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We Don’t Need Roads: Living in the Future with the Internet of Things

21st October 2015 · Our Thoughts

Erin Cadigan Shutterstock.com Erin Cadigan Shutterstock.com

Today is Back to the Future Day, 21/10/15. Have I arrived to work in my flying car with its barcode registration or riding my hoverboard? Sadly no. Neither am I sporting a Marty McFly-inspired self-dry jacket or self-tying trainers. However I am living in a world where films have always provided a barometer for the world of tech. Just look at another iconic series that continues its legacy this month, James Bond. Smart watches, drones, thumb print identification, video conferencing and touch screens all make up part of the Internet of Things and are now commonplace and all have roots in the worlds of Marty McFly and 007.

The era of Internet of Things (IoT) is here. It comes as no surprise that one of the consultants on some of the earlier 007 movies, Ralph Osterhout, was himself a pioneer of IoT before it even had a name. His company is currently developing augmented reality smart glasses or, as he says, “We’re working to change the world of computing by the way we interact, connect, and explore information.”

However, this all brings with it the spectre of the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the important implications it has for marketers. The new European regulations provide for a higher level of consent and transparency than currently exists with individuals gaining much more control over their personal data. Regulators are always having to move fast to address the technology issues that arise from the cloud-based technologies. These enable us to work and make purchases from anywhere, on any device, accessing applications and documents in our own personal cloud. The Human Cloud. Marketers will be expected to provide clear and uncomplicated advice to tell consumers about how their data is being processed and used as well as gaining their informed consent to use that data.

As well as clearer consent options marketers will have to invest in better data protection and ensure that the data they are using in their activities complies with the new regulations whether it is gathered directly or via a third party. This has implications for us all in terms of where that data will be stored, how long it will be stored for and who will be responsible for it.

Back in 1989 when ‘Back To The Future II’ was released, the world was just beginning to get accustomed to having a PC in the home and a games console attached to the television. Fast forward 13 years to the release of Skyfall and the world was waking up to the IoT. The wearable device market was worth $1,260m in 2012. It is forecast to be worth twelve times that by 2018. In a survey last year by PwC “The Wearable Future,” 70% of respondents said they expected their workplace to permit the use of wearable tech.

The information collected from devices that track your emotions, your habits, your likes and your health, will provide riches that marketers could never dream of. However wearables aren’t designed to integrate with legacy IT systems – their use of voice and touch activation doesn’t compute with the legacy world of keyboard instructions.

During one recent pilot is was estimated that an employee generated 30GB of data per-week from three wearable devices. Scaled across an organisation, this is clearly a huge amount of information that needs to be captured, stored and analysed. We are already faced with a data tsunami how are we going to cope with the additional storage demands this will place on an organisation?

Plus there are business issues too. What policies need to be in place? How will we store and analyse the data? How will we govern access and manage privacy concerns?

With the European Parliament about to implement updated data protection legislation so companies can be fined up to €100 million or 5% annual income (whichever is larger) for data breaches and with individuals having both the right to claim compensation and the right to be forgotten, the policies around wearable devices are going to have to be water tight. We’re moving away from the Internet of Things to the Internet of Me.

The Internet of Things in all its forms is here to stay so we have to figure out how to embrace it and use the information it creates to improve society, whether at work or at home.

Maybe Doc was right, where we are going we won’t need roads…………

Phil Worms, CMO of iomart, a summary of a speech delivered at ad:tech London.

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