Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—does need the human touch for information. Nearly all of the massive amounts of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code.
The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things, we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. For example, programmers at the Carnegie Mellon University connected their Coke Machine over the Internet enabling them to check the status of the machine and determine whether or not there would be a cold drink awaiting them, should they decide to make the trip down to the machine.
IoT systems can not only ‘sense’ things but also take ‘action’. I believe the IoT will revolutionise the way we live, work and play, and pretty soon at that!
Imagine you are an upcoming retailer/restaurateur with multiple outlets across cities and wondering what it takes to effectively engage customers using a mobile app, consider the following:
Compelling reason: An average smart-phone user downloads 25 apps and about one-third of the apps are never used more than once. A me-too app doesn’t make the cut. Businesses would need to talk to a few loyal customers first and understand how they’d benefit if they engage with your brand via a mobile app
Look and feel: Unfortunately mobile app users do not make the distinction between an app from a brand that has deep pockets and an app that is built on budget. If the app doesn’t look good and is not easy to use, the user will never return to your app.
Promotion: The simplest way to promote your app is to stick a QR code of your app URL near the customer service counters. Train your customer service staff to share the benefits of using the app with your customers. For efficient spending of the marketing budget, you can try location targeted mobile ads.
Push notifications: Judicious use of Push Notifications is the key to unlocking customer engagement using mobile apps. Push notifications are ideal for new product announcements, promotional offers etc. Care must be taken to avoid the overuse of push messages.
Proximity marketing: With advances in the beacon technology, it is now very easy for brands to engage customers who happen to be near your store. Beacon technology is very new and the deployment needs to be thoughtfully considered. Current use cases are limited to greeting the customer and guiding the customer to promotional products.
Mobile Wallets: Many upwardly mobile users have realised the benefits of mobile wallets and started using them for essential services. If your customers express interest in convenient payment mechanisms, you may want to look at supporting mobile wallets.
Experience does matter
Gone are the days where you need to collect paper based feedback forms and act on them. Today there are sophisticated tablet based feedback solutions available that let you collect, analyse and act on customer experience real-time. A lot of players are trying to develop the platform for IoT and take a lead in defining the industry standards, however, this will require a mammoth cross industry initiative and we will have to wait to see standards emerge. At the current stage, there are a good number of options for businesses to try and test these technologies to build trust and gain leverage. Some of the sectors include:
Healthcare: Hospitals face a lot of challenges in managing patients and doctors. IoT solutions taking advantage of mobile handhelds or RFID sensors can help guide patient flow and improve utilisation of resources.
Retail/e-commerce industry: Real time presence, ability to provide a cross channel experience to customers, smart shelves, personalisation and targeting solutions are becoming core to these industries. IoT will play a major role in inventory management and streamlining supply chain.
Manufacturing and process industries: Production processes are well established with a seamless interaction of people and machines. These machines today don’t talk to one another and hence provide an opportunity for an intelligent system which shares information across the value chain. Intelligent machinery, network infrastructure and production processes will gain immensely.
IoT has tremendous potential across industries. In the grand scheme of things, all of these things across industries will have the potential to talk with one another as well. Till the time we reach to that utopian state, businesses will have to test these solutions one at a time, and work with a larger framework in mind. And yet again, communication is the key—only this time it is not the people doing the talking, but the machines—both with other machines, as well as humans!
Intelligence by itself is not a static one time entity. It is a breathing, ever improving framework and technology is the core catalyst in helping intelligence grow. Most of the physical products today serve a specific need and do not do anything beyond that. This core logic also applied to us as individuals, where we were limited by our physical presence, until the Internet came along and now we are at the cross roads of the physical and virtual worlds, where we are constantly learning, communicating, exchanging ideas and growing our intelligence as a species at a phenomenal rate.
Our physical products are now at the same cross roads, given the technology advances in sensors and middle ware, can the products also have a connected virtual presence? This interconnectedness, powered by the Internet, becomes the Internet of Things and can bring in the next major intelligence-propelled upside.
The writer is CEO, Ma Foi Analytics