Recently David Cameron announced that the UK government will invest a further £45 million in the Internet of Things, sparking renewed interest in a topic that has captured the imaginations of gadget-fiends worldwide.
The Internet of Things is not some distant-future concept. Very soon nearly everything in our lives will be connected: from car parks that tweet at us with space availability to desk chairs that tell us if our posture is poor when we sit down. But what is the business opportunity presented by the Internet of Things? How will it help UK Plc and how will businesses use it?
One of the most important, yet often most overlooked, aspects of all this connectivity is the impact it will have on the relationship between businesses and their customers. As has been much discussed, social media has massively changed the power customers hold, their engagement levels and their proactivity. The Internet of Things will further boost this. It will also greatly impact the level of information organisations have about their customers from all those connected objects. Which means the Internet of Things is in many ways going to be the Internet of Customers.
The information from 'connected everything' means companies will be able to see correlations and patterns that they just weren't able to view previously. This data will provide insights about customer preferences: what they want, what they like and what they don't like. As importantly, businesses will be better able to act upon those insights, engaging their customers in myriad ways.
Let me give you an example. The Philips Sonicare toothbrush, when connected to the internet, can positively enhance relationships between Philips and its customers and their dentists. By tracking information about its users' brushing behaviour, children can no longer convince their parents that they brushed their teeth before bed, when they didn't. Device usage information could be shared with your dentist and if your gums are unhealthy, check-up prompts will be automatically sent. It could offer parent-customers interactive reward charts for children who brush regularly for the correct length of time, enhancing long-term engagement with the Philips brand. In this way, all parties benefit from this enhanced connectivity.
In theory this all sounds good, but in reality how will businesses cope with all this new customer information? The key to unlocking the power of the Internet of Things lies in the mobile device. In a few years' time each of us is likely to have numerous information points on our person (watches, glasses, clothes, devices etc.,) and many more in our homes and offices. To manage all these 'data feeds' we require a single application in which all the 'feeds' are visible in an easy- to-manage format, allowing both a quick overview and a detailed drill-down.
While many gadgets could run this information, most of us are likely to choose our phones or tablets as the primary means to provide this single view, simply because we will need access to it all the time. In fact this device probably already is the 'dashboard of your life.' In the next few years, thanks to the Internet of Things, combined with cloud computing, this device should provide the single, consistent experience through which we will manage both our personal and work lives, wherever we are, enabling a more efficient and productive existence.
So, it seems that the government's investment in the Internet of Things will not just benefit the gadget geeks among us. The Internet of Things will touch all aspects of our lives, from leisure to work. And it is mobility that is driving this future, enabling better experiences for all of us.