By now, you’ve probably heard of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). The phrase gets thrown around as a buzzword in conversations around product, technology and market trends. However, there are a lot of people who are still trying to wrap their heads around what the IoT really is and what impact it might have on their businesses. Like augmented and virtual reality, IoT has the potential to be a major game changer. Here’s why:
As a lot of stories begin these days, the Internet of Things starts with the mobile device. Just as mobile devices opened a new channel for marketers to engage with consumers on the go, the IoT is opening up the scope of that channel by redefining the “device” and expanding connections between devices. At the same time, the IoT is collecting incredible amounts of real-time and contextual data previously thought unattainable. All of this adds up to a boatload of possibility for marketers.
The crux of the Internet of Things is connectivity. The new, expanded definition of connectivity refers to: 1) users connecting to smart devices to accomplish a task; 2) smart devices connecting with ordinary objects to deliver additional information, functionality, or value; and 3) smart software or smart devices connecting back with organizations to deliver insight on user behavior.
Redefining the Device
Let’s look at two classifications of devices:
Electronic or “Smart” Devices: Gartner Research estimates there will be 5 billion IoT devices in the market by end of this year and 25 billion by the end of 2020. Don’t see it? Go to Amazon.com and check out its new “Home Automation Devices” category. There you’ll find thousands of products that give you remote control of your home — from lighting and appliances to security and heating/cooling systems.
Still not a believer? Consider the newest automobile technologies we’re seeing — driverless vehicles, accident anticipation and prevention, and automatic parallel parking. All of these things think on behalf of, not in response to, the user. The perception of how we interact with the physical world is shifting as these products increase in demand.
Non-Electronic or “Dumb” Devices: Here’s where the Internet of Things really gets exciting! Everyday, non-smart objects can now be given social intelligence. Through a wireless connection and the use of sensors, smart labels and smart packaging, “dumb” products transform into smart devices.
Look around your home tonight. From food ingredients to cleaning supplies, every product in your home has the potential to become “smart.” From a marketing perspective, connecting a digital layer to a physical product allows us to do two things: 1) transform the object into a platform through which we can create content and dialogue, and 2) transfer data between product users and brands.
Creating New Opportunities
What does this new world of connectivity mean and what can we do with these new devices? In short, you name it!
1. Access otherwise non-existent data: IoT connected devices create interactions that produce data. That data helps fill the gaps in our knowledge of actual consumer behavior. Food manufacturers can track and report on how many times a consumer scans a smart label for recipes once a can of soup has left the store. Printer manufacturers can monitor how many times their customers scan their smart printers to troubleshoot errors. Each of these interactions is an opportunity to communicate with your buyer, stay top of mind and deliver increased value. Moreover, the data collected from these interactions will provide continuous real-time insight you can use to improve your products and your customer service.
2. Allow for real-time personalization: The data collected in IoT technologies also can be used to personalize the experience a customer has with your brand. Tracking and analyzing your users’ behavioral patterns gives us a better understanding of their unique preferences and needs. We can now better predict what information they need from us, when, where and how they need it. And we can deliver that information more quickly and efficiently than ever before.