The Internet of Things (IoT) can be defined as the digitizing of reality, the connectedness of the real world, the online extension of … everything. Simply put, IoT is the concept of smart devices interacting with one another through an online connection. IoT technology is not necessarily new in theory or practice: uniquely-identified devices have already been communicating among themselves for years, and programmers, scientists and sci-fi fans alike have long conceptualized it before that. However, the term itself has recently exploded in use, with “Internet of Things” currently peaking in popularity per Google Trends. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing: according to a June 2014 IDC study, IoT is expected to have a value of over $7 trillion worldwide by 2020.
So what has added the fuel to this IoT explosion? Many will argue that the media is responsible, that the term and concept has existed for quite some time and the media suddenly focusing on all things Internet of Things has created a false hype around something that’s been developing for years. To an extent, that is true – however, the media has only taken off with IoT because there are so many new devices and solutions being launched, seemingly every day, to the masses. These devices offer tangible evidence of IoT and help people understand this broad term that everyone is talking about. These cool, high-tech “things” help transform IoT from an abstract concept into proof that it is real and will increasingly become part of our everyday lives.
Arguably the most popular new IoT device, and the one that will significantly impact people in the very near future, is the beacon. Using BLE (Bluetooth low energy) technology, beacons are small instruments that trigger personalized communications and calls to action when individuals come within a certain distance of them. The beacons communicate with smartphones, smart watches and other devices to deliver contextual information in real time. And depending on how that information is acted upon by those who receive it, detailed behavior analytics can be obtained, giving businesses much-needed insight into consumer engagement, purchase intent, conversion and spend in location-based settings.
The possibilities for beacons are endless. The technology can be applied to virtually every industry, providing positive outcomes and benefitting all parties involved.
For example, beacons can be strategically placed in an airport to guide members through an airport: directing them to their respective gates, suggesting restaurants and stores along the way, and rewarding them for completing various actions based on location.
Used in a car dealership, concealing beacons on display cars can offer information on different models and packages until a sales representative is able to engage the customer. At a university, beacons can alert students of sudden room changes as they enter the building, keep track of nearby staircases and fire exits relative to location, or simply inform the students of when certain textbooks will be available as they pass the library. In a traditional retail store, beacons can be used to promote sale items, offer personalized rewards, direct customers to the correct location of certain products – all while tracking customer traffic throughout the location and providing analytics.
A customer enters a car dealership. The beacons around the showroom already know that this is his second visit in the last two months. They have collected data that reveals he spent 10 minutes looking at Car Model 1 during his last visit and that he spoke with Mike, the salesman, at his desk for 45 minutes. Comparing this data with Mike’s records, it is understood that the man did not purchase the car because the package price was too high. As he approaches Car Model 1 again, the beacons send all of the information to Mike’s tablet, reminding Mike of their past conversations and alerting him that the car can now be significantly discounted.
Brands Using IoT
Many big-name brands already see the importance of incorporating IoT into their core plans. Top streaming radio service Pandora recently announced that they have developed an app that is integrated with Google Glass, making it possible to listen to music via bone-conduction rather than your ears. Pandora is no stranger to incorporating wearables and IoT: the company already launched an app for Pebble earlier in 2014.
Disney Research is currently developing IoT software that will enable toys to “interoperate with other toys and smart objects around them.” PayPal has developed its own beacons that are integrated with the PayPal app via smartphones and smart watches, enabling users to make hands-free payments at businesses around them accepting PayPal. And Ralph Lauren just outfitted ball boys at this year’s US Open in Polo Tech smart shirts with biometric tracking capabilities.
IoT is Here to Stay
As big brands continue to develop smart-device integration and tech providers continue to ramp up their IoT efforts, it is clear that this technology will only become more relevant in the near future. Applicable to infinite scenarios and able to benefit most (if not all) industries, everyone will soon be affected by these connected “things.”
About the Author
Eric Favaloro is the marketing coordinator at Comarch’s New York City office. Eric has extensive experience writing on a variety of different topics, including loyalty, CRM and customer engagement. Follow Comarch at www.comarch.com and @Comarch.