Dec 19, 2013
By Kyle Lacy
Digital Marketing, Strategy

The amount of change that has occurred over the past year is staggering. We have witnessed the introduction of everything from Google Glass to 3D printing technology, all having the power to revolutionize multiple industries within months. The potential for the connected device is monumental! 

I could write an entire paragraph introducing 2014 as the year of the device revolution or the intelligent ecosystem. However, Kyle Vanhemert of Wired stated it best:

"…We’re finally at a place where gadgets can talk to each other wirelessly without demanding that we, the users, make the arrangements at every encounter (also a place where we don’t have to sacrifice our batteries to do so). It means we’re entering a world where our phones won’t just be in continuous contact with satellites and cell towers—but also potentially with our laptops, our TVs, and the high-tech bangles on our wrists. It’s a step closer to our gear existing in a truly intelligent ecosystem."

An intelligent ecosystem will finally bring Peter Drucker's vision from forty years ago to life: "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him or her and sells itself." As marketers we must KNOW and UNDERSTAND the consumer, not make demands of them.  

The coming year will usher in an advanced ecosystem consisting of smart technology and massive amounts of data, which will enable marketers and brands alike to capture an intelligence that far surpasses anything in the past. This will allow products and services to simply sell themselves because they are helpful and needed. And it all starts with smart machines and the Internet of Things. 

1. Smart Machines. In November, IBM announced that, for the first time, it will make its IBM Watson technology available as a development platform in the cloud. By doing so, IBM will enable a worldwide community of software application providers to build a new generation of apps infused with Watson's cognitive computing intelligencer. 

“By sharing IBM Watson's cognitive abilities with the world, we aim to fuel a new ecosystem that accelerates innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit," said Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Software Solutions Group. “With this move, IBM is taking a bold step to advance the new era of cognitive computing. Together with our partners we'll spark a new class of applications that will learn from experience, improve with each interaction and outcome, and assist in solving the most complex questions facing the industry and society."

Technically speaking, IBM will be enabling companies, large and small, to embed access to Watson into their products and services. This could potentially mean an entire shift in the way people interact with computers and even how we live our lives. 

2. Internet of Things. Kevin Ashton introduced the idea of the Internet of Things in an article in RFID Journal where he stated:

"Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information… The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. And that's a big deal. We're physical, and so is our environment ... If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so." 

True innovation concerning the Internet of Things will be solely based on ability to manage (with the help of technology) massive amounts of consumer data. According to Managing VP & Gartner fellow, Bryan Plummer, there will be 15 billion things connected to the Internet and others by 2020. We will see an ever-increasing need for connected products in 2014, building towards 15 billion. Gartner also expects data sharing to double by 2015 which will mean more consumer data will be available for brands and technology to increase interaction between users. 

3. Wearable Technology. While smart watch makers continue to struggle with design and functionality, 2014 will see an increase in wearable tech brands that focus on health and fitness. However, only the products that evolve past their current state of a digital pedometer will succeed in the next year.

Fitbit and Nike Fuel Band have certainly taken the lion's share of the health and fitness wearable market thus far, but don't discount other major brands like UnderArmor, which recently purchase MapMyFitness. In 2014, we will witness the future of health and  fitness technology as tech moves beyond the activity tracker and becomes fundamental to our daily health and fitness. Instead of simply tracking our activity, it will guide us. 

4. Location-Based Mobile Commerce. It is safe to say that 2013 was the year of mobility, and there are no signs that mobile development is slowing down. We will see a slowing of new device releases as the mobile market settles; however, it is the technology and applications built within the mobile environment that will change industries in the next year.

iBeacon is just one example of this revolution, which is just getting underway. In December, Apple enable their iBeacon location-aware transmitters at all of their US retail stores, essentially giving the company the ability to easily provide product information and allow shoppers to quickly check out via their iPhone. While the application and the technology are in their infancy, this is just one example of a technology provider building geo-fencing and mobile commerce technology for developers to build alongside. 

Kyle Vanhemert (again) gives us an excellent example of the potential of iBeacon with his article in Wired:

"You step inside Walmart and your shopping list is transformed into a personalized map, showing you the deals that’ll appeal to you most. You pause in front of a concert poster on the street, pull out your phone, and you’re greeted with an option to buy tickets with a single tap. You go to your local watering hole, have a round of drinks, and just leave, having paid—and tipped!—with Uber-like ease. Welcome to the world of iBeacon." 

5. Collaborative Consumption. This trend has also been called "the sharing economy" or "peer-to-peer commerce." You can find it within companies like AirBnB, Uber, and TaskRabbit where platforms enable consumers to become part of the business model. This trend is truly about reinventing how services are consumed and managed. Technology and data management gives brands like Uber and AirBnB the ability to create a more fluid market that facilitates seamless connections between people with common goals. You can also find this model built within the idea of the "prosumers" -- individuals who are producers and consumers at the same time. 

Success in the next year will ultimately come down to two things: EGOnomics and Smart Technology. The first concept, EGOnomics, was coined by Faith Popcorn: "To offset a depersonalized society, consumers crave recognition of their individuality." From collaborative consumption to wearable technology, brands must understand the importance of allowing consumers to fold into the product (and vice versa). To succeed with Smart Technology, marketers must understand that smart machines and wearable technology aren't in their hands but in the hands of societal, economic, and tech-driven factors. The one-to-one future will be built on our ability to allow technology to help define the relationship.


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