits of having a connected product is the ability to control it from anywhere, anytime. But being able to do that also entails device and user management. In order for a device to get online and work as intended, it, along with its users, need to be catalogued and permissions need to be granted — who can use this device?  how can they use it?  when can they use it?, etc. If the user permissioning process is not well-planned before devices are in the hands of users, manufacturers must carry the burden of granting users permission to control their devices in order to use them. This can cause a drain on resources and challenges when scaling the business.

The Xively team took on the challenge of making provisioning controls easier – and we came up with two different options to fit various use cases.

The first one is simple.  The manufacturer can store an entire database of users next to the system and let users claim their own devices. With a simple code scan or by entering a serial number, the user can claim permissions without the manufacturer’s involvement.

Alternatively, manufacturers can put users into nested groups or hierarchies, and allow customers to manage their own permissions. Structuring users into Groups offer two advantages. First, they allow manufacturers to set up more complex permission scenarios with multiple levels. Users at the very top of the Group, for example, can be given permission to control everything at any level below them. Groups also allow users in the hierarchies to control everything in their level and below, thereby granting them autonomy to run their own system.

Why is this important?  Consider, for example, a thermostat company that sells its smart thermostat to a building management firm with multiple properties. The way “groups” work — the manufacturer can control all the thermostats it sells, the building management company can control all the thermostats it purchases, and the individual building managers can control the thermostats in his building(s) and assign permission to the appropriate tenants. The tenants can only see and control the thermostat(s) in their apartments. Organizing permissions in this way allows customers to manage IoT devices in a clear and logical manner – giving them more control, and offloading the work from the manufacturer

And secondly, giving all levels of device users more visibility and control can also help save money – something everyone cares about.  Take that same example of the thermostat company selling to a multi-dwelling unit building manager. Being able to regulate minimum and maximum temperatures based on usage patterns or budgets can mean a huge difference in energy costs. For example, if a unit is sitting empty for a period of time, programmatically manage the temperatures when no one is in the unit to reduce unnecessary heating or cooling. Service costs are also a big consideration. Instead of deploying a service technician to test a thermostat annually or every time the lease turns over, knowing devices are working properly and only hiring a technician when service is truly needed is a huge cost savings to any customer.

Having to rely on the device manufacturer to set up a product feels archaic and inefficient in the connected world we live in today.  Xively makes it possible for both the manufacturer to build out groups that are tailored to their customers’ usage cases, and to have the control they need without extra overhead.

Learn more about Xively Groups here.

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