You may have heard the term ‘the internet of things’ (IoT), but what does it mean? The phrase itself simply means the day when there are more things than people connected to the internet, or “a living, moving, global nervous system” where everything is connected. What does that practically mean though? How will it affect our lives?
Have you ever seen the Donald Duck cartoon where he wakes up in his RV one morning and the alarm clock sets off a function that removes his duvet, his bed folds away and he is tossed into a bath tub? Disney pretty accurately predicted, in a comical way, how the IoT will affect our everyday lives. Sleeping in may not be so much of a problem anymore, as your alarm clock (on your smartphone or watch), will set off a plethora of other devices around the house. Your smart phone and appliances will, basically be talking to each other. This is also referred to as M2M – machine to machine, meaning your coffee machine can send a signal to your toaster, indicating the coffee is almost done, so it’s time to start toasting the bread now. When the coffee machine is running out of grounds it adds coffee onto the shopping list that your refrigerator has been putting together for your weekly grocery store order that miraculously lands on your doorstep every Wednesday morning. Retailors will be competing and clamoring for that automatic order and it’s anybody’s guess how the refrigerator might make that decision. I can’t say for sure but it seems reasonable to assume that customer reviews and past on time performance can and will be taken into account when the appliance makes that decision. Staying in control of your online presence is becoming more and more important.
The idea of a control panel on your smart phone where you can control every appliance in your house is no longer a futuristic dream. We are entering an age in which machines send us constant updates regarding the temperature, air pressure, and air quality. Technologies that were exclusive to factories and labs are trickling down into the consumer market and we need to start planning now to future-proof our marketing strategies.
Consumers will be informed when a certain part of a machine is about to wear out and at the same time be presented with the nearest available shop with that part in stock, for the best price. As marketers, it’s safe to assume that recommendations will take the consumer’s daily agenda into account and seeing a full schedule the first recommendation might just be to a shop that is far away but with same or next day delivery – more suitable for the busy consumer. We have our work cut out for us…
Not only can you receive updates from machines in the home, you can also have apps that report whether someone’s heart rate has slowed down too much, or if the oxygen rate in their blood is out of balance. If you are monitoring an older parent for example, you will receive a notification if there has been abnormal activity in their house, such as them not getting out of bed in the morning.
We already use similar technology, if someone breaks into your house, you’re immediately notified and you can even watch the intruders on camera in real time. Just imagine the fright when you pick up your smartphone and start blasting the TV in the room upstairs to scare them half to death, Home Alone style. On the other hand, today when you need to let a neighbor into your house you can open the door using your smartphone or temporarily change the access code.
Shoppers of tomorrow will be able to scan a package of meat to find out what cow it was made from, when that cow was last inspected by a vet, where it was processed and how it was transported, including at what temperatures. The job of ensuring that the consumer is in fact getting accurate data will probably fall into the always expanding field of digital marketing.
Whole cities will be able to take the IoT to new levels as well. There have been efforts across the EU to implement intelligent street lighting across cities. The intelligent street light is able to sense when a pedestrian or vehicle is nearby, turn itself on, and send a message to the lights nearby to illuminate the rest of the block. The light can send out a “service needed” message to a central management system which in turn will automatically order the needed part while adding a task to the calendar of the serviceman. We have the IoT to thank when we use “parking” apps to help find a parking space nearby and then automatically pay by credit card with the app, which connected to your GPS, knows exactly the tariff it needs to pay out. The sensors at the parking lot gate get a message telling them you’re all paid up and gracefully lift up and let you out.
The Internet of Things is already happening. The analyst firm Gartner expect there to be 26 billion devices connected to the internet in 2020, whilst IoT Market believes there are going to be 50 billion devices connected, Postscape and Harbor Research 28 billion and Intel 200 billion. Currently there are around 7 billion people on Earth, so it’s easy to see that the IoT is arriving at breakneck speed.
Not only does the IoT affect the way we live our lives and do business, it’s also a huge business opportunity in and of itself – from data management and analysis to providing the hardware and network services. According to Postscape and Harbor Research this means that as of last year (2014) the IoT led to a revenue of over 180 billion US dollars. In 2020 that’s expected to rise to over 3 trillion dollars. GSMA & Machina Research, on the other hand, predicts it to be 2.5 trillion dollars, plus a further 2 trillion dollars in cost reduction and service improvements.
Gartner predicts that by 2020 “component costs will have come down to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature, even for processors costing less than $1.” This means that even the cheapest of devices will easily hook you up to the internet, and therefore various apps and machinery around you.
The IoT is in its infancy and it will evolve into something much more then we can even imagine, but we need to start somewhere and there is no time like the present.
With the IoT there will be huge amounts of data piling up and with it the need for sophisticated, reliable, and well tested communication and data processing systems will be of paramount importance. Along with this are the security issues that arise, as Forbes contributor Jacob Morgan wrote – what happens if someone hacks into your toaster? Would it mean they could access your banking details? Even if this would be impossible, all devices around the house connected to the toaster might, so to speak, be toast.