In 1999, Kevin Ashton, one of the founders of Auto-ID Center at MIT, introduced the world to a strange new concept called The Internet of Things or simply IOT. Since time immemorial, humans have treated all objects and products around them as non-living or ‘dead’, and fairly so. But this exciting new technology called IOT was about to change that forever.
Objects that are part of the IOT network are referred to as ‘Connected Devices’ or ‘Smart Devices’, and most people have grown so attached to these things that they would find it nearly impossible to function through daily life without them. Today, Internet of Things is all around us, and experts estimate that by the year 2020, IOT will consist of approximately 50 billion objects.
How Smart are These Devices?
Smart devices have begun to show up in several industrial and domestic product categories. Few common examples include smart cars, smart TVs, smart homes and smart watches. These devices not only perform their basic functions but also sense, gather and transmit useful data into the IOT sphere. For example, apart from displaying time, a smart watch can be designed to measure the heart rate of its wearer and report any dangerously abnormal result to the nearest ambulance, along with accurate location coordinates. Other less critical applications include smart feeders to feed your pet remotely or smart water bottles that ensure you will never be dehydrated again.
Marketing in the age of IOT
Since smart devices are capable of sensing and collecting critical user data, marketing firms dedicated to using this data for ‘Target Advertising’ have already sprouted up across the globe. Prior to IOT breaking into the scene, products once sold could not provide the manufacturer or marketer with any new data. But once these products are designed to be connected or smart, they are fully capable of sending back crucial consumer data (usually upon consent of the consumer), which creates a direct and quick feedback loop that can provide information more reliable than any marketing survey. And this marriage of IOT and consumer products is not just restricted to electronic gadgets. Cosmetics and IOT? No problem!
Beauty giants L’Oreal have also decided to experiment with IOT. Their biggest challenge, admittedly, has always been after-sales feedback. For example, a certain bottle of cream they sell may work wonderfully for majority of their consumers but may cause allergic reaction in a few. If they receive this information early on, they can approach the consumer and offer a more suitable product to them, and save what would otherwise have most certainly been a lost customer. Additionally, once they gather enough data on the skin type of a particular consumer, they can even share with them personalized skincare tips – a sure-shot brand building and PR exercise.
Is Privacy going to be a Concern?
Currently, there is no industry-level security protocol that governs the handling of all the data collected by smart devices. Though most companies are using this data solely for purposes of target marketing in forms such as App advertising, the responsible use of data in the future is still a major concern. What if a smart device that employs the use of a camera captures your credit card details?
Until the data security protocols are not standardized and rigorously enforced, users will always stand a risk of sharing their personal information with more parties than they agreed to. However, this shouldn’t discourage anyone from using smart gadgets. Until a well-defined consumer-centric protocol is in place, consumers can continue to enjoy the benefits of smart devices as long as they buy them from reputed brands and clearly understand what data will be collected and how exactly it will be used.