The “Internet of Things”: a future of deeper customer engagement or moving to the “dark side”?
An increasing number of everyday items are becoming “smart” with web-enabled technology that allows for ever-more sophisticated functionality and personalisation.
According to the BBC, the number of networked things exceeded the number of humans in 2008, according to some estimates, and is expected to rise to 50 billion by 2020.
“This is the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT) and is described by Forbes as “the biggest thing in retail”.
What “things” are going online?
Whirlpool, Samsung, and LG all announced “smart” washing machines in the last month. The machines can be monitored remotely via a wifi connection to turn on at the most cost-efficient times of day, using electricity during cheaper off peak hours.
The BBC reports: “all kinds of gadgets, from toasters to sprinklers, fridges to domestic heating systems, are now boasting sensors, actuators and low-powered embedded chips. Nest’s smart thermostats can communicate with your GPS-enabled phone or tablet and activate your heater when you’re on your way home. There’s even a clever egg tray that sends you a remote warning when you’re running low on eggs or when they’re getting old.”
Even Barbie is having a digital makeover. An internet-connected version of the popular doll was on show at the New York Toy Fair in February. Children will soon be able to have a two-way conversation with the new smart toy, which will utilise speech recognition technology to “remember” a child’s conversation and adapt over time to refer back to the child’s preferences in future conversations; as well as play interactive games, tell stories and jokes.
Is there a dark side to the Internet of Things?
Everything from our alarm systems to our lights are now going online – there has even been discussion around a fridge that orders milk for you.
The potential for making our lives easier are clear to see; but there are concerns, mainly around privacy and security. While online banking and mobile phone security is now well established to adequately protect our personal information, there are concerns that many newer web-enabled things have less sophisticated security features.
Research by Veracode and Hewlett-Packard revealed vulnerabilities in some devices, including a touch-enabled controller that fits into the space of a light switch and allows easy control of lots of other smart devices around the house. However, other devices such as those linked with the SmartThings Hub had fewer issues, and all manufacturers have since released fixes for the hacking vulnerabilities revealed by the research.
As with any new technology or innovation, it takes time to fine tune and adapt.
What potential does IoT offer for digital marketing?
With so much more personalisation and individual data, the opportunities for tailored services and marketing are huge.
People are naturally suspicious of too much of their personal data being digitaised. But if adequate security measures are put in place and companies first work hard to establish trust with consumers, then this – in time – can be overcome.
The key is about showing how data sharing can be beneficial to customers, whilst also reducing any potential (or perceived) risk. Openness, honesty and regular, non-intrusive communication is vital.
The blog posts below also discuss some of these themes:
What do you think the Internet of Things will mean for digital marketing?
Do you look forward to a future built around IoT or does it fill you with dread?
Is your business already using these technologies – and to what effect?
Do share your comments below!
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