The Internet of Things: Not just a bunch of junk

By Nick Halas – Head of Futures at Posterscope
Throughout time, storytelling has consistently predicted the future, correctly or incorrectly. When Robert Metcalf invented the revolutionary Ethernet cable in 1973, he publically predicted his invention would be useless in a year or he’d eat his words. A year later he did.
Predicting the next big thing isn’t easy, but how do so many sci-fi dudes get it right? Back to the Future Part 2, was released 17 years ago in 1989, and still managed to accurately predict smart eye-wear evocative of today’s Oculus Rift and Google Glass, that could also receive phone call notifications.
Although we’re still waiting on several other predictions the film made to become a reality, including Hoverboards, this movie foretold the Internet of Things (IoT) where all devices play multiple functions through a connected digital network.
Before writing the script for Minority Report (2002), Director Steven Spielberg consulted with industrial designers, futurists and advertising professionals in order to accurately predict what a future world would look like. This would explain why Minority Report features tech innovations we’re now familiar with like facial recognition, personalised outdoor advertising, swipe and pinch-to-zoom touch screen motions, tablets and motion-recognition software, the list keeps growing!
These storytellers accurately brought to life what we now call the IoT which has become a fully founded reality, but what does that mean for advertisers? Until now we’ve left sci-fi to the movie creatives and adopted new technology at a slower pace than what we’ve previously seen as far flung predictions in the movies. This is no longer so far away, the main message at every tech conference I’ve attended this year is how the IoT will revolutionise the way we communicate.
There’s been a lot of airtime allocated to the IoT, but this discussion tends to always be future facing, explaining what could be, often without a clear, real life application for each innovation. This is what the formerly mentioned film creatives did so well – visualising the benefits the IoT would bring to consumers and displaying the functional benefits by applying a practical application to the technology.
So what do I think the IoT will look like and how will it evolve over the next few years? I believe this depends on whether the advertising industry as a whole takes up the challenge to innovate in a truly functional way when creating campaigns instead of letting the tech lead. In order to do this, we need to begin focusing on the following areas:
Functionality
To successfully adopt the IoT as an advertising medium, the industry needs to start with identifying the problem that needs to be solved, which should then inform the tech solution.
Currently a lot of IoT innovations are just replicating other technology in more streamlined ways, like the smart watch which is basically another iteration of the smart phone. When enchanted objects – objects that we use in our everyday life with an enhanced purpose – become commonplace we will have reached a functional moment for the IoT.
Enchanted objects will have a much bigger place in our lives as we begin to build technology into objects we already have another function for. This will not be another TV hat, but instead objects that we actually use in our everyday life with heightened features, like a wire enabled pocket instead of simply putting devices in our pockets.
Connectivity
The IoT is basically just a bunch of useless technology until we start to focus on connectivity, and not just connectivity between one device and another, the interconnectivity that creates an ecosystem of functionality for the user.
We often get so wrapped up in the innovation of new devices, that we forget devices need to connect across channels for them to be truly effective and a functional part of the IoT. Therefore the growth of operating systems will become more important than the tech – as this will provide the advertising advantage.
Infrastructure and Operating Systems
Often the IoT is relying on an entirely artificial infrastructure, a lot of which hasn’t been tried and tested over a long period of time with multiple connected devices.
Maybe we’re running before we can walk but we definitely need to improve the infrastructure the IoT relies on. Part of this infrastructure will be developing operating systems that not only connect devices, but connect across media channels so that the IoT can become a truly integrated approach.
IoT and out-of-home (OOH)
So, where do I think the IoT will take the OOH industry? Beacons, image recognition, CRM payments, transport tracking and device pairing are all part of the future for OOH. We’ll be seeing greater collaboration with digital and mobile campaigns, both as an extension network and as a platform for the delivery of dynamic personalised messaging.
What we often come up against in the OOH world is how do we turn a great one-off campaign into a scalable campaign that yields results for our clients? To make this leap with the IoT, we need to start thinking beyond campaigns that are ‘an industry first’ and therefore a must share and start to plan participation based campaigns.
There are definitely sceptics, and developing the IoT in the OOH space will definitely be a learning process. A quick scroll through Twitter and you come across the account @internetofshit which highlights useless tech, created for the sake of adding another gadget to the IoT rather than for a specific purpose. Here at Posterscope, we’re ready for the challenge, we’ll try to push the opportunities of connectivity and will continue to work with partners to develop infrastructure and operating systems to aid OOH’s access and advertising potential to the IoT.
Maybe if that Hoverboard does ever get off the ground, it will be able to instantly notify the OOH advertising the locations it’s travelled in order to trigger a personalised ad. In turn the OOH advertising will notify the user when they need to recharge the board, and the closest location to so. Then we’ve really gone full circle and put the intelligence at the heart of technology, making the technology the decision maker – but that’s a whole new can of worms!