What Is The ‘Internet Of Things,’ Anyway?

  • April 16, 2014 at 12:01 PM EDT
  • By Retail TouchPoints Team
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A variety of analyst groups and solution providers have been touting the term the Internet of Things for a few years now. 

But until recently, very few people really knew what the term meant and how it would impact our lives. 

In the below Editor Q&A, RTP team members share their thoughts on the Internet of Things and how it will shape our future: 

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Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief: The Internet of Things (TIot or just IoT) is still a cutting-edge concept for the most part, but it will surely saturate the retail marketplace, as it moves into more consumers’ everyday lives. Defined by Gartner, IoT is “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment." Gartner also estimates that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion by 2020. As this technology develops, we will connect to and control more things in our lives, such as medical devices and exercise equipment. It will be exciting to see how IoT changes our lives moving forward. 

Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor: You know that ride at Disney World called The Carousel Of Progress? It’s an educational ride that shows a family venturing through several decades, discussing how technology has changed their way of life. At the end, they’re in the 20th Century (ha!), and have connected devices that respond to the sound of the family members’ voices. I wonder how far off that will be, because ABI Research predicts that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. I can’t wait to see how the Internet of Things will continue to evolve, and how it will impact technology. At this year’s NRF Big Show, I saw a lot of fun examples of connected devices. For example, mobile devices that connect to TVs, so consumers can purchase products in a scene of a primetime show. Talk about compelling television!

Kim Zimmermann, Managing Editor: With so much information available about us through the Internet of Things there is a lot of potential yet to be tapped. I was at the Salesforce conference last year listening to an executive talk about how he ordered a bathroom scale online and when he stepped on it for the first time it calculated his BMI. He thought that was strange, as he hadn’t entered his height, which is needed to calculate BMI. Then he remembered he has purchased another item from the company earlier that year, and had entered his height. If an executive at a tech company is marveling at the IoT, we are in for a wild ride.

Glenn Taylor, Associate Editor: I’ve heard this phrase floating around the web over the past year or so, and to my understanding, the Internet of Things is highly data driven in its function. The concept removes the human element from any form of data communication, as the wireless flow of information between devices deems human input unnecessary. Retailers have the opportunity to leverage the "things” that comprise the IoT, especially RFID technology with sensors, which is already being used to track inventory throughout the supply chain all the way into the retail store. GPS (for delivery purposes) and predictive analytics (for promotional purposes) are other functions that are certainly keeping retailers interested in the IoT, as they require less and less manpower to operate.

Brian Anderson, Associate Editor: The Internet of Things…the word “things” is too broad for my liking. Whether it’s social data or contact information collected off a digital landing page, these “things” can range widely in size, volume and – most importantly – value. I was reading an IDC study that stated that the world population will be using more than 5,000 gigabytes of data for every man, woman and child by 2020. That’s A LOT of data. Retailers need to be prepared for this influx of information by having the right technology in place to leverage the right types of information from the right audience in order to boost overall performance.

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