Mass adoption of the Internet of Things will happen without most people noticing it. Why? In part, because except to select user groups, like technology early adopters, the term “Internet of Things” is meaningless. No one is saying, “hey you should go sign up for this Internet of Things thing”. There isn’t an actual thing to sign up for anyway.
But the main reason is that usage of the connected devices that make up the IoT will be driven by needs we didn’t know we had. Needs that marketers will tell us we have.
Marketers will drive adoption of the Internet of Things, gather even more of your data, and use it to sell you more things.
Many IoT predictions that I see paint a future of connected homes that sense your every move, mood, and need. For instance: your online calendar shows that you had meetings all day long, so your stereo (or music app on your iPad) knows to play mellow music when you get home from work.
But is the segment of people who want Jack Johnson on auto-play large enough to drive mass adoption of interconnected devices in the home? If not, who will drive this need? The answer is whoever will benefit financially from knowing where you are and what you are listening to, i.e. your data. In this case, it’s the music app that can sell ads based on what it knows about you (your work patterns,whether you live alone, your musical taste — from which age and even gender can often be derived).
Here is a theoretical scenario showing how marketers could lead the way towards what Cisco predicts will be 50 billion connected things by 2020:
Even Smarter Shoes
You buy a pair of shoes from Zappos. The shoes know how many steps you have taken. Using aggregate data on how long (number of steps) this type of shoe typically lasts, Zappos sends you a prompt to replace your shoes just as they begin to wear out. The shoes anticipate the need.
Zappos is already a master at anticipating user needs. For instance, they’ll send you an email a year after you bought winter boots to let you know it’s time to buy them again. They also geo-target Facebook ads based on weather data, to show you ads for Uggs when it’s snowing. The next step is to connect actual product usage with the individual user (you), then use the resulting data to anticipate your needs — and sell you more shoes.
The awesome/scary thing is that it won’t seem like an intrusion. It will seem like a service. That’s how smart marketers will use the IoT. As long as there is a value exchange for the user, the awesome part of this “service” will assuage any concerns over personal data.