Head of Marketing at Metawave Corporation, develops and executes marketing programs for startups, and writes on innovation and technology.
The benefits of the Internet of Things wireless sensor network — fusing the digital world with the real one — are becoming well known around the world. Internet of things (IoT) applications are being applied in many ways, from improving agriculture to refining logistics to streamlining healthcare to building smart homes and cities.
Given the effectiveness of sensors connected by wireless global networks, we are able to reach wide geographical locations, serve endless applications with “always-on” coverage and collect enormous amounts of very specific data to solve very specific problems.
The technology to power the Internet of Things has been under development for decades. The term was coined by Kevin Ashton in the 1990s. Working for Procter & Gamble, he became interested in using radio frequency identification (RFID) to help manage the company’s supply chain. However, the idea of connected devices had been around a little earlier — it was called “ubiquitous computing,” an expression created by the late Mark Weiser at Xerox PARC, Silicon Valley’s research and innovation center.
In my roles at various innovative companies over my career, I have worked to develop early IoT messaging and branding in the “maker” community (with Arduino), the 5G industry (with Metawave), the satellite-to-sensor communications market (with Skylo) and in my work with PARC. The applications for sensors, networks and data science are endless, some within our imagination already and others we can’t even dream of yet.
Innovative Uses Coming Into Focus
What if sensors could immediately detect your temperature as you walk into a doctor’s office, an airport or a classroom, all with no person-to-person contact? Researchers at MIT and Harvard are developing face mask sensors that light up when the coronavirus is detected.
As global temperatures continue to intensify, we’re experiencing more widespread wildfires. Sensors placed in forests can measure temperature, of course, as well as soil pH in forest floors, smoke, humidity, moisture, wind speed, and amounts of live and dead vegetation. Sensors of all kinds can be scattered and strategically placed to give forestry management experts daily specific data to understand what is happening, plan long-term management and immediately identify a crisis.
Then there’s the IoT derivative “Ocean of Things.” Often, satellites and cellular networks can’t sense underwater, so researchers at PARC are developing floating sensors that tap into the network. These sensors have the potential to be deployed to protect our borders, monitor weather patterns, keep a close eye on ocean temperatures and continuously track and monitor sea life. I love this idea, as we continue to see how pervasive computing continues to evolve.
The key to successful IoT and industrial IoT deployment is affordability and “always on” connectivity. From managing and preventing disasters like wildfires, to tracking vehicles for economical logistics and delivery, to helping farmers keep healthier crops and animals for sustainability and food health, sensors (and the data collected by them) need to be affordable, and networks need to be reliable, broad and secure.
Marketing Has An Important Role To Play
Here is my hope as we continue to develop and take more advantage of IoT: I hope we don’t use sensors and their associated data to track people and follow them around on all of their devices to communicate “more” to them. The way I see it, none of us want marketers to “sense us up” in order to promote the same link, the same message (collecting those eyeballs that many marketers find valuable). We all know what this feels like, and it’s annoying — not useful. The idea of growth marketing when applied to IoT isn’t appealing.
What I do hope, and what I aim to do in my marketing work, is to appeal to human beings with stories of value and interest, allowing the right people to understand more about what IoT offers. For example, if we can reach those in charge of wildfire prevention with innovative ideas and proof points that offer value, I believe they will be likely to pay attention as they decide how to face the next season of fires.
Messages of value can come in the form of a scientific article series, technical white papers, customer testimonials, illustrative videos, images that answer questions, panels and webinars. These sorts of communications all support the individual connections that need to be established to ultimately result in conversations that can address specific outcomes.
I believe it’s the stories we tell that bring a brand to life. And those of us in the technology industry know that there is a vast sea of terms that are overused and abused, including IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and innovation. Being able to stand out and help customers understand what you provide is no easy task.
My advice: Tell lots of stories to lots of people. Talk directly to the fishers who understand the ocean and have specific problems. Talk to wildfire and forest experts who deeply understand prevention. Talk to educators who understand students.
And if you are applying IoT technologies in new ways, let me know!
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