Like it or not, we are starting to see a whole range of previously inanimate objects become connected by sending signals and messages to each other, alerting our mobile devices, and creating pockets of data on all of us that will make marketers excited.
A good example of this is Nest Labs (purchased by Google earlier this year for US$3.2 billion). This is basically a maker of thermostats and smoke alarms for your home that can control hot water, room temperature, and other similar functions, all via a smart device.
You may ask yourself why Google would spend billions of dollars on such products, but when you consider the battle for home-based technology, you’ll understand why.
Google wants to know who is at home, what they are doing, at what time, etc. — all so the company can get closer to their users through the use of data. This is a bit too much like Big Brother for many, but people are starting to trade privacy for convenience, and we all need to take heed.
In Las Vegas at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, we saw such connected items as tennis rackets and crockpots (cooking devices), whose arrival signals many technological advances at home in the coming months and years. These innovations will make your life easier and give your provider access to a closer relationship with you.
Connected cars, Google Glass, and interactive watches are all coming, and companies such as Cisco, Panasonic, and Sharp are pledging to make new appliances and devices compatible with a network where they can all interact.
Here are some changes coming to our daily lives, some perhaps obvious but others less so:
Vehicle servicing: You will no longer miss your annual service or oil change. Your smart car will send a message to you and/or your mechanic when it is time for servicing. By cross-referencing your calendar, appointment date options will be offered.
Monitoring health: When a prescription from your doctor is running low, an appointment will be made with your physician through connected pill bottles. Doctors will be able to monitor things like blood pressure and sugar levels remotely. This is great for distant case studies in which patients may live in one part of the country and the doctor in another.
Home energy consumption: Energy-efficient household appliances will adjust based on dynamic price signals to lower your electric bill (see Google’s Nest, above). Thermostats and lighting will learn your personal habits to create the best setting based around your daily life (such as providing your perfect temperature just before you arrive home).
These devices will also sense when no one is in the house through lack of movement and turn off equipment to reduce costs.
Driving conditions: Driving will become much safer. Traffic lights will be able to adjust to real-time traffic conditions, such as when an emergency vehicle is approaching.
Road sensors will change the speed limit based on weather, accidents, and other relevant issues, while also messaging directly to car dashboards any unsafe conditions, (e.g. “Reduce speed. Icy conditions 200m ahead.”).
Shopping/grocery lists: Smart refrigerators and freezers will sense when you are running low on basics such as eggs or milk and will automatically populate your shopping prior to your next grocery store visit. Retail stores will send special offers and reminders to add items to your list when it predicts you are about to run out based on your previous purchasing behaviour.
And don’t forget beacons — devices located in the store which, via Bluetooth low energy (BLE), locate you and send you messages with promotional offers and information.
Your morning wake-up call: If there is an accident or road construction taking place on your normal route, your alarm will wake you up earlier than normal and an alternate route will be sent to your phone, games console, or tablet. And, naturally, your tea maker or coffee machine will be connected to all this to make sure you have your drink ready at just the right time.
Smart baby and pet monitors: Through smartphones, parents will be able to monitor their baby’s breathing, temperature, activity ... and screaming.
Babies will wear connected diapers that will send a message to mum or dad when they need changing. Pet monitoring systems will also work in a similar way, allowing you to monitor a pet’s activity, location, and behaviour, all from the comfort of your smartphone, wherever you are.
Wearables: Wearable technology has received the most attention in this new age, which is also being called the “Internet of Things.” Many products are now second- or third-generation offerings, and better designs and more integration with different operating systems are emerging. Apple is rumoured to be bringing out the iWatch later this year.
From checking your activity during workouts to monitoring sleep patterns to adjusting hearing aids, the devices we wear are becoming more sophisticated by connecting to all of our social media accounts and tracking our personal data.
Google Glass is one such device that is gaining momentum. The device we see today won’t be the finished product we’ll use a couple years from now. Despite many people saying they don’t want them, analysts reckon that more than 21 million units will be sold by 2018. This is “mass niche,” big enough to create an impact.
The impact of these for broadcast media and rights holders could be immense as we gain the power to stream live action anywhere in the world in an instant.
With the ever-growing number of connected devices in our lives, we will all become our own data banks, used to sharing this information with many people and organisations around us. Start to expect more personal interactions with advertisers, brands, and retailers. Media companies, take note.
Marketers will need to establish a bond and trust with consumers and persuade them that, by giving up access to personal data, in return they will get more tailored offers, information, and interactions.
Smartphones will become not only everyone’s gateway to this new age — this “Internet of Things” — but almost a complete remote control to everyday life. It’s becoming so already, don’t you think?
Every media company needs to take mobile and connected devices more seriously than ever before and create a strategy around mobile and data, with the customer experience being at the centre.
It’s an exciting time to be around. I believe you’re either excited or scared. If the latter, then maybe a future media career is not for you?