23 July 2013

Measurement and the Internet of Things

In the last two decades, we experienced two major connected-technology revolutions. We are now on the brink of the next big one — the Internet of Things.
  • 1995-ongoing: The Internet Revolution
  • 2000-ongoing: The Mobile Revolution
  • 2013: The Internet of Things Revolution
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been discussed in developer circles for at least a decade. But in 2013, it is becoming less of a vision and more of a reality each day. Based on a global network of wireless sensors, people also refer to the IoT revolution as machine-to-machine communications, pervasive computing or ubiquitous computing.

Regardless of what you call it, IoT opens up a new world of big data, which in turn leads to big measurement and thus new PR strategies for our clients.

Think about it. With IoT, we will be exposed to more forms of media in countless new ways. Wireless sensors will be in retail stores, movie theaters, museums, airports, cars, homes and many other locations.

As a result of this media exposure, we will be able to gather data about consumer behavior that will be measurable. Research+Data Insights will be able to run data models based on numbers from sensors, gathering an increasing amount of intelligence about consumer activities, actions and habits. In addition, more predictive analysis will be possible.

This intelligence and analysis will lead to behavioral insights, which will identify new opportunities for PR strategies and tactics in consumer marketing, health, technology, travel and many other industries.

This can be transformative for our clients, their brands and their customers, particularly when incentives are offered to consumers in the form of coupons or even monthly payments, to share even more data about their behavior.

“For the first time ever, we will have the ability to monitor a person’s communications lifecycle,” says Dr. Peter Zandan, chairman of Research+Data Insights and an expert in the Quantified Self movement. “For example, we will be able to identify when someone first views a story or an ad about a new 3D printer, when and what reviews they read online, what social media information they gather, where they purchase the printer, what they post about it and tell their colleagues and friends.

“Connecting communications efforts to activities will provide a way to evaluate communication effectiveness in a way we have only dreamed of doing — and we will be able to answer with more certainty what works and what doesn’t.”

Trillions of Things

According to the popular book “Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology,” by Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay and Mickey McManus, there are already more computing devices in the world than there are people. In a few more years, the number of devices will climb into the trillions.

Connectivity is the seed of this change. These trillions of things — such as household appliances, furniture, cars, planes, heavy duty equipment, medical devices, clothing, plants and animals — will be connected to the Internet through small, low-power wireless microprocessors or sensors.

They will be constantly talking to one another, monitoring, collecting, analyzing and acting upon the huge amount of data they generate.

It’s already happening in some forms. More than 14% of U.S. adults are self-tracking (also known as the Quantified Self), using sensors to collect and analyze data about their health. That’s more than the number of U.S. adults on Twitter.

“Smart” Things

Smartphones are driving the machine-to-machine revolution. There are cars and SUVs on the market right now that send you traffic alerts in a text message. LG’s “smart washing machines” enable you to monitor the status of your laundry cycles from your smartphone, without being physically present in the laundry room.

With LG’s “smart refrigerators,” you can use your smartphone to check which food items are stored inside as well as their expiration date. The refrigerator can even recommend dishes that can be cooked using the ingredients available inside.

In the future, as interconnectivity becomes even more advanced, machines will have even more sensors and talk to even more machines, so as you drive to the grocery store, your fridge will tell your car that you need to buy milk.

Imagine the following scenario:
  • You book a flight to your client meeting on Friday. Your airline app communicates with your alarm clock, your car and your coffee maker.
  • Your alarm clock sets itself for 6:30 a.m. Friday to give you time to get ready for your flight, and communicates with your coffee maker, which sets itself for 6:20 a.m. so you will have hot coffee when you wake up.
  • On Thursday night, your car checks your fuel and determines you need to fill up with gas on your way to the airport. Your car then communicates with your alarm clock, which resets itself to 6:20 a.m., and in turn tells your coffee maker to start brewing at 6:10 a.m.
  • Then, while you are sleeping, your airline app observes that your plane requires unexpected maintenance and your flight will be delayed for 45 minutes. Your alarm clock and coffee maker are then reset for 45 minutes later.
This won’t happen overnight — some say it will be 3-5 years before we see some of these developments; others predict that this scenario is 10 years away. Either way, harnessing this big data will enable smart new decisions and actions that drive enhanced brand performance. Our challenge as a PR agency is to provide smart and sophisticated insights that can be used to make a positive impact on our clients’ success.

Margot Sinclair Savell is the head of Global Measurement at Hill+Knowlton Strategies research arm Research+Data Insights. She recently spoke about the future of measurement and the Internet of Things at an international summit held by the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications in Madrid, Spain.