Michelle de Haaff

Like the “Shareconomy,” the Internet of Things (IoT) is currently a bit of a catch-all — if not an all-out tech world buzzword. But simply put, it’s the leveraging of WiFi and mobile technologies to give a digital pulse to previously analogue items and experiences. And the runaway growth of the “Internet of Things,” which Gartner estimates will bring $1.9 trillion value into the global market by 2020, presents a particularly unique opportunity for the way customer experiences are created and monitored.

What’s the IoT like in action? Take the 100-year-old tradition of sitting in traffic as an example. Now, you can play music in your car from your smartphone, which is also relaying GPS data to Google, who then aggregates that data to display real-time traffic, which is then API’d into an app that give you the route to help you get home faster. And when you do get home, your car might text you later to let you know about your low tire pressure, while simultaneously notifying the manufacturer of a possible product defect. Think, just a few years ago, all you could do was listen to never-ending commercials on FM radio!

Embedded Intelligence

Increasingly, everything from cars to appliances to entire cities have the ability to “talk.” This ability to communicate has manifested itself in an explosion of delightful new product and service insights — as well as in a wealth of feedback that was once impossible to obtain.

Part of this new source of feedback comes in the form of automatically generated performance data, also known as “embedded intelligence.” Everything from jet engines to your washing machine can now generate this type of feedback.

As more and more of the things around us have become “smart” in this way, more and more of this kind of data is being created, and it’s led to opportunities to radically improve traditionally “less digital” processes, technologies, and industries —  such as agriculture, construction, urban planning, and transportation. Architects can now use data to create more energy efficient structures, farmers can optimize their use of water, and city governments can reduce traffic jams.

But how can you provide your employees with this data fast enough and in a relevant way?

Translate the Data Tsunami into Actionable Insights

Indeed, the Internet of Things is already resulting in a mother-load of fresh feedback data, insights, and huge opportunities for improving tried and true products and processes. But what’s happening with all this data? Like with any Voice of the Customer program, simply listening isn’t enough. Organizations have the opportunity to translate this data tsunami into actionable insights and deliver those insights to the right people within their organization. And with the proper wiring to employees (real-time, organized and summarized into actionable data) these insights could take IoT feedback loops (both automated and customer provided), and provide a radical opportunity to improve customer experiences.

For example, imagine household appliances that gather usage and error data to enable instantaneous repair or optimization by a remote technician – and further then pave the way for future generations of more useful, intuitive, and hardy products. Or retail store experiences that adapt in real-time — based on customers’ real-time feedback. Or marketing and advertising that doesn’t just guess what customers want, but instead know what they need. Or city planners and civil engineers who use data from things like traffic apps, thermostats, public transportation surveys, and power grids to build better, smarter cities.

Beyond that, it’s hard to even imagine what innovations and experiences the Internet of Things will bring. But for those who can get there first awaits a trillion-dollar reward.

Photo credit: Eric Fischer