What is the Internet of Things?

IOT widely remains just a mysterious buzzword for many people. Not for long though – according to American tech company, Intel, the IOT is set to explode and as many as 200 billion devices will be connected by 2020. So what is the IOT? The IOT refers to any network of physical things (objects, people, places) that can ‘talk’ to each other using technology. These things can send and receive information to and from each other via the internet, the end goal of which is to enhance a user’s experience, or make their life easier through greater convenience gained from it. The classic IOT example is the ‘smart-fridge’ which can monitor its contents, and should it find that eggs are running low, will reorder a fresh supply from the internet, to be delivered direct to its owner’s door. The possibilities go way beyond this though, and we are starting to see wearable devices such as smart-watches being able to control home heating systems, lock and unlock doors, interact with our televisions and much more. In the near future, we may well find that all the products we buy are connected to the IOT. For example, a bottle of wine may contain a unique identifier, containing information about itself and equally, the consumer might have their own identifier linked to a personal account with a supermarket. With all the parts of this network talking to each other, the consumer can get more information about the product they are buying, know if it’s in stock via the supermarket’s website, keep a log of how often they have purchased the product and whether it is cheaper elsewhere. The supermarket can keep a track of what products are selling well or when stocks are low and producers can find out which demographics are purchasing their products. We might even have a social network of things, where we can log on and find anything. Lost your car keys? No problem: go online, search for them and find out where they are! Marketing will be one of the key sectors affected by the IOT. It will facilitate connectivity and interaction between brand and consumer, consumer and object, brand and object, object and object and in the case of the B2B sector, brand and brand. Companies and enterprises will benefit from more visibility and consumers will gain empowerment. More connectivity will mean that more specific data can be collected about consumers and the products they own and buy, such as location, age, gender and interests, but crucially, the IOT could answer questions such as why consumers are buying the things that they are buying. Marketing will benefit from this improved data, allowing the creation of more relevant and targeted campaigns, leading to greater customer engagement. In the B2B sector, data will be gathered from other businesses rather than the end consumer, but essentially the same process is equally applicable. As the IOT grows, so too will consumers’ and companies’ expectations of convenience. It will be the job of marketing to consider and react to those expectations, and it must promise and deliver greater levels of convenience for the consumer or business. Marketing must also be concerned with the ethics of data collection and will be pivotal in helping to build trust between brands and consumers or businesses to businesses relationships. In conclusion, the Internet of Things has enormous potential to enrich the lives of all of us. However, it is very important that marketing keeps up with its rapid development, so that it can be promoted and steered in the right direction and in a way that is easily digested by end users.