Media Blogged

Five lessons on wearable tech and the internet of things

The 'Internet of Things' is a topic that's had no shortage of column inches of late, fast becoming ubiquitous in the ad tech trade press. Assuming it's more than just a passing fad, we as an industry should prepare ourselves for what this all means.

First coined in the 90’s, the last year or so has seen the term expand from industry to public consciousness and it’s ‘wearable technology’ that has gained the most traction thus far.

Whether it’s the Nike Fuelband, Samsung Galaxy Gear or the oh-so-hideous Google Glass – these devices all purport to improve our lives in some area that we didn’t even know needed improving.

Style and utility need to move closer together

They measure the steps you take, record your heart rate or even monitor the location of your child. Which I guess is good. In a creepy, dystopian future kind of way.

However, the major question manufacturers must be asking themselves is ‘will people actually wear these things?’.

Whilst Google Glass seems to have some pretty cool features, in its current form there isn’t a man, woman or child alive that can make them actually look cool. So it’s interesting to see fashionistas getting involved with remedying that - surely a precursor to mainstream adoption.

Wearable tech is great, connecting the dots is even better

What’s likely to capture the public’s attention is the evolution of connected devices from fashion accessory to household necessity – whereupon ‘The Internet of Things’ will really come into its own.

Whether it’s a fridge that tells you when to buy new milk, a heating system that knows when everyone is out and turns the temperature down or a toothbrush that will tell you how to, er, brush your teeth better these are the lazy man’s dream.

Imagine how valuable this kind of data could be to a supermarket advertiser. If Sainsbury’s could track what products are in my fridge, how often I used them and when I was due to need more they could market to me accordingly.

Presently, Sainsbury’s can only know what I buy if it’s from them, and even then only if I actually use a Nectar card. In this scenario I could have bought my milk from Tesco but Sainsbury’s could still access my consumer data.

Cars hold the key to connectivity

One area that seems to be well ahead of the adoptive curve for internet-enabled products is the automotive sector.

Audi announced at CES this year that they are installing 4G LTE in vehicles to power in-car devices; Apple claim that bringing iOS to cars is a ‘key focus’, and manufacturers such as Mercedes and Ford are already involved.

The prospect of an ‘eyes-free’ Siri product in cars is interesting – being able to bring your phone to life for sat-nav directions just by speaking and without your phone’s screen distractingly illuminating is useful.

Not to be outdone, Google have already formed the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) – "a coalition of auto and technology companies […] aimed at bringing the Android platform to a device that’s always been mobile: the car."

Location data will be inherent to these operating systems in cars and can be easily used to promote traffic updates or the whereabouts of nearby restaurants and hotels.

The role of advertising needs to change

One thing yet to become apparent and something the industry, including us at Blis, need to find out, is the exact role these devices will play in the advertising industry.

They don’t provide a screen that a consumer spends time engaging with for extended or frequent periods, so displaying banner ads on them isn’t an option.

Data being useful is better than big data

However, what it definitely does provide is reams of data about a person and their lifestyle habits that, when associated with the smartphone or tablet used to control these devices, can feed back into the ad world and be used in the qualifying process for ad-serving on those screens.

The trick to consumers being comfortable with this is going to be in making the application and use of this data helpful.

Being reminded when to buy more milk or where the best local restaurant is in a foreign city is useful. If advertisers can succeed in making the ad a valuable part of the experience, as with Google’s search-relevant ads, then we could be onto a winner.

Andy Beames is sales group head at BlisMedia

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