Three Golden Rules To NOT Screw Up IoT And AI

The Internet of things and artificial intelligence, or IoT and AI: two acronyms that are currently dominating everyone’s newsfeed, imagination and fears.

Both come with the huge promise of making everything better — better, even, than the previous promise that was digital marketing. Remember how digital marketing was going to offer the magic of right place, right time, right exact target, in the exact right mindset, with the consumer’s right finger hovering over her mouse ready to click and buy, share, like and interact? Plus: everything measurable and accountable every step of the way because of cookies and other kinds of tracking?

And then the marketing industry got going, and we ruined it. We reach the wrong consumers at exactly the wrong time, with exactly the wrong message 5,000 times per day, and we are clogging up their Internets and 4G plans. So they started blocking us — literally, with ad blockers — and are cutting the cord from cluttered cable offerings.

And here now comes the connected refrigerator. I recently saw a demo of such a thing from Samsung. It looks awesome. It can keep track of your every need, and basically turns your fridge into a smart device for your kitchen. Recipes, shopping lists, music, text and phone calls; it does it all. It is a fabulous piece of very expensive kitchen functionality. And in the background, it tracks and memorizes your every move and need — and will probably start anticipating your very next want pretty soon.

Our home actually has been an Alexa home since Christmas. We enjoy Alexa’s versatility in playing music, answering questions, ordering Ubers, keeping a shopping list and sharing corny jokes. Alexa, from behemoth Amazon, is learning how we live, what we eat, where we travel (the airport — a lot!) and so forth.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Samsung, Amazon and all the other IoT device manufacturers are saving all that data in their respective clouds and are thinking very hard about how to monetize the vast and intimate data trail we leave behind.

Which brings me back to my earlier paragraph about how we screwed up digital marketing, to the extent that we are now — as an industry — forced to rethink many digital strategies in order to actually reach a human being at the right time, right place and in the right mindset (that is, accepting us at that time and place). If you want bot views, the job is easy. If you want true engagement and sales, it is hard work.

So dear IoT and AI developers, here is what I would like you to do. Call it my three golden rules not to screw this one up:

1. Hold back. Don’t assume that because we are excited and intrigued by your technology, and thus invite you in our homes and lives as early adopters, that you have license to bombard us with crass and irrelevant messaging.

2. Be helpful. Just telling your fridge, or Alexa, to put eggs on the shopping list and then to see them magically on your shopping list when shopping: helpful. To now offer me any and every piece of egg-related marketing across every channel I frequent: not helpful.

3. Be honest. Tread carefully and make your intentions clear from the beginning. Apply rule #1 and #2 above everything else.

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