While the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, the market for these “Things” has only recently started to take off. According to Gartner, this market is expected to represent 4.9 billion Things in 2015, which could grow to more than 25 billion Things in a scant 5 years. In this article, we’ll review definitions, challenges and opportunities, and concrete examples of how digital analytics can be used with the Internet of Things.
What are these “Things”?
Firstly, let’s clarify that the “Things” in the IoT should be differentiated from devices with interfaces for web access. Interface-type objects can be substitutes for a computer – the most well-known examples being smartphones and tablets – so they are not considered to be true Things in the IoT. With that in mind, Things are all accessories whose primary function is not to access the Internet, but who nonetheless have an Internet connection for added value (for functionality, information, interactions, etc.).
Why is the Internet of Things’ popularity only recent?
It’s interesting to note that the term dates back to 1999, and the first French Thing was commercialised in 2003 (the DAL lamp from Violet), followed shortly by the famous Nabaztag rabbit. However, more than 16 years later, the market is still only in its early stages, and it seems its development is only really starting now. Three possible explanations for this:
– The technology necessary for the Internet of Things to work has now existed for quite a while. However, the cost of this technology was the first obstacle. At the time, it may have cost hundreds of dollars for a chip enabling Internet connection – today, this same technology has been scaled down and costs around 10 dollars, making commercialisation viable.
– Technical teams did not understand these technologies very well at the time. It was therefore difficult to find engineers capable of managing this type of project. Today, the Evans Data group highlights the fact that 1 in 5 developers now focuses on IoT.
– Cultures are evolving – several years ago, these Things were considered to be gadgets with little utility. This kind of thinking is almost a thing of the past. For example, 50% of the French population knows about the IoT and more than one-third say they use one or more of these types of Things. Major brands like Apple are focusing on smart objects and Things, with the Apple Watch, for example. The rise of connected wearables coming from diverse brands also plays an important role.
Data: the secret weapon
This evolution therefore leads us to today, where interest is high in the IoT. We hear a lot nowadays about these technologies, but nonetheless, they are not quite mastered yet. They key to success for a company wishing to enter this arena will be to offer a Thing that consumers enjoy, but that also allows proximity with the user in order to better understand and respond to his or her expectations. There’s a problem, though. Millions of Things will generate volumes of data even more significant than what we see today. So, it will quickly become rather complicated to manage this data, in addition to the development and improvement of these Things. Digital analytics will be a real asset to companies in this regard. For several years now, digital analytics providers have been processing immense volumes of data, aggregating it and offering a simplified view of results. These companies’ main activity is not necessarily data storage, but rather the transformation of this data into actionable levers.
Tangible use cases
As part of its insurance provider strategy, AXA decided to take a step forward and offer new clients of its Modulango programme a smart bracelet. This wearable device enables AXA to receive information and reward its customers accordingly – for example, users who walk the most can receive alternative medicine sessions focusing on preventive care. But the way this type of data is used could go even further – for example, imagine a car insurance company that could track the distance driven… It would be possible to charge strictly based on actual vehicle usage. Or perhaps fees could be adjusted to reward customers based on certain efforts made.
Having users constantly wearing Things and smart devices is not the only way of getting additional information on their habits – a technology derived from the Internet of Things could also be used: iBeacon. These little objects are placed in certain spaces (in a store, for example) and communicate with users’ smartphones according to certain conditions (the app must be installed on the user’s phone for it to work). Thanks to this technology, it will be possible to follow the journey of a visitor in a brick-and-mortar store and see in which aisle s/he spends the most time, if s/he remains in front of a certain product for a certain amount of time, or even see what s/he is currently doing in the store. This is where digital analytics can flex all its muscles. By cross-comparing and correlating data the company already has in its CRM, digital analytics tool, or customer database, it’s possible to push promotions to the user’s phone if s/he is hesitating in a certain aisle. Or, if a user left the store without buying anything, a brand could contact the user several days later and incite him or her to visit the website in order to finish the purchase process.
The Internet of Things is therefore still in its early days, but starting now, we’re seeing many new types of activities that are possible thanks to this technology. Smart vehicles, for example, present immense possibilities – vehicles could connect to the Internet in order to avoid accidents, set itineraries, keep traffic running smoothly, prioritise traffic lights (emergency vehicles could warn a traffic light of their imminent passage), and much more.
The possibilities for enriched customer data also hold great potential, and will allow us to obtain granular details for perfectly personalised and targeted content.
How do you imagine using the Internet of Things?