A Branded Home:
The vision of Amazon Dash

Have you seen this yet?

This is Amazon’s Internet of Things (IoT) vision for helping people with a real problem — How can I easily get refills of the things that I use regularly?

“You mean I can just press a button and an order will be placed almost automatically? That sounds fantastic!”

So my lovely kitchen designed by IKEA will go from the imagined intent here:

From IKEA.com

That is until it scales. Think of how many different products you need regular refills of around your house. Imagine now that you will have a separate button for every single one of these products who all equally want to tie loyalty programs to their Dash button users.

Maybe it doesn’t start out too badly:

These represent all the current brands that are supporting Dash + 2 more for fun. Buttons a slightly larger than scale.

But as time goes on, as more vendors join the Amazon Dash party, this begins to happen:

Yup, your kitchen and bathroom become a scene out of a day dream by Ogilvy and Mather. Every brand and every product in a brand all get their own buttons. This is a marketers dream. No more competing at the supermarket for shelf space where their competitors compete for eye-share, and desperately cling to the hope that their advertising campaign puts their product in your shopping cart. Of course, they’d pay Amazon for this type of direct and focused access to their customers.

But the reality is they all can’t have this space even if they aren’t competing for each other. As the images above tells so very well, people won’t tolerate this type of intrusion into their private world. While the convenience factor is interesting, I’m not sure that is enough of a value proposition, or that the problem is really THAT compelling to cause customers to tolerate such an intrusion.

Look at the video again. Notice that the scenario they present to us only shows you one-off brand/product examples. I’m wondering if anyone at Amazon with all their great lean experimentation tested this against the real world scenario of multiple products and brands. Did they only get a feel for theoretical interest and possible adoption? Or did they take this further to understand that this would be more widely adopted. My Google Buzz case study alarm is going off.

“Instead of having all these different buttons all over the house, how about just one button? … You put the button on the package that needs refilling and hit the button and it knows to order that thing.”

So being the user-centered designer that I am, I showed Dash to my wife when I got home. She immediate gafawed a big gafaw. She went to the quickly observed concern about kids and kittens. Forever, (well as of now) to be called the K&K Issues of the IoT (consider it coined here!).

By the way other issues are:

  • roommates with different choices in the same home
  • moving locations and having a collection of logo’ed devices that need to be packed when I move from place to place.
  • what if I don’t remember to hit the button at the time of use, but later on?

Do you have other reasons? Comment here:

My 8 year old son was also there and he got crackin’. He heard me talk about the problem I described above and his mind brilliantly went right to a great solution. “Instead of having all these different buttons all over the house, how about just one button? … You put the button on the package that needs refilling and hit the button and it knows to order that thing.”

How could this work? At first given my experience at Motorola Solutions, I thought of this product:

CS1504 barcode scanner by Zebra Technologies

It is a small barcode scanner. Unlike camera-based scanners they work really quickly, don’t require the same “focus” or steady hands that we experience when trying to scan barcodes with our phones. It is also an older and fairly rugged form factor and can be made significantly smaller today for not that much more money, and obviously branded in Amazonian colors and logos.

Using this, would require that Amazon do nothing w/ their vendors and ALL vendors regardless of “participation” would be able to gain value from this. It in essence becomes just another value add to Prime customers like video streaming and similar services.

But then imagine a different course. One where a) Amazon still gets another revenue stream; b) supports its value-add on top of Prime; c) and not cause logo-vomit on their customer’s kitchens.

What if I could use the same RFID capable system that is already on my new iPhone or many an Android phone? RFID works so much better on phones than barcode scanning for the reasons mentioned above. I can tie it to my ApplePay or Google Wallet so that phone makers get their piece, too. I don’t need an extra thing in my home, and I get to make a deal with the packaged goods providers at the same time.

The deal w/ the providers is something that stores like Walmart has already been trying to do for different reasons, which is to get makers of goods to add RFID tags to their products already. Walmart likes it for logistics purposes, but Amazon (besides that reason) could tell providers that if you’ll support us by adding RFID tags in your packaging, then we can add you to our list of supported products. We can even create a “logo” that tells buyers that the product is Amazon Dash ready, similar to current good that are WeightWatchers measured or similar co-logo’ing programs out there today.

For those with older phones or phones that won’t/can’t support RFID, then you can create a device similar to the one above but instead of barcodes, uses RFID reading to do the functionality through being connected to the internet directly, or maybe radioed into an Echo device in the home.

Some variant of this scenario seems to me to be a win-win-win for vendors, customers and for Amazon in one fail swoop that avoids the horrible logo pollution which is required with the current example.

But I have to ask, Amazon, what was wrong with the original Dash?

If you live in an Amazon Fresh zone you could already use this.

Support for the IKEA image making w/ Dash buttons provided by my new friend all the way in Ukraine, Volodymyr Bondaruk. You can see more of his & his colleagues work here: https://dribbble.com/design-office . Thank you for your quick help, Wladi!