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Making Sense of the Internet of Things (IoT or IoE)

 Is the Internet of Everything more space-age than relevant to this Digital Age?


Apple recently announced its new “smart home” automation software, HomeKit. Google purchased Nest, home automation pioneer, for a shiny $3.2 billion earlier this year. And, products like the Belkin Home Controller are filing market shelves. You may not yet control your appliances, security system and electricity all at the touch of your iPhone. But, the Internet of Things is filtering into everything from product marketing to infrastructure development in both public and private sectors.

Cisco, which has taken the lead in publicizing the idea of Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything (IoE), defines it as “the networked connection of people, process, data and things.” Information we receive from these connections will in turn make life easier by enhancing productivity, automating simple tasks and giving us touchless control over smart objects.

Cisco’s IoE technologies have had the strongest initial foothold within the public sector. They report to have already “delivered value” with improvements such as slimming down business travel expense with immersive video, reducing crime by 7% as a result of smart lighting, and realizing a 30% reduction in manufacturing waste using smart sensors. Here are some insights into how the IoT is expected to play a role in society in the coming years:

  • By 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet.
  • The number of “things” connected to the Internet surpassed the number of people on earth in 2008.
  • There is an estimated $19 trillion in value at stake over the next ten years for public and private sectors due to increased connectivity.

Making Sense of Connections

Three types of connections are associated with IoE: Machine-to-Machine, Machine-to-Person and Person-to-Person.

Machine-to-Machine connection refers to smart devices (smartphones, tablets) that sync with one another. This also includes simple objects that are connected to, or sending information to “smart things.” For instance, a temperature sensor within your home isn’t necessarily “smart”. However, a Nest thermostat can couple that sensor with an app on your phone to let you remotely monitor and control temperature. M2M is operations focused and relates to automating day-to-day tasks, creating efficiency in manufacturing, etc.

Another example would be cars on the highway talking to one another to avoid traffic jams and prevent accidents from happening. According to US DOT’s RITA, traffic congestion is a $87.2 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy, with 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel spent sitting in traffic. So, you can see why this is an important area of research and application.

Nest ThermostatMachine-to-Person connections involve wearables, mobile devices and computers. M2P requires a human-facing platform where we can analyze, input or control data.This connection helps the user take action based on insight provided by the device. In the Nest example, the instance that you change the temperature through the app on your phone would be an M2P connection. Another example would be the touch-screen within a car allowing you to access GPS, controls and satellite radio.

Finally, Person-to-Person connection is the collaboration between people or groups through a connected infrastructure or system, using technology to reach another person. For instance, a long-distance meeting held via video conferencing is a P2P connection.

How does the IoE fit into my world of marketing?

Cisco estimates that connected marketing & advertising will be one of the top 3 industries within IoE – along with factories and telecommuting services.

In a ClickZ article, digital marketing leaders shared their predictions of how IoE will effect brand-customer interactions. Amy Lanigan from Fluid suggested that opt-in methods will expand beyond CRM, because companies will gain access to information through nontraditional means. It will be imperative that consumers have greater say over what information is sent, where it is sent and how companies use it. IoE will also be tied to predictive marketing, offering a solution before customers realize there is a need for it.

Overall, IoE will force marketers to offer more intuitive vs intrusive experiences. Think of eyewear, activity/health trackers and home appliances. Objects that were once considered personal are increasingly connected objects. There’s talk of the smart fridge that will order the basics without you ever having to jot down a grocery list. Or, a heart-rate monitor that automatically sends information to your physician while keeping privacy controls within the palm of your hand. As more companies introduce IoE products, it will be important for marketers to define boundaries and ensure that these objects enhance but don’t interrupt consumer lifestyles.

The customer’s task at hand is the main event, and the connected object will play a supporting role. If done well, IoT will be a subtle addition to day-to-day life by helping users cut unnecessary steps, save time/money through automation and improve safety.


Connected devices present a technology challenge of a different kind, being able to address each device with a unique IP address. We’ll soon be reaching the limits of how many connected devices we can address. We’ll talk about how ICANN is addressing that in an upcoming blog post.

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