The Internet of Things is rapidly growing, and Amazon’s new Dash Button demonstrates how mobile IoT technology is revolutionizing day-to-day household routines.
Amazon's Dash Button moves 1-click shopping off the Internet and into the real world. The button is intended to eliminate those last-minute dashes to the store when you realize you're just about out of common household, grocery, and personal care items like laundry detergent, paper towels, and mac and cheese. Each Amazon Dash Button is associated with a specific product and size; stick the button near where you store or use the product so you'll see when you're running low, click the button, and an order is placed. Effectively, it's just like the Staples "Easy" button, except that it actually works.
Like other IoT devices, it uses an app on a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection to manage and set up the device. The button then uses Wi-Fi to connect to Amazon and place the order.
What's different about this particular IoT device is that it isn't a souped-up version of an existing product. There are smart doorbells, smart thermostats, smart washing machines, and more, but all of those added Internet connectivity to existing devices. The Amazon Dash Button basically adds Internet connectivity to the moment you realize you need a product. Sure, you could order from your smartphone, but you may forget by the time you get from the basement laundry room and find wherever you left your phone.
Of course, most people probably won't want to clutter up their home with multiple buttons—there are 274 Dash Button products, and since each button is programmed to order a single product, a separate button is needed for each.
Naturally, Amazon has realized this and has alternatives. The Dash Wand, which is part of its AmazonFresh program, is a wand which includes a barcode scanner. This means it isn't limited to a selected suite of products but can be used to order almost anything in your home. Unlike the Dash Button, items aren't delivered automatically but are just placed in your online shopping cart, so you need to go online to complete checkout. It wouldn't take much to enhance it to manage checkout from the wand, though.
Like using a smartphone app to shop, though, the Dash Wand requires having the device with you. Amazon's Echo, which is a home-based smart assistant, recognizes voice commands. So as long as Echo is within the sound of your voice, you can tell it what you want and it will add items on your shopping list, which you can then search for and purchase on Amazon.
Still, all of these methods require a person to recognize they're about to run out of a product and order it. The Dash Replenishment Service makes that unnecessary. This isn't like auto-ship, where you automatically receive a product every month whether you need it or not. Using the Dash Replenishment Service, products like coffee machines and printers will be able to determine when they're running low on beans or ink, and order more. Some manufacturers may choose to incorporate a button to press, so the owner controls the ordering process; others may set the order up to happen automatically.
The end result will be a world where no one needs to plan a shopping trip; supplies arrive as needed, on demand. In short, it will be a world where buying physical products is almost the same as buying electricity. Flip a light switch, push a Dash button; things are just there when you need them. Maybe eventually home-based 3D printers will spit out some products immediately after purchase. You won’t even have to stand outside waiting for Amazon’s delivery drone to arrive.
Tony Scherba is a President | Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.