The past 20 years have been a whirlwind of jaw-dropping leaps in technology—especially in the personal technology arena. The faster technology evolves, the more deeply we immerse ourselves in it, mesmerized by the virtual world at our fingertips (tapping on touchscreens). The impact on how we live in and interact with the world around us has been tremendous. We’re always on, always connected. Soon most of the objects around you (or on you) will be, too. Enter The Internet of Things. What this new frontier looks like in full force remains to be seen, but it’s gaining momentum quickly and we here at Liquid Agency want to help brands “plug in” meaningfully and responsibly.

What is the Internet of Things?
Put simply, the Internet of Things means everything is connected. From devices to appliances to wearables and beyond, the Internet of Things promises a world where pretty much any thing imaginable can be networked, share data, auto-respond and provide immense levels of information and interaction opportunities for individuals, brands, product manufacturers and beyond. Entire fields like science and healthcare stand to completely transform before your eyes…because of your eyes.

The concept—described by MIT technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton, as “uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an internet-like structure”—dates back to 1999, when the Internet was still in its infancy. Since then, the advancement and convergence of a vast array of technologies (including, networks, devices, data storage, processing capabilities, etc.) have continuously evolved toward this ‘all-connected world’ and the evolution continues. Even so, IoT seemed like pie-in-the-sky, sci-fi fantasy to the everyday Joe…until mobile hit the scene.

 

Mobile’s making it real
Smartphone and tablet adoption rates have far surpassed any technology preceding them. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, smartphone penetration (across manufacturers) has climbed rapidly and is expected to hit 70% in the U.S. by 2017 and 50% globally by 2016. U.S. tablet adoption currently sits at 34% (a mere 3 years after Apple launched the iPad). In response, there has been a surge of creativity and innovation in the development of mobile apps. To put this in perspective, both the Apple App Store and GooglePlay are projected to hit 750,000 apps apiece by the end of 2013. Let’s face it, we’re attached at the hip to our mobile devices— and the expanding landscape of connected experiences is turning them into little command centers.

Body monitoring and connected home mobile apps are giving consumers their first taste of IoT. Body monitoring apps, in particular, are gaining popularity amongst a growing segment of the population focused on health and well-being. Wearable devices like Nike+ Fuelband and FitBit One track your activity 24/7 and compile a wellness dashboard in an accompanying app. Connected home apps like Nest’s Climate (thermostat control), WeMo Switch (electronic device control) and Viper Connect (security system control) streamline home management tasks by letting you communicate with and control other objects in your home— in close proximity or remotely. Often little to no human interaction is required either, outside of the initial setup and occasional setting modifications. Mobile devices play an important role, at present, as they serve the role of data dashboard HQ.

 

What it means for brands
The implications that this new, hyper-connected world has on the world of brands are huge. With millions of newly connected objects comes an exponential volume of data, information that can be used to learn about the people who are using them— who they are, what they like or dislike, how they live—and offer them a better, more relevant experience.

The more connected we become; the more opportunity brands have to grow closer to us. Knowing who we’re talking to, what we’re doing and where we are means brands are more likely to know what we need when we need it. For example, a shoe company could suggest performance optimizing products or send injury-saving product replacement alerts to an athlete. A coffee shop could know a loyal customer is nearby and have their usual order ready for them the moment they arrive. Macy’s put this kind of thinking into action this holiday season, leveraging iBeacon and ShopKick to deliver a slick omni-channel shopping experience.

But the connected world is not only about the here and now. It’s also about the aggregate, or the information that’s gathered about people over time. What about a calendar application that actually tells you that you’ve been working too much? Or a map application that notices that you’ve been taking the same route to work for the past month and suggests an alternate to help with efficiency?

There are brands at the center of each of the aforementioned scenarios; brands that can be positioned within a person’s life, continually making it better while building loyalty and equity. It’s up to those brands to recognize their opportunities and take the next steps in offering value.

However, this is much easier said than done. While it’s true that the connected world will offer brands countless opportunities to make additional appearances in our lives, they won’t always be welcome. There is a time and place for everything—and not every time and place will be appropriate for a brand to show up. Brands need to strike a balance, finding only the best places to offer valuable or additional information. Context is king. Not everybody wants to be reminded of their health choices while they’re at a cocktail party and not everybody wants to know what their refrigerator is up to at 3 in the afternoon. Knowing more about the people you’re talking to means knowing when the time is right.

 

Take charge of your hyper-connected future
In these early stages of IoT we have the opportunity to influence how brands will engage…to shape the rules of engagement. Take a moment to consider what YOU want this brave new world to look like. Let’s help guide brands to make valuable and appropriate connections with us. Let’s start now, here, TODAY. Tell us how you see the future:

If your refrigerator, and all of its contents, got ‘smart’…

• What information would be sent or received?
• Where would it be sent—your phone, treadmill, TV, grocer, friends?
• What tasks would be automated for you—grocery shopping, setting workout routines on your treadmill, making doctor appointments?

