Let me start off my stating how little I like the term “Internet of Things.” My take is that this phrase—which represents the grand concept of using IP technology to link together associated products to facilitate a behavior or action—overhypes yet undersells the promise in a connected world. It’s a brilliant idea whose time is now, but turning it into a market wide technology panacea sets it up to fall short of wild expectations. As I jokingly discussed with a colleague at last year’s Gartner Symposium, this IoT deal has been around since the ‘90s when telemetry was used to let the local Coke bottler know when a dorm’s soda machine was out of caffeine-laden goodness. IoT circa 2014, however, has greater buy-in from more constituencies—indeed, entire ecosystems—than that these first iterations and those with any sort of future vision can see its manifest destiny.
Sure, there are all sorts of Thingy applications that can better the greater good—from controlling traffic flow using in-car signals and roadside sensors to monitoring your home’s energy remotely to save money and lessen the burden on the local grid—but it’s the commerce Things that catch my eye. Case in point, the GE Social Fridge, which will be on display at the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) which is held this week and next in my adopted home town of Austin, TX. The fridge opens to offer beer and soda to passersby only after 10 people have checked in via Foursquare. A simple yet thought-provoking way for retailers to create in-store excitement and engagement as they marry Social Things with Crowds/Mobs to build cool, commerce promotions. Taking the fridge example to its next level: after 10 people check in, uncap your beer or soft drink to enter a contest for your own IP/sensor-driven fridge. Also, that cap could include a coupon off our next purchase of Shiner Beer or Jones Soda. Now, we’re talking cross-promotion.
Let’s look at the bigger picture that rests at the intersection of Things and Commerce. Let’s stay with the fridge and overlay the world of predicative analytics and commerce. Amazon, among others, hope to use predictive analytics to pinpoint and plan for customer demand for products and services. If my fridge sensor realized I was running short of eggs, a message could be sent to my local grocery store to deliver a dozen to my home. Perhaps a subtle notification to that same grocery store which could allow that merchant to understand my egg consumption pattern so it could maintain a more precise inventory of goods based on the collective needs of its customers.
Digital marketers are faced with the need to have a vision that looks at the past, the today and the tomorrow. The past and present represent fuel to drive today’s campaigns but the future offers excitement that not only inspire cool ideas but ensure ongoing relevance to your peers and your customers.