Commentary

When Data From Products Like Hairbrushes Personalizes Searches

Google Home continues to build out its partner program with a slew of new additions Tuesday. The technology now integrates with companies such as August, which makes locks, to Rachio, which controls sprinklers. The products are based on artificial intelligence and connect one signal to another to identify preferences and customize searches.


It's apparent that artificial intelligence continues to change the meaning of "deeper integration," as companies -- even research and development business units of advertising agencies -- begin to offer ways for brands to build intelligence into their physical products.

In fact, the "machine learning chip market," as Allied Market Research calls it, will likely reach $8.2 billion by 2022. The multiprocessor machine-learning chip enables the machine, or product, to gain human-like intelligence without being explicitly programmed, explains Komal Sharma, research analyst at Allied Market Research, in a release.

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Inserting a semiconductor chip into a commodity product such as a hairbrush or a comb would monitor use and behavior. It would count every stroke as the consumer brushed her hair, for example. Sensors in smartphones or nearby Google, Microsoft or Amazon home devices would identify the consumer's actions and respond.

While it would help marketers understand how consumers use their products in real-time, there are many challenges.

For starters, it would initially raise the cost to manufacture the product, and that cost would transfer to consumers. Would it be worth it for marketers? Most marketers say future products are based on the needs of consumers, but they are also based on the needs of marketers who want to better understand consumer behavior. Take Nike's new Pizza Hut shoes that let consumers order pizza with a push of a button on the tongue, for example. No doubt the shoes monitor the time of day the order is placed and the amount of steps and wear between purchases.

As a consumer, would you buy a product like this knowing there is a chip that monitors your behavior? It's one more product that collects information on your daily routine.

The hardware technology industry experienced the same trend with radio frequency identification semiconductor chips built into clothing security tags that retailers wanted to use as inventory management systems, for example. Initially, the price to use the tags was too costly and could only be used on luxury items, but eventually the tech companies figured out a way to reduce costs.

Eventually, with help from agencies, brands will take that data and tie it to searches or clicks on Web sites, or walking or running steps to target emails or physical mail, or television and radio commercials, or billboards.

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