If your clothes were connected (to other things)…
• What would they share, or not share, and with whom?
• What objects or systems would they connect with?
• How does your mirror come into play? Your washing machine? Your Amazon Wishlist?

These are a couple of examples to get the juices flowing. Get creative!

Following this blog post, we’re conducting IoT Innovation Sessions here at Liquid where our collective brain trust will start mapping out brand opportunities in an IoT world. Your contributions will not only help shape these conversations, but, ultimately, your “connected” interactions with brands themselves. We’ll be posting the results of these sessions, so stay tuned!

 

About Heather Dougherty
Heather has been delivering successful, high-caliber client solutions in the digital space since 1999, in a variety of environments—including start-up, corporate and agency environments (servicing both B2B and B2C clients). Her unwavering eye toward emerging and ever-shifting trends in digital, combined with deep expertise in digital marketing, content strategy and user experience best practices, inspire strategies with impact—for customers and businesses alike. Her client collaborations include Walmart, Subway Restaurants, Icebreaker, The Vanguard Group, Milgard Windows, Daimler Trucks North America, NW Natural and Portland State University.

About Kelly Rupp
Kelly Rupp is a Brand Strategist at Liquid Agency. He has spent the past 5 years building integrated branding programs for clients in the B2B technology, healthcare, consumer electronics, and lifestyle apparel industries.  Unafraid to challenge the status quo, Kelly is always looking for different and better ways to think about the concept of brand. Kelly is passionate about the future of brand building and helping to define how brands behave in 2013 and beyond. At Liquid, Kelly works across a number of accounts including Repair.com, Kareo, PayPal, Playstation and Google.

 

Illustrations by Lia Zhu

8 Comments

  1. Heath Schweitzer

    Thanks Heather and Kelly, nice work!

    Beacon (https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/beacon) is another IoT tech to watch out for from our friends at PayPal. Check out the TechCrunch article at http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/09/paypal-debuts-its-newest-hardware-beacon-a-bluetooth-le-enabled-device-for-hands-free-check-ins-and-payments/ for more details.

    December 11, 2013
  2. Martha Bowman

    If my fridge and all its contents were smart – I would hope that leftovers would be marked with expiration dates, their containers would move down to a bottom bin where they are easily disposed. A grocery list would be created every day as milk runs low and fresh foods are depleted or expired. The tablet positioned right next to my ice maker would keep track and manage my shopping list in Evernote. I’d have the option of sending my shopping list ahead to the grocer or just taking it with me on my iPhone. As my fridge got to know me better, it could start to suggest what meals I could make with ingredients on hand, or provide a shopping list to complement foods or round out menus. If I were watching what I eat (and when don’t we?) – my fridge could double as the food police – encouraging me to make smart choices, making it harder for me to grab the Haagen-Dazs. If my fridge were connected to my neighbors, I’d know just who to turn to when I was short an egg, needed a cup of milk or needed more Haagen-Dazs.

    December 13, 2013
  3. Alfredo Muccino

    Hi Heather and Kelly:

    Thanks for getting this started.

    I want to talk to you guys about this, because I’m pretty sure that I don’t want my clothes to be talking to anyone. Can you help me make sure this NEVER happens?
    :)

    December 17, 2013
    • Heather Dougherty

      Hahaha! Alfredo – I feel like your clothes would take on a life of their own and develop their own personality. I can see why you wouldn’t want that. “It wasn’t ME! It that darn red checkered jacket. It knows no boundaries.” ;) Seriously, though, privacy and opting in to these connections is a huge part of the conversation if this technology is to succeed in serving us and not scaring (or just plain overwhelming) us.

      December 17, 2013
      • Josh Berger

        But should a jacket be able to be warmer if it’s colder outside? And if it gets warmer outside, shouldn’t the jacket know that and adjust accordingly?

        December 17, 2013
  4. Josh Berger

    Great piece Heather and Kelly. Looking forward to your IoT workshop tomorrow.

    December 17, 2013
  5. Josh Berger

    Cool workshop today, thanks Heather.

    Here’s an interesting thought that I don’t believe has been brought up in this dialog yet. What are the stories of these objects? What happens when an object can contain its own history or has a memory or can talk to the environment around it?

    We are discussing a future where we as humans will relate to objects in a very different way—essentially, we’ll need to understand their point of view.

    This short interview with Alexis Lloyd, a Creative Director at the New York Times Research and Development Lab touches on many aspects of the idea of objects containing their own narratives: http://youtu.be/2zGghmoYvdg

    December 18, 2013

Leave a Reply