Recently a group of leading Internet and media experts gathered to discuss "The Internet of Things" and, more specifically, how digital technology is transforming the marketing and advertising industries. "Our goal was to engage in some rapid visioning amongst thought leaders around the opportunity inherent in the growing 'connectivity' of everyday objects and the benefits this can provide to consumers and innovators," said Innovation Loft CEO Howard Tiersky. Innovation Loft is a leading innovation consultancy, and the Internet of Things gathering was held at their new workshop facility in New York City.
Various industry voices were represented in an evening of lively prognostication: David Brown, EVP of Meredith Xcelerated; Tom Touchet, CEO, City24/7; Steve Halloran, Founder and Managing Partner of Seismic; and Mikhail Damiani, CEO of Blue Bite. While the room was full of divergent views, one thing everyone could agree on was that it's time to figure out what opportunities the Internet of Things brings to the media business. As advertising and marketing leaders, we don't want to find ourselves flat-footed or left out of the evolution of the consumer experience.
As the host of the evening, I made the introductory argument that the Internet of Things is simply a place where digital and physical worlds collide. And the futurists are seeing big dollars in this collision: Recently, IT research agency IDC pegged the Internet of Things market to hit $7.1 trillion by 2020. Cisco has had a jump start on brand ownership of this virtual-meets-physical world, with commercials showing how their systems are connecting " the Internet of Everything" (their term) to reshape our day-to-day experiences. Cisco's commercials show how the Internet of Everything is connecting ambulance rides with real-time doctor availability at nearby hospitals and bringing the once-static visit to the hardware store to life with dynamic supply-chain data.
Another example of digital and physical colliding is the emergence of companies like Blue Bite, a key player in the mobile-marketing world. Blue Bite uses proprietary technology to connect smartphone users with physical touch-points, such as digital ads running on out-of-home platforms. Since founding in 2007, Blue Bite has activated mobile/out-of-home campaigns for clients like Samsung, Toyota and Gap.
Some of the most exciting, life altering rollouts of the Internet of Things are taking place in our homes and cars. On the home front, the Google Nest app promises to bring the house alive by connecting smartphones with thermostats and smoke alarms. Google's acquisition of Nest for the mega sum of $3.2 billion is evidence that the connected home is imminent. Apple is also making serious investments in apps that enliven the domestic space. Last month, the Financial Times reported that Apple is readying new software to turn iPhones into remote controls for lights, security systems and other household appliances as part of a move into… that's right, the Internet of Things. A key takeaway from the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show was that apps making cars, homes, and wearables "smart" is our future.
"There's a reason we're seeing Google and Apple take an interest in cars," Clear Channel's Josh Kruter noted at the Innovation Loft. "Drivers are not supposed to be checking mobile phones while driving; Google and Apple know this to be a business opportunity and are integrating mobile into car dashboards to eliminate hand-held distraction and safety risks, yet still providing consumers a seamless connected experience."
Google Now delivers real-time, highly personalized information about traffic patterns, sports scores and weather. Just imagine what this looks like on a car dashboard. Apps like Dash promise to turn any car into a "smart car" by allowing consumers to connect cars to phones. Enhanced performance, cost savings, and my favorite catchphrase -- "social driving" -- are just a few of the promises made by Dash. Apple for its part has developed CarPlay, billed as "the best iPhone experience on wheels."
Steering the conversation to the issue of privacy, David Brown, EVP of Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, said some of the world's largest brands are looking for ways to connect media actions to people and deliver personalized advertising. "What is the cost of personalization?" Brown asked. "And what is the appetite for it?" Big brands have already ventured far into the world of personalization, with vending machines that include facial recognition technology. Why? So these machines can recommend personalized products (think recipes catered specifically to busy mothers), having analyzed their faces. Brown said, "Clients have to share their data in exchange for personalized services."
Thinking equally big, Tom Touchet, CEO of City24/7, has been working on the Internet of Things for seven years in collaboration with Cisco IBSG and New York City. Through the use of 250 Smart Screens in each of the five boroughs that incorporate touch, voice and audio technology, hyper-local information can be delivered to urban dwellers in real-time, making cities like New York truly smart and improving quality of life. According to Touchet, the City24/7 network will grow much larger than its initial 250 locations and expand through other agencies in an effort to provide valuable insights to governments, people, and businesses.
No matter how you slice it, the Innovation Loft discussion demonstrated that the Internet of Things is no longer a pipedream. For better or worse -- and the consensus lies on the side of betterment -- the connected world has arrived for big brands and private citizens alike. For those of us in out-of-home media, the Internet of Things means our industry will be an integral part of the space where the physical and digital worlds collide.
Read Jack Myers' Internet of Things commentary.
Renee Jordan is Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of Clear Channel Outdoor North America where she is bringing her extensive experience transforming media businesses and organizations to bear on out-of-home. Renee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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