Lingering Awhile in the Internet of Things

By Denise Konkol on August 27, 2016

Consider GPS tracking, video surveillance, and other ways to track information on people (albeit much of it with our permission), and George Orwell’s “1984” becomes more of a playbook than science fiction.

The jewel in the crown may just be the Internet of Things (IoT), which has progressively made the machines that surround us smarter and more interactive with us. Basically, create a thermostat that allows you to set the inside temperature of your home up or down when you’re hundreds of miles away, and it’s a convenience that lets consumers happily hand over their personal information and location at any given time of the day. But is the motto “freedom is slavery” the case here?

The internet of things

A Long Way from the Telegraph
The concept of IoT was but a glimmer in the eye of the International Telegraph Union, founded in 1865 as an agency of the United Nations (UN). Its purpose was to coordinate communication operations and services throughout the world, and as technology demanded, the “T” became Telecommunication. The Internet of Things Global Standards Initiative is a sector of the ITU, which is a body of experts that has been assembled to develop international standards (ITU-T Recommendations). These act as “defining elements in the global infrastructure of information and communication technologies.”

What all that alphabet soup and formal definition means is that representatives from across the globe have been creating standards for communication – whether it’s radio, satellite, digital, etc. – so at the end of the day, your cell phone can talk to my cell phone with ease.

IoT focuses on physical objects like the thermostat, and increasingly home appliances, cars and even wearables like athletic shoes. These objects are embedded with sensors, electronics and software that collect and share data with devices like the phone you’re holding in your hand or the laptop you’re using to read this.

Slow at First, but Gaining Ground
IoT has been in the works for many years, but as technology usually goes, adoption is tentative at first, then explosive. Challenges have held IoT full-scale implementation for a number of years.  So it’s why just recently you’ve likely been unable to watch the news without some story on self-driving cars, or seeing a commercial on whole-home systems that control everything from security systems to the interior settings for your refrigerator.

The reality of how much data this type of data sharing generates has required storage capability that wasn’t first available. Now that cloud storage is standard the gates are opening, with companies like GE, Tesla, and city governments all wanting constant and real-time data that usage of systems and products will give them.

Another change driving the forward progress for IoT is the availability of technology and analytical methods that can be used to streaming data from the sensors. The data is “in motion,” but if you don’t have the means to interpret it, it’s just wall dressing.

Slavery is Freedom: The Up Side to IoT
The lure and luxury of being able to adjust our athletic footwear to our specific activity and comfort is irresistible. And being able to save money on our heating or cooling bills by remotely controlling the temperature to be ideal when we walk in the door serves our left brain well, thank you very much.


In addition, companies that need data from their customers on the use and performance of their products get what they want as well. They can track consumers’ behavior and anticipate their needs and intentions. Decisions on future designs and troubleshooting for current products can be made literally as soon as the product comes out of the box.

As the consumer, you now have the option to push decisions and performance to the edge. This provides expanded options for a new industry to monetize the IoT. So look for more products to have more and better sensors to better manage the performance of processes or machinery.

A white paper from the International Institute for Analytics outlined some of the other “big company, big thinking” applications of IoT:

  • Oil and gas refining – sensors predict the deterioration of equipment, which allows for a quicker process to fix, and less down time (and time is definitely money)
  • Electricity – sensors identify “events” in the grid to deploy a quicker response based on the nature of the event
  • Transportation – before the flurry of reports on self-driving cars, the heavy truck industry has used sensors to get data on potential failure of their over-the-road rigs and fix the problems before they happen away from the mechanic’s shop.

Freedom is Slavery: The Down Side to IoT

The most basic challenge is the speed and volume of technology. Speeding up a data-driven process requires a move of computing to the “edge” – what device is closest to the action or event? However if that device is your smartphone, it may not be capable or accessible for the huge volume of processing and instant decision making required.

Your participation in IoT can be voluntary – you don’t have to download an app for your Nest device to adjust your home’s thermostat – but the vast majority is not. How comfortable are you with having even more of your personal data (location, behavior, etc.) shared with companies, even if the net result is convenience?

Which brings us to the 800-pound gorilla in the room: cybersecurity. Identity theft and hacking are just the start of the concerns. After all, if your phone is hacked and you’re in a “driverless car,” the consequences could be lethal. The goal of IoT is to make the sharing of data easier between user and business, but it also makes it easier for hackers to get in on the conversation.

The very thing needed to allow the flow and storage of data – cloud computing – could also be IoT’s Achille’s heel. If the standards of security for a company’s cloud storage aren’t sufficient, the territory is an invitation to invaders to steal data.

Marketing in the New World of IoT

Despite the risks, IoT is going to roll in, and will battle its demons accordingly as every other new technology has. So what will online marketing do with it? Industry experts have made a few predictions:

  • The keyword may fall: The long-form query is already on the rise, with questions being asked versus a couple of words chosen for web searches. The keyboard itself may even play a reduced role as IoT is the perfect environment for the voice digital assistant fielding queries from users.
  • Organic searches may be replaced: IoT is intuitive by nature, so as a user provides data, queries may be prompted directly from IoT. For marketers, this may just mean a shift in measurement and search engine optimization to IoT-based searches. If you’re following the dots, expect the same impact to SERPs.
  • Move over, Google? Possibly. The world’s largest search engine won’t likely lose sleep, but will have to adapt to a new neighbor, as more people use IoT to search for videos and information.
  • It’s really all about YOU. If you thought things were getting personal before, with retargeting supplying you with product information you didn’t know you were seeking, the data IoT will have will make searches even more intimate. That can mean a far more relevant search experience, and a specific challenge to marketers to make sure they are relevant, too.

Head spinning yet? The gravity of what companies, cities and organizations will know about you is definitely Orwellian in nature. The key is in adoption and acceptance of the technology, which is the pace by which all progress happens, with consumers firmly behind the wheel.

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