The Internet of things: More data, less guessing

‘More than half of UK consumers (54%) expect brands to use the latest technology to understand when it is the right time to connect with them’ ~ Microsoft/Brand Republic survey

CES’14 is but a dot in the past as yet another January seems to fly by in a flash. But what we’re left with is the abundance of new tech releases that were announced at the event. The talking point of this year was by far the new and exciting forms of wearable tech that built on those of 2013; 4k TVs, cloud gaming and fuel-brand esque devices. The theme that ran throughout was by far connected devices, not necessarily new but this year it became apparent that there was a lot more on the horizon for the internet of things. Google’s acquisition of NEST followed suit and got tongues waggling even more – the internet of things evolution in full swing.

Cisco released figures back in 2003 that detailed that there were approximately 6.3 billion people living on the planet and 500 million devices connected to the Internet. Then followed the ‘explosive growth of smartphones and tablet PCs which brought the number of devices connected to the Internet to 12.5 billion in 2010, while the world’s human population increased to 6.8 billion, making the number of connected devices per person more than 1 (1.84 to be exact) for the first time in history’.

Clearly, things have moved on since the days of web-connected fridge which simply served to restock and replenish anything you were low on. We saw a new generation of smart fridges again in this years’ CES’14, but perhaps this is the year they have more power to take off, unlike their predecessors

What I did pick up on from this year’s show was that companies are getting a lot more developed in the way they engineer products and appliances that are not only capable of transmitting data via the world wide web but also developing tech that people will actually buy into. So, saying this – how will these advances actually have an effect on brands, and moreover advertisers?

Advertising has two sides – at one, it’s a number’s game, put out loud advertising in people’s faces in the hope it will catch someone’s eye and that someone will instantly buy into a brand. On the other end of the spectrum we have a more scientific approach of targeted ads; this is reserved for when we know who we want and we’ll be damned if we aren’t going to reach you. We know where you hide, how you interact online (sort of) but we still don’t know the exact moment that targeting you will be most effective. We cannot simply guess when someone will need something shoved under their digital noses but with the next era of connected devices or rather the Internet of things, the sheer level of data that could be collected could help dissolve the guess work.

More data, less guessing

As the quantity of connected things increases as does the amount of data we can retrieve from them. Whether it’s your cloud music app that connects to your car, the smart toothbrush that tells you if you’re brushing well enough or even your activity band giving you your daily fitness summary. Brands could be getting more and more access to how you are living your everyday life and this will be the key to providing smart advertising to the masses. In our current digital lives, we’re more than aware that data on our social media accounts is becoming more and more accessible (I can’t wait until sponsored stories either gets better or goes home) and that raises some concerns for our security, this will only heighten as the internet of things becomes more present.

Big brother is here to stay, but it’s not a bad thing

A scary thought for some – the idea that our every move can be tracked so that brands waiting in the wings can jump in with their tailored messaging. Our search and purchase habits are already being used to ensure that anywhere we look we’re seeing adverts that ‘match our interests’. With internet privacy becoming more of a talking point and the access window only opening further maybe it should be a case that if we sign up to a platform we forfeit our right to complain when we see an ad for cloud computing all because we googled a few articles (yes, it’s everywhere now, I can’t escape it).

The biggest thing for us to consider when it comes to the IoT is that there is a huge gap at the moment with regards to targeting based on a user’s online behaviour and their non-digital lives, what about all the stuff in between? We live in the digital world but we also spend a lot of our time in the real world – talking to real people and interacting with normal ‘dumb’ appliances, and it’s my belief that the rise in data as a result of linked devices will help us plug these gaps. I say ‘help’ because I don’t think it will solve all the issues that advertisers face in the journey to grabbing consumers’ attention, if anything we run the risk of getting lazy in our quest to reach their hearts.

Big data needs big analysis

The social analysts amongst us will be used to interpreting data from our favourite social sites to decipher the best course of strategy for a brand based on online behaviours. The need for this won’t change, no matter how smart the tech around us gets – at least not in the near future anyway. We will still be relying on analytics programmes to deliver the stats that we will then have to interpret but even this is seeing some competition. With more data comes more responsibility to read that data and use it at a time when people most need it. We cannot rely on data growth to give us insights into the lives of our customers and expect them to automatically switch on when we want them. If anything there is a need to cut through the sea of data to work harder than ever to make sure that you not only understand your consumer better than ever but they also understand you. In making that connection – you have something more powerful than any data you receive from a fridge telling you it’s empty because your owner if away on business a lot.

Ever since Apple acquired Topsy we can see a correlation between the rise in user data and the way companies are linking this with connected devices – hello iphone my old friend. It will become much more important for choose the consumer avenues that we should be tracking, otherwise I foresee it getting intrusive and annoying; after all, who asked for a fridge that bleats at you every time it needs filling? A car however that gives you a detailed performance report straight to your smart phone and gives you tips on how to run more efficiently could hit the nail on the head.

Building lasting connections

Brands such as Spotify and Netflix have infiltrated our Facebook newsfeeds in a much less intrusive way but using a peer recommendation model to show our friends when we are using their platforms in a hope to attract other customers without them even realising they’ve been advertised to.

Spotify particularly brings to light the shift that’s happening from one-off purchase models that see the consumer journey ending the moment they settle the bill for a new service or product to a route whereby the initial cost to use a service is low, enticing the customer in but then there are the extra features to think about. Spotify instead uses the lure of a free music streaming site to attract their users only to sell upgrades over the airwaves.

Amazon Kindle did it too – buy the tablet and invest in digital books later – you’ve just invested in an empty shell, but somehow you seem pleased about it. As the lines between technology blurs – it’s the services that are becoming more valuable and therefore this is the niche that advertisers need to delve into. Sell the upgrade, not the product.

So where do brands go from here?

Connected billboards and advertising would be one of the top categories when it comes to IoT which means that the future could lie in digital OOH advertising. Billboards (see a similar idea from British Airways and Burberry) will know who you are, what you’re into and will serve you up exactly what that is in front of you.

Ad personalisation will only become more refined as the barriers of technology are broken down and smart fridges freezers are just the tip of the metaphorical ice berg.

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