There has been a great deal of buzz and commotion surrounding the “next big trend” of Internet of Things. There are some big technology companies offering big money for developers to come up with innovative ways to connect objects, such as appliances, lighting, technology and other common items that we currently have an “analog” relationship with.
Essentially, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a world driven by tiny sensors that can register and react to time, light, vibration, temperature, vitals, liquid, etc. If you’ve ever worn a Nike FuelBand, FitBit or even heart rate sensor, you’re an early adopter in this new sensor-driven world.
What does it mean for Communicators
Communicators are used to planning campaigns, measuring results after a program has ended. More sophisticated organizations might have a real-time listening command center that allows communicators to adjust and respond depending on social feedback. This information allows for successful management of plans, crisis and, more importantly, expectations.
However, what happens when consumers (both consumer and b2b) have access to all this important information. Some interesting scenarios could be:
- Consumer access mission critical information as it happens, even before owned internal systems have a chance to compile and report?
- Applications written by developers and consumers are able to access information quicker, faster and smarter than what in-house capabilities allow?
- Consumers or other companies are able to produce new products using your products and information, yet the company does not see any profit?
- When IoT ecosystems eliminate the need for consumers to directly interact with your products?
A suggested framework for IoT
There will be a number of products and use cases coming to the forefront in the next 4-5 years around this concept of IoT. Cisco believes Internet of Things could be a $19 trillion market. Before all of the money starts to be spent on bringing these devices to life, here’s one way to think about IoT.
The idea is that these sensor-based “things” will be developed to either notify users of an activity or automate an activity based on a pre-defined set of rules and determinants. In addition, these sensors will be able to collect event-based information about a user, application or thing or to compile information on an ongoing basis.
These principal parameters –notification, automation, compilation, and event-based – allow for four quadrants of use cases. These use cases are:
1. Activity-based: Sensors notifying a user about their activity during an event. Nike’s FuelBand is a great example of this as at the end of the day a user plugs in the device and uploads their exercise results of the day to a large social network, which provides support and challenges for users.
Future scenarios of activity-based IoT applications could be instead of FedEx having you sign for a package on a PowerPad device, the package outfitted with a sensor communicates with your wireless network and your home signs for the package. In this case, the package becomes the “connected thing.” This isn’t a new concept. FedEx has launched SenseAware that does most of this already. The idea is that the package itself, not a device is the connected thing. As that package cross your wireless threshold, you and the shipper are notified that your package has been delivered.
2. Information-based: Sensors collecting and notifying users when data thresholds have been reached or breached. An example of this is Nest or FitBit. These devices are constantly collecting information on energy usage and biometrics. Users are then able to adjust their behavior based on the collection of data across a long period of time. This is Big “Personal” Data.
3. User Activated: Sensors on one “thing” are working with sensors on another to automate activity based on a user action. A potential scenario could be when a consumer wakes up in the morning and with the use of a smartphone app, they “turn” on the downstairs of the house before even getting out of bed. With a touch, the heater turns on, the coffee machine starts brewing, the doggy door unlocks and lights in the kitchen turn on to welcome the house to the new day.
4. Pre-defined actions: Sensors have been instructed to initiate an action that a user has predefined. This is the most advanced view of IoT, because there is quite a bit of software programming and special devices needed to achieve this quadrant. There’s a great framework within this area that is already out called “If This Then That” or IFTTT. So, as a sensor is collecting information, once a pre-defined threshold is met, then an action happens.
The idea I most enjoy is the scenario of the commute home. The popular traffic app, Waze, works with your home to estimate the time you arrive and starts to warm or cool your home. It starts to preheat the stove. When you pull into your driveway, your car automatically connects to your home network and starts to download all the vitals of your vehicle and you, because of your FitBit or Nike FuelBand. New songs bought on iTunes are downloaded to your car and based on your diet for the day, your refrigerator is displaying a recipe on its digital display based on the calories you need and the food available inside the appliance.
This is just a quick introduction about a topic I’m really excited about. Would appreciate any feedback you may have on the framework or future scenarios of IoT.