My Coffee Maker Unfriended Me

Do you think of the Internet of Things (IoT) as the smart refrigerator and milk being delivered to your door when you run out? Or the smart home where everything is controlled through smart sensors?  IoT has been coming for over a decade, and the smart device explosion has made it front and center in consumer markets.

This reminds me of how many thought of social media 10 years ago. It was cool, lots of early adopters and then you had sites like “” that shocked people into realizing that if they share they are out of town, people might rob their homes.  Every major innovation that has social impact goes through a maturity curve that balances consumer convenience and value with consumer privacy concerns.

It’s nothing new to be concerned about someone hacking your home WiFi or hacking your laptop when you are at the airport or coffee shop. But tell someone you can open their garage when they are not home, or flood their yard when they are out of town — and it’s front-page news.   



There are several parts of IoT marketers need to think about. We are faced with not just the convenience/value/privacy Venn diagram, we are faced with new challenges of being smart in situations, not just marketing moments.   Will this change catalog marketing, online marketing, how we buy media, and how we think about marketing one-to-one? YES!    

Many in our industry think about email mostly through the “broadcast” mode and how to lick stamps faster.  This will continue, but the rules for broadcast will change.    

I believe three things will shift in how we operate and plan in the future:

Subscribership will take on new meaning. Some who subscribe to a service when all they want is the utility value of the experience. They don’t want to be promoted to, which will force marketers to reconfigure products/services for the FREE/FEE offering.  Will everything be an app path from free to fee? Subscribership will have a long-tail.  Nothing on the Internet is FREE in this world, and with IoT and mobile apps at the HUB of this connection, that balance will help shift communication budgets from marketing and ecommerce to product and IT.   

Transient data will overwhelm relational database models. The day and age of storing events from everywhere longitudinally will not sustain itself. IoT streaming data will rock your world in terms of the sheer amount of data, how to secure it from billions of not so secure sensors and attach it to personally identifiable information (PII).   IoT will bring in a flood of data that won’t likely be as restrictive as HIPPA data, but there’s a fine line between sharing biometric, stress levels, emotional states and even storing personal health data.  This data is extremely valuable to insurance companies, financial institutions and any marketer potentially; data monetization is the end game.

Analytics is like driving that showroom car — it’s amazing until you sit down to think about how you want to pay for it.  And all the things you wanted (navigation, heated seats, heads up display, satellite radio) just added 20% to the price.   Do you settle?

And what is more important — a comfy warm seat in the morning or knowing when and where to turn?   Machine learning is going to help accelerate smart marketing a ton, but marketers will need to rethink how they look at what happened, what may happen next and the shelf life of that insight?  If you can’t get to the insights quickly, then it likely won’t survive the budget trade-offs.  

I’m waiting for the day when my coffee machine unfriends me!  The world is changing, embrace it.

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