The Internet of Things (IoT) is made up of the everyday objects and devices we use, with a key difference: everything is computerized, with network connectivity built right in. These IoT devices can be almost anything: sensor-enabled buildings, bridges, or pavement; ‘smart’ vehicles, appliances, and devices; or, wearables like the Apple Watch, Google Glass, or Fitbit. And with sensors and technology like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)—one-way communication from objects to nearby mobile devices—when we’re close to an IoT object, our phones can listen for signals, get information, or control these objects.
Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020. This has massive implications on nearly every industry—and the amount of network traffic and data we’ll be creating and consuming.
For consumers, this offers amazing convenience. With a hub of devices like Samsung’s SmartThings, in-home devices can communicate with each other, sharing information and giving automated instructions that can save time, money, and energy consumption. IoT is essentially just harnessing the web for everyday life, bringing the immediacy we’ve come to expect in an Internet-driven age.
For businesses, marketers, developers, and data scientists, this connectivity opens up a whole new way to interact with, listen to, and market to customers in real time. From retail and tech companies to manufacturers and the medical device industry, IoT is like having eyes, ears, and a voice—often on a very granular (and personal) level.
Here’s a look at this “next big thing” and how you can leverage it to be a part of your business and marketing strategies.
The Internet of Things: It’s “smart” everything
IoT objects are “smart” anything, and that’s essentially because they have their own embedded computers—both hardware and software systems, sensors, and network connectivity.
These IoT objects are capable of listening and learning, tracking, communicating, and even predicting behaviors, whether it’s adjusting the temperature of a room when motion detectors sense someone’s home, or generating data about the structure of a bridge to prevent a major disaster. From being able to turn a sprinkler system on when the weather has been dry, to offering a discount on brakes when a car’s brake pad sensor detects it’s time for replacing, creatively using the data that the IoT gathers is the key to unlocking this new tech trend.
The power of IoT: Use it wisely
How we use the connectivity and data from these Internet of Things sensors stretches as far as the imagination. A doctor can get sensor data from a device implanted in a patient and potentially prevent a medical emergency. We can track bus routes, traffic patterns, heart rates, shopping habits, and more. The data generated by these billions of sensors alone is staggering—and what we do with that data is even more fascinating.
There are rising concerns with security and privacy, however. Anytime we’re innovating the way we monitor, detect, and track ourselves and the things around us, what we do with the data—and how it’s sent across networks—can get sensitive. For security, having more devices on your network that are potentially unencrypted can open up private networks to getting hacked. And privacy risks increase right along with the unparalleled access that IoT sensors make possible.
The key is to prevent security concerns with encryption, and to be mindful of how you use data to reach out to your customers. Be helpful, but not like big brother. Anonymize data, ask users for permission, and be transparent about what data is being collected and why. No one likes to feel like they’re being watched, but being able to offer someone a coupon for brake pads when a smart car indicates they might need replacing is all about convenience.
The IoT crossroads: Where data, marketing, and tech collide
There’s a reason the Internet of Things is on everyone’s radars: This phenomenon has the potential to be a game-changer for a number of industries. For data, market research, and marketing in particular, the new and enormous amount of data the IoT can generate is going to have a ton of possibilities—and many of them will overlap.
There’s a synergistic growth: beacon technology powered by bluetooth low energy (BLE) can pull information from databases and broadcast it to nearby devices. Sensors can gather information around a device and store that in cloud-based databases. Providers like NoSQL database MongoDB and cloud-based data processor Hadoop are already prepared to take on this surge of new IoT data, and marketers are poised with strategies to leverage it to develop better campaigns. These campaigns will drive real-time, contextual and targeted marketing, and the technology to make this all possible is rising to the occasion.
Examples of ways that IoT data and marketing strategy can collide:
- Shopping: Track buying habits and send location-based marketing.
- New device activity data: Get a rare, personal look at how consumers use devices in their home and on the go.
- Use targeted ads. Broadcast 100% relevant, beneficial ads that go directly to customers, when and where they need them.
- Deliver real-time service and support to address customer issues on the spot.
- Leverage automated social sharing so users can share their activity device over their networks.