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Kathy Divis
 
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The Internet of Things: The Future is Here (Almost)

by Kathy Divis | May 29, 2015
IoT 2Recently, there has been an Xfinity ad for broadband Internet service playing on a local radio station, in which a woman bemoans the lack of Internet bandwidth in her home because there are so many connected devices being used. “I think even the coffee maker is online,” she wails. At first, that line made me shake my head just a bit. Seriously? A Web-enabled coffee maker? But then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to program the coffee maker from my bed via my phone if I forgot to do so before climbing the stairs to go to bed?” And that thought is a microcosm of the Internet of Things, or IoT. The IoT is a network of billions of Smart devices that can communicate with each other – and with us. You can practically run your entire house from your Smartphone these days. You can:

• Lock/unlock doors. • Adjust the thermostat. • Monitor security camera feeds. • Turn the oven on or off. • Be notified of problems such as a malfunctioning appliance, power outages, plumbing leaks or the presence of smoke, fire or carbon monoxide. • Program your coffee maker – yes, there really is such a thing, made by Mr. Coffee.

Companies such as Samsung, GE, Whirlpool and others are leading the connectivity surge, producing connected devices ranging from Smartphones to home appliances to wearables. Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be 26 billion Internet-connected devices in use, up from 900 million units in 2009. The math works out to approximately 26 Smart objects per person on Earth. Well, okay. That’s all fine and dandy. But how does the IoT affect marketers? If every person on Earth possesses 26 Smart devices, that’s a whale of an opportunity to connect with them. Interference advertising, always-on advertising, real-time customized communications, data collection … the opportunities are endless. In healthcare, initial forays into the IoT have been made with the use of apps and wearables for monitoring various aspects of a patient’s condition, for example. But how else can marketers take advantage of the IoT? In a recent report, the Altimeter Group suggests 5 use cases for employing IoT with consumer-facing programs: There are various examples of rewards or incentives: money (e.g., coupons, reduced prices/fees, cash), promotion, entertainment and gamification. The use of sensors in Smartphones, wearables, beacons and other devices can engage customers while rewarding them in some manner for their time, purchases or other interaction with an organization or brand.

1. Reward. There are various examples of rewards or incentives: money (e.g., coupons, reduced prices/fees, cash), promotion, entertainment and gamification. The use of sensors in Smartphones, wearables, beacons and other devices can engage customers while rewarding them in some manner for their time, purchases or other interaction with an organization or brand.

2. Information and decision making. Delivering the right content at the right time: This is a crucial element in informing customers in their decision-making process and improving the brand experience. Information can be pushed out via connected devices in response to a trigger such as location, inclement weather conditions and product interactions. Navigation or wayfinding applications can be used to guide customers to a nearby location and/or a particular product via a Smartphone app, beacons, QR codes and other modalities. Anything that can be connected to the Internet can be monitored, from the number of steps taken per day to the amount of food consumed by pets to the amount of windshield-wiper fluid in a car. By monitoring things that their customers care for, an organization can obtain the necessary information to bring additional value to their customers by giving them a way to make better use of their time, energy, insight or money.

3. Facilitation. Customers want to be able to do what they want/need to do in the most efficient and effective way possible – and organizations want that for their customers. By using connected devices, the transactional customer experience can be enhanced in areas such as payment, identify authentication and simply making products and services more useful, like remotely programming that infamous coffee maker from the comfort of your soft, warm bed.

4. Service. No matter how hard you try, stuff happens. Thus, it’s important to be able to respond to service issues in real time. Connected methods can enable an organization to respond reactively to service problems. But it’s just as important to be proactive with support issues – when a problem is identified, the organization goes ahead and deals with it behind the scene, often without the customer being aware. For example, in early 2014, car maker Tesla was able to address a recall of one of its car models by a software update, rather than by its customers having to take their cars to the dealership to get the fix. Not only was the problem solved remotely, the car owners were able to choose when to receive the 45-minute software update, making it even more convenient for them.

5. Innovation. The data received from various connected sources can be leveraged to make improvements and innovations such as increased customization and optimization of products and services. When customers see their feedback used to make improvements, they feel valued.

  The IoT is still very new to many people. In its 2014 study, The Internet of Things: The Future of Consumer Adoption, the Acquity Group found that 86% of consumers hadn’t heard of the IoT, and 64% had not purchased in-home IoT devices because they weren’t aware such items were available. But with 26 billion of these devices expected to be in use within the next 5 years, organizations and brands would be well-advised to start working on their strategies to leverage the IoT in coming years. Enjoy the cartoon - all credit to Tim Rickard.   Coffee Maker          

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