I have heard lots of talk about the Internet of things recently so I wanted to research exactly what it is and how this could effect retail. Industry experts have been talking about the idea of connecting every day things to the Internet for many years, an idea which sees ‘things’ not only connecting together but also sharing data and connecting with us. This concept is called ‘The Internet of Things’ and is also known as M2M or machine to machine. The BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) estimate that by 2020 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet; this could include the 250K vehicles connected to the internet in 2020 as forecast by Forbes.com. In 2000 there were around 200 million devices connected to the internet compared with 10 billion in 2013, this indicates the speed things are changing. Relationships will be between people-people, people-things and things-things.
Broadband, high speed internet connections and networks are becoming more widely available all of which allow us to communicate faster and more efficiently. With more availability and developments in technology we are seeing costs coming down, this includes smartphone technology and ownership which is also becoming more accessible for all.
The first smart device – toaster
It was in 1989 when the first appliance was connected to and controlled over the internet which was a toaster; The Internet Toaster. The toaster was connected via TCP/IP networking, it had one control to turn the power on, and the darkness of the toast was controlled by how long the power was kept on. ATM’s were early Internet of Things objects dating back to 1974 and a product commonly used today.
Today we are beginning to see new technology emerging allows us to control some home appliances and our heating and lighting systems from our smart phones whilst being out and about. Consumers are now starting to realise that this technology which allows us to communicate with things isn’t as crazy or futurist as once thought.
Example of how our smart homes could be connected in the future
Apple have recently introduced and launched a platform called Homekit which is an Internet of Things platform. This allows users to communicate with home devices and even see who is at the front door. Google and Samsung and other large organisations are also investing in this market
A future where smart fridges will let you know when you have run out of milk and reorder it online for you and your cooker will tell you how long things take to cook and will send you notifications to your mobile phone with live video streams of the food cooking. The June Intelligent Oven already has Food ID software that can detect what you’re cooking and send you notifications.
The Internet of Things is about more than just connecting appliances and smart homes, opportunities are limitless for business and society as technology related to this develops and evolves.
A few years from now everything could be connected. Some benefits of this new world include some which are starting to see now include:
- efficiency – with smart homes we could be more efficient and use less energy
- agriculture, farmers will be able to monitor and track the health of their herds and crops
- healthcare – smart pills and bands, contact lenses and connected patches which will monitor our health. Many people now own a smart watch and smart band and are already seeing the benefits of tracking their heartbeat and steps with improvement in their health
- security – notifications when there is movement and motion while away
Security and Privacy
Security and privacy is a concern as we see all these new platforms and systems collecting more data on us where openness is key there is always a possibly and a window for cyber criminals to intervene. It is however thought relatively safe some experts argue that the collection of all this large amount of data which could come from anywhere from our online shopping habits, social media presence, location, the products we own and even our clothes. This huge amount of data is being called ‘Big Data’ and can be analysed and used for many purposes. Not only does the collection of this data have ethical implications but also how organisations use the data.
The Internet of Things – Retail
This below is how Accenture foresee the in-store experience of tomorrow:
Opportunities and ‘connect ability’ presented by the the IoT (Internet of Things) look to be limitless with benefits for both the retailer and the consumers:
Customers will be able to use their smartphones or wearable devices to quickly scan an item and call up product information, reviews or related social media. Customers receive personalised digital offers upon entering the store. Customers will be able to use touch screens to browse inventories that will lead them to the desired product.
Smart shelves in store that detect when inventory is low. This will aid in automating stock replenishment to product assembly. Smart packaging that monitors shelf life and freshness/age of perishable goods will save time and wastage.
New Revenue Streams
Smart price tags that can be changed in real time based on demand or other trends is a way forward for stores to centralise and update latest prices and deals. With connected basic groceries being reordered and delivered when required to suggested recipes based on ingredients already in the home we are looking at a very automated computerised world which we need to focus on both the retailer and the consumer with ease of use, convenience, real time information and accessibility a necessity.