Failure To Connect: A Look At Wireless Innovations That Haven’t Quite Taken Off

November 06, 2014




With innovation comes frustration.

Introducing a new idea or technology innovation is exciting, but every once in a while there comes an idea so big, consumers aren’t quite sure what to do with it.

From a competitive strategy standpoint, there are advantages to being the first mover on a new product. You attract an audience that’s eager to get their hands on the new idea and you can own 100% of the market share, being first to market. You can also develop an early consumer loyalty to your brand, which could help you stand up against competitors coming in later in the game. Look at Google Glass as an example. Although not available to all consumers, they’re in the process of rolling out and building buzz over a market that nobody else is competing in at that level. The i-Pad is another great example. It owned the tablet market because…well… there were no other tablets on the shelves in the beginning. Steve Jobs may have been a once-in-a-generation mind, but the success of his products can often be attributed to being the first of their kind.

However, there are plenty of examples where being first can actually be a disadvantage, too. One major drawback to introducing a new technology to consumers is the immense cost associated with educating them on what it is your product does, what problem the product solves, and why they need it. Consumers need to answer the question why do I need this product? And if they can’t, it’s likely not to catch on, no matter how brilliant it is or how well it works.

Many examples of unsuccessful first attempts can be tough to recall because failure in this department tends to be forgotten long before it’s entered into the history books. Take the Segway for example. Sure, you might still see them zipping around in clusters of ten on a city tour, but the goal of revolutionizing urban travel didn’t quite come to fruition.

Car-to-Car Communications

Google’s self-driving-car turned a lot of heads. So many in fact, that the US government put their own wheels in motion. Unfortunately, these wheels might not be moving anywhere just yet. Forecasting the future of travel, self-driving vehicles might very well be it. But in order for that to happen, what the Department of Transportation needs to decide, is just how close we are to having the technology in place to make it possible. In February of 2014, the Transportation Department stated that “NHTSA will begin working on a regulatory proposal that would require vehicle-to-vehicle communication devices in new vehicles in a future year.”

The Transportation Department also said “the timing of implementation will be informed by the comments we receive on our research report (on vehicle-to-vehicle communications) and additional information we receive as we pursue a regulation.” Another wall to innovation might be the government’s reaction to how use of the technology impacts the people’s safety.

Although Google’s self-driving car belongs on the list of amazing technology innovations, the glacial pace of change in the transportation industry make the vehicle’s adoption on highways nationwide a bit of a problem. Perhaps with better-connected cities and “smarter” highways, we’ll start to see this technology take off. Progress in this area could very well rely heavily on the success of new technologies evolving in the wireless space.

BlackBerry Z10

blackberryFor a while, the BlackBerry by BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM) was it. If you owned a BlackBerry, it meant you could check email on your phone and could type using a full keyboard. It also meant you had access to a message system outside of texting – and when it first came out, it was the thing everyone wanted, everyone needed. But the market can be cruel to those that don’t adapt. The i-Phone came along and broke a lot of rules previously held in the cell phone world. For example, Apple had a full Internet-capable browser; putting a huge strain on the networks of wireless provider AT&T. RIM couldn’t figure out how exactly to compete from there, and struggled to recover from the blow the i-Phone gave the company. The Z10 was released with the goal of being an i-Phone competitor, but it was too little too late.

Cities Setting Up Wi-Fi Networks

A tremendous barrier for ambitious metropolitan areas attempting to create city-wide Wi-Fi networks is the tremendous cost associated with such projects. From New York City to Los Angeles, mayors and representatives were getting very excited about the possibility of being a truly connected city. Unfortunately, the technology at the time was not quite ready to make this happen and the cost associated with getting current technology up-to-speed was not an R&D line-item on the city planners’ budget. Across the country during a time period from about 2005-2007, cities made big announcements about being the first, the only, and the shining stars that were going to make Wi-Fi accessible to all. This just wasn’t the case. But maybe we’re getting closer to seeing this happen today, with technologies such as wireless mesh networkssmall cells, andHetNets evolving. Only time will tell!


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