Decades after the first computers were introduced, microprocessors have become so powerful and widespread that the boundaries between physical and digital are starting to blur. Examining how our civilization is absorbing this new and enhanced reality is fascinating and has occasioned the convergence of many independent fields. From philosophy and futurism to engineering and robotics and further on to information technology and digital marketing, we are all contributing to the emergence of this brave new human dimension. We call it the Internet of Things (IoT).
Over 90 percent of the existing digital data has been created in the last three years. To say that the Internet is growing rapidly is an understatement. Smart devices have flooded our homes and offices to the point that they have become a vital part of our daily lives. Computer interfaces and computer-generated environments now have many applications, but the question is: Can we put this technology to better use? Better yet, how exactly can it improve key aspects of our lives and businesses?
We are surrounded by intelligent technology and a completely new layer of reality rooted in raw data. How we will manage to process this large amount of data and translate it into useful information constitutes the basis for our future knowledge, and ultimately for the accumulated wisdom of our future society. Let’s face it: We are in the process of creating our most efficient vehicle of progress, and, for our common well-being, we are bound to drive it toward solving our most pressing global issues.
* The DIKW Pyramid (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom). The relationships among data, information, knowledge, and wisdom shown in a hierarchical arrangement is part of the language of information science.
But addressing societal problems such as macro-economics, crime and energy supply is outside my professional field. To offer an accurate, informed vision, I need to discuss the IoT and the ocean of opportunities it opens for us strictly from the glass-bottom boat of digital marketing.
The Internet used to be seen as a vast network of independent desktop computers, with most applications limited to transferring information from one machine to another. Driven electronics, software and IT engineers have shattered that view. Search engines and other applications can perform increasingly complex tasks across more and more devices, while still managing to create progressively intuitive, useful and entertaining experiences for their users. Couple that with the proliferation of cloud computing and smart devices, and you can see why the emergence of IoT seems not only plausible, but actually inevitable.
Potentially, we can introduce sensors and Internet connectivity to all objects. But what makes objects “smart” is the ability to translate and contextualize raw data in a way that is useful to us. IoT is expected to generate huge amounts of data from multiple objects and to aggregate it very quickly. Ultimately, our greatest challenge is to figure out simple, agreeable ways to better index, store and process all this data.
Through extensive automation, IoT is bound to bring a revolution in manufacturing and logistics by correlating production and marketing with the consumption patterns of the end user. Before addressing the business benefits brought on by IoT, we need to look at how it will affect our daily lives. There are many articles swarming the Internet that discuss benefits IoT will bring to the life of consumers, but most of them focus on the same aspects.
The consequences of the IoT scenario ripple through all the fields of human activity. Ultimately, when it comes to a comprehensive definition of IoT, we can agree that it entails the formation of a system of systems, constantly and autonomously gathering, indexing and processing information according to evolving algorithms and protocols. The implications are tremendous, but what most concerns me is how the emergence of IoT will impact marketing and advertising, and ultimately the way we all conduct business, regardless of industry.
There is one intuition we can all agree on: Our hunger for directly using and surfing the Internet is here to stay. So digital marketing will have to adapt to whatever forms of communication and behaviors users develop online. This is a fascinating subject unto itself, especially with the development of virtual reality interfaces. What needs to be addressed here is the impact that big data, constantly flowing through our ever-growing array of devices, will have on the communication needs of organizations. Given the pace at which we are heading for this new era, the answers to the next two questions will have to be revisited often:
First, IoT will generate an increase in the number and sophistication of touch points with both consumers and other businesses. More objects and devices connected to the Internet will translate into more opportunities to interact with each other through digital. Coupled with an ever-increasing understanding of consumer behavior through comprehensive usage data, the high number of contact points will allow marketers to better target potential customers and better tailor interactions throughout the marketing funnel.
Second, the organic traffic brought in by company websites will change, along with the search engine’s effort to incorporate the awesome amount of data entailed by IoT. SEO will play an even greater role than today in the routines of digital departments and marcom agencies, because websites will need to adapt to search engine evolutions at a much faster pace than today.
Most importantly, we need to face the fact that by continuously increasing the number of variables we must track to competitively engage a market and target individual consumers, we will need to make marketing itself the object of intense automation.
At its core, IoT is all about a multitude of sensors that transmit live data to the cloud (or servers) in order to get deeper insights and real-time feedback that can help you make faster and better decisions. But what if I told you that sometimes, to achieve the best possible results, you will have to trust technology to make decisions for you?
Such is the case with programmatic marketing (aka, programmatic advertising, programmatic media, or simply programmatic), which has been replacing conventional media buying with unbelievable results.
Programmatic marketing is the practice of buying and selling advertising inventories using technology and computer algorithms to automate the process. It allows hyper-specific targeting and bidding on each individual user, thus holding the potential to greatly improve the ROI of advertising campaigns.
Programmatic answers to how you can effectively reach your target audience (either customers or another business, through its top employees) by automating the buying, placement and optimization of media inventory. Until recently, programmatic was used only to display advertising through desktop view (mostly website banners), but now it has found its way to almost every type of touch point and channel, including video, mobile and social media.
One of the most important tools needed to run programmatic campaigns is a demand-side platform (DSP), which allows buyers to gain access to a multitude of advertising inventories and control and monitor their campaigns from a centralized location. One of these platforms, INFUSE, offers 52 quadrillion (52 with 15 zeroes) buying options. In this context, relying on machine learning is fundamental in programmatic buying. A further developed version of this technology will be needed to handle the marketing needs of the IoT era.
There is no alternative to computing power in this type of marketing due to its high-speed and high-volume nature. That’s why it’s important for marketers and managers to liberate themselves from their instinct to always fiddle with campaigns and let computers do their job. For once, computers are required to make (and apply) the decisions necessary to succeed.
So how will digital marketing shape the future? Its contribution extends far beyond user interaction, precise targeting and tailored offers. My bet is that some of digital’s most spectacular results in terms of automation will constitute the software pillars of the Internet of Things.
Alexander Kesler is President of inSegment Inc., a Boston-based digital marketing and advertising agency. He is a graduate of Babson College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship. Connect with him on Twitter.