As the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up in Las Vegas last month, one thing became abundantly clear: 2015 is going to be a big year for connected devices. From toothbrushes that can schedule check-ups with dentists to yoga mats that can analyse poses in real-time, 3,000+ companies launched more than 20,000 new products at CES this year.
Collectively referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), this concept of connected devices is obviously nothing new. In fact, Gartner predicts that the number of Internet-connected devices will inflate to more than 25 billion by the year 2020.
Driven by convenience and an infatuation with previously impossible technological capabilities, consumers will continue to build their arsenals of smart gadgets. As their collections of Internet-enabled devices grow, they will look to businesses to enhance connectivity and improve user experiences. Part of advancing the user experience means creating ways for these devices to seamlessly communicate with one another.
Coffee makers that can be programmed to brew at a specific time during the day are now things of the past. The coffee maker that can communicate with a user's mattress to sense when he or she is waking up, send an interactive push notification to the user's phone asking which flavour is preferred, and automatically order those preferred coffee beans from Amazon when supplies are running low is the wave of the future.
With such an abundance of smart devices producing exabytes of consumer data, businesses must rethink how they will store, organise, and leverage the information. Real-time processing and analysis will become the norm, and without an infrastructure in place capable of handling large volumes of both structured and unstructured data, organisations will fall behind. So what, exactly, should IT and marketing professionals do to stay ahead of the IoT curve?
Focus On Identity
Identity is the key to unlocking the true potential of the Internet of Things.
By tying all of the data points generated from connected devices back to a user's identity, businesses will be able to create truly personalised and lifestyle-based experiences for individual consumers. This reconciliation and attribution of data to a single consumer identity is what will enable a user's toothbrush to successfully communicate with his or her smartphone, cloud-based calendar, and dentist's patient scheduling portal.
Without a clear system in place to attach information to individual user records, data can become fragmented and, essentially, useless. If the data points from each device are housed in independent silos, the experience becomes disjointed and aggravating for users.
The best practice for businesses is to keep data clean, organised, and attached to a user's identity from the very first point of connection. This process starts with registration. When a consumer first registers with a business on a connected gadget, either through traditional site registration or via a pre-existing social account, a user record needs to be created.
From this point on, the business needs to tie any action taken by the consumer from any touchpoint managed by the business back to the user record. It's this connection with user identity that allows devices to communicate with one another in order to learn user preferences and deliver convenience.
For example, if a person purchases a Samsung smartphone, that individual is now a part of the Samsung ecosystem. If the user decides to treat his or her phone as a control center for a Samsung smart TV, remotely do laundry via a Samsung connected washing machine, or send files to Samsung wireless printer using a third-party app, he or she should be able to do so using the same login credentials created upon first entry.
All of the data points can be aggregated and relayed back to the user record, allowing the business to create unique, 1:1 experiences.
Maintain a Unified Database
In addition to ensuring all returned data points are attributed to user records, businesses must make sure they have a solution in place to securely house these records. Utilising a dynamic-schema database with the ability to go beyond basic user attributes makes building accurate customer profiles and engaging experiences a reality for companies heavily invested in the creation of connected devices.
An advanced database that is built with a dynamic-schema can easily process massive amounts of unstructured user data in an optimised way. Customer data is automatically indexed and updated when a user takes an action the business has identified as useful. This information becomes available in an organised, easily navigable manner that enables marketers to tailor and target their efforts.
With systems in place to consolidate, organise, securely store, and access customer data, brands can bring to life the grand visions of a more connected world. As the Internet continues to evolve to include connected devices, it helps engineer the evolution of customer identity to include payment information, biometrics, and social graph data. With identity at its core, the Internet of Things can truly change our daily lives.
After all, what is the purpose of billions of smart devices if they are unable to work together to create convenience and relevance? Without identity, the Internet of Things is just noise.