Industry Buzzwords Column #1: The Internet Of Things

Photo credit: Photophilde on Flickr.

In what will be a regular column here on Retail Radar, today we look at one of the biggest industry buzzwords around – The Internet Of Things – and break down the jargon while dispelling the myths.

The Internet Of Things

When wireless is perfectly applied, the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain…The instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple… A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.

When Nikola Tesla – a Serbian-American inventor and futurist, credited with inventing technology such as the radio, alternating current and X-Rays – uttered these words in the 1920s, he wasn’t far off the vision of The Internet Of Things.  A future where objects, animals and people are connected to the internet seems like whimsical fancy, but the fact is, it’s already begun.

Using unique IP – or Internet Protocol – addresses, the future is integrated. Here are just some of the ways we can expect massive change to our lives:

  1. We’ll be able to control our technology remotely.

While this is already the case, with smart meter apps letting us adjust our thermostats, lightning and . It might seem hard to imagine a world where we can have our microwaves heating up our meal when we’re ten minutes from the house, this technology is a mere step away from using a remote to turn off our TVs.

  1. Our technology will be able to control itself.

This might look like artificial intelligence, but in fact, it’s not – it’s merely how devices collect our data and have a programmed reaction to it. Great examples are self-regulating fridges, which send alerts when foods are running low or due to expire; street lights, which react to changing light, weather and seasonal data to give the best option; and products which signal when they need fixing or parts changing – even before they’ve failed.

  1. We’ll be looped in based on our location

With iBeacon technology, a signal is broadcast using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). This is then picked up by a device (eg a mobile), which responds by matching the signal to an app and triggering a reaction – like sending an alert to the user. A great example to use is a museum – the beacon could inform the app where the user is, and the app could update its content accordingly – whether that’s providing a map, explaining an exhibit nearby,or putting a transaction through. All the while, it proves its use on the retail side by giving rich data on things like how long the customer spends in a section and what interested them there, in order to predict future behaviour.

So, what are the benefits of The Internet Of Things? Firstly, we can make our daily lives easier by planning ahead, and improving things like energy efficiency and food waste, saving money. Secondly, we can enjoy a rich user experience in any retail landscape, where apps can respond to our physical whereabouts in a building, remembering where we went last time and what we bought, and predicting what we’ll buy in future. And thirdly, it’s a way of saving time through intuitive accessibility – a convenience that we’ll one day never be without.

Further reading:


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