Internet of Things: A Beginner's Guide

It's 2055. The internet is now everything. You have a chip in your brain that automatically makes microtransactions to keep your FarmVille farm running. Your smartwatch tells you that you've got 1000 steps to make before being shown another ad. Everything is connected. Your fridge tells you you need to ring your mum, it's been too long. Your shoes are smarter than you are. 

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Basically IoT is just everything connected to the internet. Recently, it's been used more to describe objects that 'talk' to each other. This includes sensors, smartphones, wearables - anything online, connected. 

"The IoT integrates the interconnectedness of human culture -- our 'things' -- with the interconnectedness of our digital information system -- 'the internet.' That's the IoT," Kevin Ashton, who coined the term IoT, told ZDNet.

With marketing becoming increasingly data-driven, it's important to understand this concept. The 'connected consumer' is a great source of data for marketing. The connected nature of digital objects means that marketers can create totally different experiences, that bridge the digital and physical world, and expand what we mean by 'personalisation'. 

Marketers will be able to provide highly contextual and personalised messages, for example using digital signage in physical situations. Context-aware digital signage can even leverage IoT to monitor the ambient environment, process info, and deliver promotional messages based on environmental cues. They can even gather shopper demographic data by estimating age, gender and more. 

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IoT has introduced a bunch of new opportunities for marketers, but it's important that it must be considered beyond the gimmicks. IoT devices must be seen to solve real-world problems, and be able to keep up with the changing market. Content marketing is one field in which IoT is going to be particularly influential. 

We all know its data's world, and we're just living in it. The more data we collect as marketers, the better we know our customers, and the better products and services we can provide. Then, these products and services can be marketed in a more successful way. Basically, the whole cycle is streamline thanks to IoT.

Connected devices have already changed the way we shop, with voice command devices like Alexa meaning we have commerce directly at our fingertips. Voice tips? Idk.

Right now, the intrusive nature of an ad randomly playing in your house might not be ideal, as much as I love Barry Scott's Cillit Bang adverts, I wouldn't want him shouting in the middle of my own kitchen, thank you very much. But in terms of data collection, and advertising innovation, it is an area which is sure to offer far more opportunities in the future. 

So, let's get into it. What actually is the Internet of Things? 

The Internet of Things

IoT refers to the billions of physical devices that are now connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data. 

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The affordability of computer chips have made it possible to turn anything, from a watch, to a fridge, to a dose of The Bill Gates 5G Covid Vaccine 2000, into part of the IoT. 

"Connecting up all these different objects and adding sensors to them adds a level of digital intelligence to devices that would be otherwise dumb, enabling them to communicate real-time data without involving a human being," says Steve Ranger, editor-in-chief of ZDnet. 

"The Internet of Things is making the fabric of the world around us smarter and more responsive, merging the digital and physical universes."

Some larger objects, such as a driverless truck, might be filled with smaller IoT components, such as an engine that is filled with sensors. 

But marketing, that's what we're here for, not self-driving cars. Get outta here, Elon Musk. 

The use of IoT in marketing is about thinking outside the box and offering services in a valuable way for the customer irl.

So, how will marketers use IoT?

According to Marketo, it will involve:

  • Analysing customer buying habits across platforms;
  • Gathering previously unobtainable data about how consumers interact with devices and products;
  • Gaining deeper insights where a customer is in the buying journey
  • Providing real-time, point-of-sale notifications and targeted ads
  • Quickly resolving issues to close sales and keep customers happy

IoT's benefits depend on its particular implementation. It means smarter, more measurable systems that can help marketers in a number of different ways. 

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Steve Ranger continues:

"The idea is that enterprises should have access to more data about their own products and their own internal systems, and a greater ability to make changes as a result.

Manufacturers are adding sensors to the components of their products so that they can transmit data back about how they are performing. This can help companies spot when a component is likely to fail and to swap it out before it causes damage.

Companies can also use the data generated by these sensors to make their systems and their supply chains more efficient, because they will have much more accurate data about what's really going on."

Challenges of IoT

"[If] your smart light bulbs might know what time you go to bed at night, but if they start using this information to advertise insomnia products to you, it can start to feel like they know a little too much about your lifestyle," suggests Michael Brenner. So, it's all about skirting the line between personalisation, and stalker behaviour. 

80% of consumers say they are comfortable with sharing their personal info directly with a brand if it leads to a personalised marketing message. The IoT-powered adverts of the near future should be helpful, even if they're going to be invasive. 

Flaws in software are discovered pretty often, but many IoT devices lack the capability to be patched, and are therefore permanently at risk. And because of the amount of data they collect, and the lack of security, they are being actively targeted by hackers. Whether this creates a distrust in the consumer, over the ease of use, still needs to be seen. 

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Even governments are becoming more worried about the risks. In the UK, guidelines have been published around the security of IoT devices. This is the first, if modest, step to creating a safe utilisation of these devices, including companies providing points of contact for vulnerability reports, and what the duration is between security updates. 

"As everything turns into a computer, computer security becomes everything security", according to cyber-security expert Bruce Schneier, speaking at the Infosecurity Europe conference in London.

"This means two things; the knowledge we have about computer security is suddenly applicable to everything and the restrictions and regulations and controls from the real world start being imposed onto us," he said, adding "The place where we're first seeing this collision is the Internet of Things"

The IoT and Content Marketing

SEO has changed, and it's a race to keep up with what content writers need to do, to keep on top. 

Customer Insider reports: "Search strings are becoming longer and more like natural speech as users increasingly use digital assistants to carry out searches. They’re no longer Googling for “cleaning services Philadelphia.” Instead, they’re saying, “Hey Google, what are the best cleaning businesses near me?"

So, interaction with physical objects can change the way the digital space is controlled. This means that the way content creators need to write has to be adapted to the IoT. 

In marketing, it is important to prepare for the biggest changes in technology and society. IoT is one of those things.

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