Personalizing the Internet of Things

Personalizing the Internet of Things

A combination of technological innovations and macro-market trends are converging to create unprecedented opportunities that will transform how nearly every industry operates as a result of connecting a widening array of objects, devices and services via the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Personalizing how the IoT captures, collates and shares the data generated in this connected world is the key to fulfilling its promise.

The IoT idea has become one of the hottest technology topics of 2014 because a variety of consumer and industrial products can now be connected in a scalable and economical fashion to produce a new set of services which were not possible in the past.

Today’s IoT capabilities have evolved from a previous generation of machine-to-machine (M2M) sensors, systems and software that were primarily utilized to handle a finite set of industry-specific functions. One of the most prominent examples has been deploying sensors on commercial vehicles to track their movement and status in order to fine-tune transportation logistics and reduce potential downtime.

Since the cost of the nanotechnology that powers the remote sensors has been cut dramatically, the range of ‘things’ that sensors can be attached to has become limitless.

“The key is personalizing IoT solutions in the industry sector the same way personalization has become the norm in the consumer web.”

Even more importantly, the Cloud has made it financially feasible to deploy the sensors anywhere because it significantly reduces the connectivity costs. In addition it reduces the cost of capturing, storing and analyzing the data generated by the sensors, as well as sharing the output of said analysis to whoever needs it.

Now, nearly every industry is exploring ways to connect to their end-products to better understand how they operate so they can improve their efficiency, and better understand how they’re used in order to better serve their customers.

In the consumer world, IoT implementations have already become commonplace via a variety of wearables. The most common of these consumer goods is an assortment of fitness products like Fitbit, and the most elaborate is Google Glass. What they both have in common (along with countless other IoT consumer items) is their ability to capture data from the user’s personal experience, analyze it in the context of other data points, and provide the user with valuable insights that can help them better understand their behavior and improve their performance.

This functionality is not only empowering to the individual, it is also a powerful tool for commercial product providers to build a tighter bond with their customers in an increasingly commoditized marketplace. The key is personalizing IoT solutions in the industry sector the same way personalization has become the norm in the consumer web.

We are all accustomed to Amazon’s ability to immediately recommend books, movies and other consumer items to us based on our previous purchases using continuously learning analytics. A growing number of vendors are developing similar abilities to enable their connected objects and devices to deliver the same benefits in the IoT environment.

Fitness services, such as MapMyRide and Strava, have capitalized on the data captured from their users’ exercise activities to develop new value-added services that offer deeper insights into their routines and provide more detailed statistics regarding how they rank against others. Based on this data, these services can sell advertising space to various companies seeking to appeal to their highly targeted population of users. They can also repackage the data to help other businesses improve their products.

This personalization process has become expected in the consumer world.

What makes the IoT phenomenon especially exciting is the infinite ways in which the consumer applications of today can be converted to commercial and industrial uses, thereby transforming how various businesses operate.

For instance, fitness-oriented wearables are quickly being converted into health-oriented devices aimed at helping patients overcome various ailments. These new health monitors enable doctors to more closely track their patients’ vital signs, and also allow the patient to view how they are progressing. These connections can substantially improve the quality of care to the patient while reducing the cost of healthcare delivery for the provider.

The same equation holds true for other industries. Transportation companies can use data generated from various sensors attached to their vehicles to monitor their status and location, identify issues before they become real problems, and recommend methods to improve their performance and efficiency. Personalizing this analysis to match the driver, vehicle, cargo and terrain will be the key to properly leveraging the IoT’s capabilities.

Given all these ‘moving parts’, determining how to measure the value of this IoT personalization process will be essential. The factors for success will be calculating the economic value to the user in light of competitive alternatives, and having the right mechanism to test, set and administer the constantly fluctuating price-points in the increasingly personalized IoT marketplace.

When these issues are overcome, both the customer and vendor will reap the benefits. Customers will gain better quality products and services that will employ the customers’ buying and usage data to keep pace with their constantly evolving needs. And, the vendor will have an opportunity to retain and produce more profitable revenue from customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Jeffrey M. Kaplan