We consumers live in a connected world, so the companies we deal with have good reason to live in that world with us. Recent research from Aruba found that 79 percent of retail companies surveyed said they will have internet of things (IoT) technology in their businesses by next year. This is good news for consumers, considering that Aruba also found that IoT improves the customer experience in 81 percent of cases examined.
The IoT’s impact is also more immediate than that of other consumer tech. While virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) may provide in-depth knowledge and perspective, their technologies are at least one step removed from what someone is actually experiencing in the real world.
IoT connectivity, in contrast, allows customers to enhance their experiences in real time, making it the most direct way for businesses to improve their customer experience.
IoT’s impact on retail companies is especially significant, so these organizations’ challenge is to understand and balance the cost of implementation and the power of the resulting disruption. Smart shelves and smart carts are great, but big price tags have a way of impeding progress.
If an innovation costs too much to implement, the increased cost will offset the improvements a company has made in the customer experience. Still, people will never stop shopping or looking for the most convenient ways to fulfill their everyday needs, so retailers must either pay for the new tech required themselves or watch consumers shop somewhere else.
Amazon Go stores are limited in number at this point. But their concept is the poster child for IoT-powered shopping. When Amazon members enter one of these stores, they scan their phones to log in. Then, cameras and sensors track their purchases, and when the customers leave, the system charges their account for the total — no cashier required.
Other big retailers are paying attention: Some are even already opting for incremental improvements in the customer experience using the IoT. Target, for instance, is beginning to use customer-sensing overhead lights, coupled with a mobile app, to guide app users around the store and help them find specific products they’re looking for. Picture a miniature GPS system for Target shoppers. That’s what the app is like.
Retailers that deploy IoT solutions have an immediate competitive advantage, but retail is just the beginning. A number of other industries are ripe for disruption through IoT technology, too.
How IoT connectivity will shape three industries
Most companies appreciate the power of IoT technology, but few understand the opportunities it represents right now. Take a look at these three major industries and how IoT connectivity will usher in new improvements for consumers.
MuleSoft reports that 53 percent of banking customers surveyed called their consumer experience disconnected. But IoT technology can change that.
While finance has taken some big steps to embrace the IoT in the customer experience, the industry still has major gaps in security and privacy. As an InfoSys white paper on the subject put it, “As a part of IoT, all transaction data, including the information sent through smart devices and smart watches, will be available to banks and financial institutions. Along with data, banks also have access to customer location, which may lead to a breach of privacy.”
Still, if banks can put in safeguards to protect consumer privacy, the potential benefits are enormous. ATMs, for instance, present an easy opportunity for improvement. A simple IoT trigger in a smart device could tell an ATM to dispense money without forcing the customer to go through the cumbersome withdrawal process. This would make use of existing tech while elevating the customer experience.
A change like this might seem small but could have an outsized impact. A survey from Business Insider Intelligence found that 40 percent of millennials surveyed would quit using cash entirely if their bank cards could replace the functions. Entrepreneurs in finance should therefore look at what they have to work with and make incremental IoT improvements to provide the next level of services that customers expect and will embrace.
With so many customer touchpoints, health care is ripe for IoT disruption. Unfortunately, the complexity of the thousands of partner relationships in health care — equipment providers, insurance companies, etc. — often stifles the progress of innovation. But even if that status quo is difficult to change, that doesn’t mean disruption is impossible.
When I think about the ways entrepreneurs can innovate in health care, I think about my mother. She suffers from diabetes, and every day, she has to prick her finger, read the levels and log everything in by hand. But she also keeps a powerful computer in her pocket every day, in the form of a smartphone. Why can’t it handle more of these daily medical functions?
One consideration is data security. Any innovation in medical care will have to fall within the bounds of regulations protecting patient privacy. To move forward, digital partners should work with organizations like Fortified Health Security, to take their solutions from idea to reality. If new products stay within privacy guidelines, patients and medical companies alike could enjoy rapid progress in IoT technology.
Right now, most original equipment manufacturers are missing out. The old auto industry model creates vehicles heavy on driver actions but light on experience-boosting help. Even Tesla, for all its futuristic claims, falls into that camp.
Why shouldn’t a driver’s house recognize a vehicle when it arrives? Why shouldn’t a car interpret traffic congestion and road conditions to adjust its operation? This isn’t about autonomous cars; it’s about cars that understand themselves and their roles.
For example, vehicles should be able to recognize what components are under stress and notify their drivers to schedule maintenance. Automotive companies should look beyond gimmicky connectivity (such as using gesture control to replace actually touching things) to create cars that are truly connected. These could be lucrative projects for entrepreneurs to work on.
The foundation for making driving smarter is already there. By 2020, Gartner predicts, there will be 250 million connected vehicles on the road. Already, Android Auto is working with Tesla and Volvo to make smarter vehicles, and Mojio is working to improve proactive detection of vehicle issues.
Soon, IoT connectivity will become the standard in nearly every industry. Consumers will expect devices to communicate with one another and create experiences that are intuitive, helpful and exciting. It’s up to the innovators and disruptors to develop that technology and get it to market as soon as possible.