It might seem remarkable for what still feels like an emerging concept but 9 April 2015 marked the fifth annual Internet of Things (IoT) Day, a worldwide event for entrepreneurs, business leaders and citizens to discuss emerging ideas.
The proceedings for this year – including national conferences, global web chats and interactive tweet-ups – demonstrated the resonance of the fast-evolving concept. But how are companies and innovators pushing boundaries in terms of connected products and services, and how will the next wave of IoT enrich everyday consumer experiences?
The build-up to IoT Day brought a raft of new partnerships. IBM announced it expects to spend $5bn during the next five years on a new IoT division. The business plans to work closely with The Weather Company to bring real-time weather insights to businesses so they can make better and more informed decisions by combining IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities with the Weather Company’s expertise and data distribution system.
Meanwhile, Intel and payment specialist Ingenico, announced a collaboration to combine Intel technology and Ingenico Group secure payment acceptance for IoT through the development of a mobile tablet that will support EMV and NFC payment options. The thinking is that this will pave the way to further value-added services for other IoT devices intelligent vending machines, kiosks and digital signage.
Many of the plus points of IoT seem to focus on business benefits, such as real-time analytics to help improve supply chain processes and business intelligence to create a closer match between customer demands and stored inventory. However, where the IoT becomes really interesting is where that knowledge is turned on its head and information is used to boost customer experience.
Disney is using its smart MagicBand for real-time telemetry on crowd movements at theme parks. But imagine the power of customers being able to know when certain rides are available or when personal interactions with Disney characters are an option. FedEx has deployed a network of sensors to track packages and improves processes. But the information also provides customers with personalised details on their valuable goods.
What such real-world applications show is that the IoT must offer potential wins for both the business and its customers. Consumers will be turned off by brands that simply used the knowledge from sensors to record, monitor, analyse and promote further offerings. To really make the most of the IoT, companies must pay as much attention to customer experience as to broader business benefits.
Organisations must adjust their focus now. Intel suggests there will be as many as 200 million connected things by 2020, equating to 26 objects for every human being on Earth. To improve experiences, researcher Altimeter Group suggests five definitive ways that companies can use sensors to create mutual benefits for both brand and client across the entire customer journey:
The simple message for digital leaders is that the IoT provides a huge amount of knowledge. But by using this information to really listen to customers across their entire journey, organisations can develop services that boost engagement and improve experience.