The Internet of Things – popularly branded in social media circles as #IoT – promises to transform many areas of consumer behavior, especially how often hashtags are used. That was a lame joke of course. However, what is not a joke is that the landscape of consumer behavior — as tomorrow quickly becomes today — will certainly be transformed in significant ways because of #IoT (also, just IoT). The impact these changes will have on consumer behavior are unpredictable — at least to those without a crystal ball. For many Fortune 500 enterprises, that fact is no laughing matter, because, well, nobody actually has a crystal ball.
The reality is that some companies will be better positioned to leverage IoT, while others will not. Some will not even know why IoT will even matter. In this posting we aim to get you started on your own IoT journey and to show you that your hope to get a handle on IoT can become your reality sooner rather than later.
Let’s start with the basics. What is the Internet of Things anyway? Is it something about the Thing from the Addams Family films? Does it have something to do with the Thing movies? Maybe Dr. Seuss had something to do with it – Thing 1 and Thing 2? Is it this Thing or that Thing? Is it Everything? After all, Cisco labels the networked connection of people, processes, data, and things, the Internet of Everything (IoE), which they believe represents a $4.6 trillion opportunity for global public sector organizations over the next decade. Of course, let us not confuse any of this with Stephen Hawking’s Theory of Everything, which was simply the most egregious example of picking far too broad of a topic to write about, ever — Come on, Stephen, focus!
For those new to the buzzword, the Internet of Things, encompasses the ever expanding realm of interconnected smart devices. Literally, as one Forbes article stated, the day is fast coming when anything that has an “on” and “off” switch will be talking to each other over a network (things to things). In fact, some of these things will not even have an “off” and “on” switch. They will be waking up, doing their thing, and going back to sleep.
Not to get metaphysical about it, but IoT includes us real people too (things to people) – in our famously mortal “on” phase at least. No worries, however, as our biological battery life stands to last longer and longer thanks to ongoing advances in the medical industry. Moreover, I am fairly certain that our 80 years, or so, of charge, still got the iPhone 6 beat. Then again, who knows what the 7 will introduce.
The fact is that Fortune 500 enterprises will need to be positioned to leverage the power of #IoT as quickly as possible to understand how consumer behavior is unfolding in the marketplace, almost in real-time, as it is actually happening. Smart products will tell all. This presents a big problem for most Fortune 500 companies because retooling large enterprises to interpret what products are saying to each other – let alone consumers – would be like trying to turn the proverbial battleship on a dime.
So how does an enterprise get a handle on the Internet of Things now? How can they nimbly position themselves to be a leader in IoT? How can an enterprises wig, when IoT wigs; and, how can it wag, when IoT wags? The first step is to acknowledge that enterprises will be in a race they can’t win — at least in the traditional sense!
Trying to keep pace with traditional tools and processes to understand consumer behavior based on the streaming data that will be generated by the billions and billions of smart products, from toasters to cars, is not so much as comparable to a tortoise racing against a hare; but, more like a tortoise racing against a Higgs boson particle zipping around that quantum Slip ‘N Slide called the Large Hadron Collider. Lucky for you, there is a solution – and it does not require knowledge of quantum mechanics.
The solution lies in your enterprise big data expertise. That is where you need to get started. That is where you need to ramp up your expertise to not only understand how your consumers talk to each other, but what their products – yours and others – will soon be saying to each other as well. Will they be saying nice things?
Moreover, you will need partners that can support you by leveraging the power of big data insights. You don’t need to retool the enterprise. You need to find the folks that know how to leverage big data properly for your enterprise.
You will need firms that know how to look beyond mere sentiment analysis and can get to the heart of what is really being said about your products out there in the great interconnected IoT among your consumers – and among your products themselves.
Consider the famous droid, R2-D2, in the Star Wars films. Recall how many times in the Star Wars films when R2-D2 would plug into a spaceship, a battle station, and communicate with it. This is a good analogy of how your products will be talking to each other. Of course understanding what R2-D2 was saying often required interpretation by his equally famous companion robot, C-3PO. You won’t have a golden protocol droid like C-3PO to reveal R2-D2’s insights, but you will have big data.
Big data tools and processes will enable you to computationally analyze the extremely massive datasets to detect consumer behavior patterns, trends, and associations that will soon be produced by all those wonderful interconnected devices. This is how you get in front of the great ever-expanding Internet of Things, IoT. Drawing consumer insight from IoT will be a big data effort; doing it well, can be the differentiator for your enterprise. Of course big data is not a crystal ball – after all, no one has one of those – but it just might be the next best thing!