Amazon Dash Button
The Internet of Things (IoT) is still in its infancy. While most people have at least one or two connected devices already populating the house, it currently remains unclear exactly how they all interact with each other. This month Amazon announced a new service that attempts to bring the IoT one step closer to practical application. The Amazon Dash Button is a free device that you can stick to your pantry/washing machine/medicine cabinet that provides one simple function. When you notice you are running low on your supply of mac & cheese/laundry detergent/razor blades all you have to do is press the button. The Dash Button is connected to your home Wi-Fi and sends a signal to your Amazon app to replenish the supply of whatever product is running low. Magic you say? In point of fact, it is quite simple technology. Each button is tied to only one brand of product so when pressed, it just pushes that product sku to your smartphone app. Before you worry too much about your three year-old getting ahold of one and pressing the button over and over, rest assured that a second order can’t be placed until the first order is delivered. Also Amazon confirms all orders by sending an alert to your phone. The buttons launched with 18 brands (full list here) for Amazon Prime members only. The assumption is that Amazon will add more brands as the product matures.
While the Dash Button is an interesting idea and definitely generates some good buzz for Amazon, it’s likely not a practical implementation of this technology. For instance, a few buttons scattered around the house are useful, but I can’t imagine most consumers will want a pantry filled with dozens of these buttons. Also, consumers are still very price conscious. Many shoppers switch back and forth between a few different brands depending on what’s on sale at any given time. Dash makes no allowances for these situations. Perhaps this is why The Motley Fool called Amazon Dash “…nothing more than a cute gimmick.” The best way to think of Dash is as a beta test for this type of auto replenishment service. Amazon will use this opportunity to gather useful information on how/when consumers reorder these types of products. This data will be extremely handy for future application in a more practical execution. This might possibly take the form of device integration. LG Electronics is already experimenting with smart appliances such as refrigerators that can detect when products are running low. Even Amazon is already moving in this direction with their Dash Replenishment Service, which allows certain connected devices to reorder products. They’ve partnered with such appliance manufacturers as Whirlpool, Brita and Brother.
The Internet of Things will be a boon to consumer convenience and Amazon looks to be a big part of making that happen. The Dash Button is far from a polished finished product, but it’s a necessary step in the right direction and a fun toy for early adopters. Look for further integration between our homes/devices with the brands we love. In the meantime, trips to the local supermarket will still be a staple of everyday life.