The internet is entering a new phase.
It is estimated that some two billion people are already online, and they’re now being joined by a variety of objects. These objects have the ability to communicate with each other digitally and collectively build up a detailed bank of information based on their interactions with us human beings.
This new phase in the evolution of the internet has been given the moniker ‘the internet of things’ (IoT). These connected objects could be anything, from fridges and watches, to central heating systems and even the clothes we wear.
The IoT is enabling an ongoing exchange of data. Whether it’s an app that alerts us to available parking spaces, or a fridge that automatically orders groceries when supplies are running low, the IoT represents an exciting new era in how we live our lives.
We now have the ability to assign an IP address to every object on earth. A recent study estimated that there are around 13 billion devices connected to the internet. That number is set to double within the next five years, if not sooner. Cisco has predicted that the IoT will experience a huge surge in connections, increasing up to as many as 50 billion by the end of the decade.
So with all of these devices connected to the internet and monitoring our behavior, what are the big opportunities for marketers? In a word, data. Each object within the IoT is monitoring our day to day routines, gathering data, communicating with other objects within our personal ecosystem, and consistently tailoring their outputs to maximize convenience and comfort for us as individuals.
The opportunities with the IoT fall into two camps; the first is using the technology to improve efficiency and convenience, and the second is the creation of disruptive technology that creates a totally new marketplace.
In terms of disruptive technologies that are creating new market segments, a good potential example of applying the technology is in the healthcare sector in the form of a wireless glucose monitoring system for diabetics. Devices such as these will have transformative effects on the lives of patients by enabling doctors to automatically access data that foresees any health issues with individuals so they can be summoned for an immediate check-up.
With regards to disruptive technology, wearables and smart garments are likely to be the next big trend. In fact, Gartner predicts that a whopping 26 million smart garments will be shipped in 2016. A lot of what we have observed in the wearables sector up until now has been fun, and perhaps fashionable, but hasn’t necessarily had a purpose.
The fashion industry is one that is built on consumer desirability rather than purpose, but many wearables are currently falling into the ‘gimmick’ category. I predict we will observe a greater adoption of wearables as an increasing number of these products have real purpose that begin to transform consumer lifestyles.
The opportunities that the IoT represents for brands, and specifically marketers, are in abundance. Marketers will have the unique opportunity to become innovators, creating services and products that add real value to consumers.
The level of data that can be collected on consumers in a number of key locations will enable marketers to build far more detailed and accurate profiles of consumers than ever before. However, marketers will need to understand how to use this added volume of data intelligently and provide consumers with on-demand experiences that are personal to them. But we are at the very early stages of this.
Fitness brands have been some of the early innovators in the IoT space, and Nike is a great example. Having initially launched one of earliest forms of wearable tech, the Fuel Band, Nike went on to drop the product in favor of simply collecting data via users’ phones, providing them with access to a community of like-minded people, an online personal trainer, the ability to track their own specific activity and a forum to set personal goals and share successes.
In essence, users are opting to share the data from their tracking devices in exchange for rewards, online coaching and the ability to keep tabs on the performance of their friends. Generating this form of connected community can be far more powerful than a traditional display advertisement for a pair of trainers, and is a real nod to the future of how marketers will engage their target consumer.
The ‘connected world’ continues to develop and grow, generating additional data that paints a detailed picture of consumers as individuals. That means marketers can engage them in an even more personalized, timely and relevant dialogue.
The important thing for marketers to remember is that the value generated by the IoT isn’t in the device. It’s in obtaining and using the huge volume of data that a connected world will generate and making perfect sense of it.