There is no doubt that we are living in an age in which technology has become more accepted by the average person. Whereas at one time there was perhaps a certain scepticism about new innovations and inventions, today people of all ages are embracing the latest technological developments enthusiastically. This does not mean that every new device is an automatic success story, but it does mean that if manufacturers deliver something innovative and of real quality that they know they have an excellent chance of finding a captive audience.
This appetite for new technology devices is reflected at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Each year the great and the good in the technology marketplace unveil their latest wares with the hope of impressing industry insiders, analysts and journalists. CES is one of the best places on the planet to find out how the lives of the general public will be transformed by consumer electronics during 2015.
The headline makers opted to focus on devices which charged mobile phones very rapidly and top of the range television sets during this year’s CES show. But one of the most important aspects of the show which really came to the fore this year was the development of Internet of Things devices.
This may be a phrase that is not particularly familiar to the average person as of yet, but the Internet of Things promises a future in which everyday household devices and appliances are connected to the Internet. This will effectively make them smart appliances, and will enable people to, for example, program washing machines and heating systems to operate while they are outside the home.
Although the Internet of Things cannot be considered a mainstream technology as of yet, the number of connected devices worldwide is already growing exponentially. It is estimated by Gartner that by the end of 2015 there will be around 5 billion connected devices in use globally, which represents roughly an increase of one-third from 2014.
While many people may be somewhat sceptical about the value of smart appliances, the rise of truly connected platforms within our homes could happen faster than we think. As smart devices proliferate, start to communicate with one another and work together, the opportunity for such platforms to enhance our everyday experience, whether in driving, video gaming, health or housework, will increase rapidly.
There perhaps aren't too many tangible examples of this phenomenon at present, but one area where we can already see the rise of connecting platforms is within entertainment. According to research carried out by the Leichtman Research Group, there is a 50 percent chance that your television is smart connected, and this means that streaming services will be open to you.
Although people still sit down in front of the television and wonder what stations have scheduled for them to watch, this behaviour which has spanned decades is beginning to change. Certainly younger people pay little heed to television schedules in this day and age, with the possible exception of sporting events, and utilise ‘on demand’ services instead. This is just one example of the way in which smart devices can enhance the convenience of our existence.
Similar platforms and services are now seeping into other categories as well. At this point in time, few people will have connected appliances, thermostats, smoke alarms, and other household devices, but those who purchase them in the next 12 months may find that this becomes a possibility. Sophisticated operating systems are being built into cars as well, and these are able to utilise our smartphones and other mobile devices to navigate, play music, send texts and offer other functionality through the dashboard screen of the vehicle.
All of these smart devices and systems connect to smartphones, underlining the importance of this hugely popular modern device. Smartphones have long since evolved beyond a platform for telephone calls and text messages, and although the average person likely has dozens of apps downloaded onto their phone, the whole role and concept of what a smartphone represents is rapidly evolving. Smartphones are becoming a central hub for our existence; a sort of digital personal assistant intended to make our lives easier.
Smartphones and Consumer Context
Smartphones are ideally suited to this because they are able to understand our context at any given time. Firstly, in locational terms a smartphone is instantly able to understand where we are in the world, but the amount of data which we feed into our smartphones also helps them to understand us as a person, along with our basic needs, interests and motivations. As we connect more devices into our personal networks, the Internet of Things will be able to create superior experiences for us in many areas of our lives, and these will always be customisable as well.
This whole concept has been referred to as the ‘Internet of Me’, emphasising the extent to which this new technology can serve our personal interest. And businesses are already attempting to tap into this. One of the most high profile examples has been Uber, which makes ordering a taxi considerably more convenient. And Starbucks' new mobile ordering app finds your closest store, sends your order there, tells you when it will be ready, and tells you how to get there.
These are impressive examples, but only scratch the surface of what will be possible in the future. People will be able to program thermostat devices to turn on heat at certain times, and communicate with our sleep-monitoring wristbands to increase the temperature to an optimum level shortly before the moment one awakens. As the Internet of Things develops, manufacturers and technology companies will be able to deliver seamless experiences that enhance our everyday existence.
A takeaway from this concept is that the future will be one driven by extreme personalisation. Consumers are now pretty demanding about receiving the sort of service that they personally require, and the Internet of Things will make it possible to deliver an extremely nuanced and specific customer experience.
Delivering Personal Consumer Experiences
In this context, companies who engage with Internet of Things technology will be defined by how they utilise information at their disposal to learn more about their customers and continually and continuously improve user experiences. In the future, businesses will be able to take advantage of this incredible wealth of connections to not only deliver superior products, but to greatly enhance customer service.
Predicting what will happen in the future is always a fascination for the human race. And every company in the world is deeply motivated to achieve this. Technology companies are particularly skilled at anticipating what their customers want and what they will want next; for example, recommendation engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated. But the Internet of Things promises a future in which such anticipation becomes far more complex and apposite.
In the future, every single appliance that people utilise and come into contact with will offer learning potential. The amount of useful data being generated will be simply vast, and this will probably apply more to the tourist niche than many other industries. Companies will be able to increasingly take advantage of marketing and commercial opportunities via wearable technology in the future, and there is strong evidence already available indicating that travellers are hugely reliant on mobile devices. Therefore, the smartest and most successful digital marketers of the future will make great use of the Internet of Things and the inside information it offers on consumers.
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