In a whirlwind of a year, it’s hard to believe that 2016 is nearly at a close. As a technologist, sometimes the hardest part of my role is simply keeping up with the massive advances that sometimes seem to occur on a daily basis.
Amongst all this noise, the trick is to try and filter out the useful from the shiny gimmick. Take the Internet-of-Things, it’s supposedly been the big thing for a few years now right? So what’s the delay all about? How come we are not already settling into our automated homes with a flick of our smartwatches?
I believe that maybe we are looking at too much competition in the space, and not enough collaboration. 2016 has seen an explosion of individual products and apps, but no real mainstream ecosystem to pull everything together into a simple, seamless user experience.
But I’m thinking that 2017 will see the big boys come and really take an interest in the space, offering at last some true opportunities for brands to get creative. With companies like Apple, Google and Amazon bringing their end-to-end user experience skills to play, I expect we’ll see some major advancements in the coming year building upon their investments over the last couple of years.
However, with 53 billion different devices and sensors shipped last year, and as more smart devices and appliances enter the market and come online, there’s going to be an unimaginable amount of siloed data to wrangle.
Connectivity is about so much more than flashy apps or shiny devices; its potential is as an overarching framework with the potential to be as ground-breaking as the internet itself. And herein lies the big opportunity for forward thinking brands to stake their camps at the frontier.
The more the Internet of Things becomes prevalent, the more brands will know about anonymous users’ habits, likes, activities and social experiences. The more connected this chain of data becomes, the more we will be able to effectively target people with products, services and offers.
But is this fair? Is it ethical? Is it commercial surveillance? That’s a debate we’re going to see starting to emerge in 2017.
The potential for this web of data to negatively affect brands is very real. Part of the arguably long leash brands currently find themselves on is down to user apathy. Most people just don’t care that much about who has their data. If they see value in handing it over, they’re happy to do so. But the Internet Of Things has the power to push the scale totally out of whack.
In future, if brands are using image detection to analyse customers’ Facebook accounts, building profiles of their activities at home through smart home appliances and watching their shopping habits via mobile payments and tracking what’s in their smart fridge, people could very well view this as a massive invasion of privacy.
Again, these issues and technologies may seem far off, but I believe they’re not as far as we might think. If brands want access to this mountain of hugely powerful consumer data, they will have to think long and hard about new ways to add value.
People like learning about themselves. And with devices to track, monitor and evaluate their daily movements, spending habits and perhaps even mood, clever brands will empower consumers with information about themselves offering inherent value through user experience.
There is no reason this empowerment can’t take place at the same time as strategic marketing. My prediction is that in 2017, brands will have to start thinking about how they treat customers who will never really be unplugged.
By Imagination head of technology, Jake Soper