What is The Internet of Things?

It’s a dumbass name, admittedly, but one that’s already having a significant and growing impact on how we do business.

If you haven’t heard of the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s time to take notice. Originally attributed in 2009 to Kevin Ashton, Executive Director of the Auto-ID Center at MIT at the time. He said in relation to the Internet of Things, “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things, using data they gathered without any help from us, we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost”.

The basis of the Internet of Things concept is that every ‘thing’ or product can and ultimately will be connected to the internet. Using sensors or cameras of every description to collect data, and mobile or fixed line technology to transmit, process and respond to data, businesses can have 24/7/365 access to real-time data about the products or services it provides. Cisco predicts that by 2020, over 50 billion things will be connected to the internet.

‘Machine to Machine’ technology (M2M) has been in use for years to collect and deliver data, but we’re only just starting to unlock the potential of internet connectivity and interactivity to enable intelligent ‘conversations’ between machines.

You’re driving along the road. An engine warning light appears on your dashboard, you take your car to a service centre where the mechanic plugs in diagnostic equipment and corrects the engine’s timing. That’s M2M. You’re driving along the road. A sensor constantly transmits engine management data to a computer that detects a timing anomaly and instructs the car’s onboard computer to improve the engine timing. You don’t even know it’s happening. You just keep driving. That’s the Internet of Things.

That’s one example. There are millions. Automotive, manufacturing, energy, healthcare, property… the Internet of Things is relevant and increasingly applicable to every business market. My favourite so far is the Egg Minder from GE. For just $14 the Egg Minder monitors how many eggs you have in your fridge and alerts you via mobile app when it’s time to buy more. There truly is a place for everything on the internet.

Now consider how the Internet of Things will impact business marketing. You can have real-time access to how, where and when your products and services are bought by customers. You can monitor their ongoing usage, location, behaviours, performance – not only to inform marketing strategy and future sales, but to improve the existing customer experience across the entire product or service lifecycle.

Business to business companies will know when, where and how they need to help customers, when they’re ready for a replacement or upgrade, who’s most likely to respond to new offers… and for the most part, you’ll be able to deliver the solution automatically, in advance, seamlessly, so everyone can ‘just keep driving’. Or at least some of you will. The rest of you will just keep sending emails as the sum total of your internet marketing effort. If you’re still sniggering about the ridiculousness of the Egg Minder, maybe you should be starting to think, ‘full English breakfast’. And remember, you laughed when I told you social media would transform B2B marketing services a few years ago. Ha.

Scot McKee