Why Identity Matters to the Internet of Things

Twenty years ago, there were about 3 million devices connected to the Internet. By the end of this decade, Gartner estimates that there will be 26 billion devices on the global network.

This can only mean one thing: We’re living in the Internet of Things.

With anything and everything — including trees, insects, pill bottles, and sinks — going online, Cisco projects the Internet of Things to be a $14 trillion revenue opportunity. Helping people remember their daily medicine with light-up bottle caps and preventing illegal logging and monitoring traffic in real-time are worthwhile goals. But they are point solutions. They don’t resonate in our lives in ways that make it impossible to imagine how we lived without them.

In order for the Internet of Things to truly work, context about ourselves (think interests, location, intent) is required. Here are some reasons why the Internet of Things will only come to fruition in identity is incorporated into the user experience.

Technology Gets Personal

A wristband that measures your steps and heart rate is a helpful fitness tool. However, if that’s all it does, then it is nothing more than a tool, no matter how many other devices it can connect to. But what about a wristband that knows the wearer’s identity, understands his fitness routines, and tells the treadmill to speed up or slow down based on the wearer’s heart rate and exercise goals?

This sort of personalized connectedness delivers true value and breeds customer loyalty by tapping into each user’s unique situation and background. And it all starts with a deep understanding of of users’ identities.

Devices Communicate with One Another

In the Internet of Things, devices need to participate in a constant conversation with one another, their owners’ social feeds, and outside field of interest. Any device which relies on a one-time data dump will quickly become irrelevant. Connected devices need to be able not only to verify identity but also be flexible enough to grow and adapt as new channels and data points emerge.

Products Understand Context

The Internet of Things should model the kind of tailored, identity-driven recommendations today’s consumer is accustomed to receiving from leading brands like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify. To compare and contrast, let’s say you have a refrigerator that reorders eggs when you run out. Such a feature would be helpful, but likely would not deliver enough value to gain widespread adoption. However, if your refrigerator automatically shops for a recipe you just pinned, and recommends three new options for dinner based on what you have in the house and your dinner party, that’s extraordinary.

These intuitive, data-driven experiences are shaping the Internet of Things, and it’s up to businesses to start leveraging the first party (permission-based) customer insights to wow users with incredible experiences.

Concluding Thoughts

The Internet of Things must move beyond technological advancement into the realm of personal experiences to thrive. That future is up to each of us, as we decide whether to put people at the center of the Internet of Things or only focus on the technological aspect. Without personal identity and context, the Internet of Things will never move past a novelty to a necessity.

Read more: Profiting From the Speed of Change