Dummie's Guide to the Internet of Things

Here it comes...the new, new thing. I guarantee you will be hearing a lot about the Internet of Things next year. So here's a primer on what it is, and why it will fundamentally shift the influence of marketing in our lives.

The Evolving Web: Version 1 - 3

In broad strokes, the first three waves of the web's evolution were:

Web 1.0: connecting people to digital information
Web 2.0: connecting people to people socially
Web 3.0: connecting applications and people through mobile devices

 Image courtesy of   patriziasoliani

Image courtesy of patriziasoliani

So far, that evolution has connected us through dedicated computer screens - we click with mice, or we swipe with fingers.

Version 4: The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, as its name suggests, connects anything to anything and anyone. Your car, your clothes, your watch, your fridge, the book you're reading. The plane you're flying in, the train you're waiting for, the pets and plants you care for, the toys your kids are playing with.

 Image courtesy of  danielweiresq

Image courtesy of danielweiresq

The Difference

In web 1 - 3 digital marketing has been dedicated to connecting with people through channels and applications, accessed through a computer screen. We've used this infrastructure to transmit our messages and get customers to a point where they buy things from us.

 Image courtesy of  Jeremy Stockwell

Image courtesy of Jeremy Stockwell

The Internet of Things wraps technology around all of us. No longer is our digital activity conducted through channels. It's everywhere. Now, one interaction can set off a sequence of events between multiple applications embedded in lots of different physical things.

This sequence of events is no longer restricted to the transmission of digital information. It can direct and control what the physical things and other people do around us.

 Image courtesy of  Dennis Skley

Image courtesy of Dennis Skley

Already, forward thinking marketers are considering how this potentially impacts marketing's relationship with the lives of their customers. The opportunity is to expand the role of marketing from the influencer of purchase decisions to the provider of a brand service.

An Example

Jane, a 1st class frequent flyer is sent a book by her airline called "The Concierge Service". The book knows when she arrives at the airport for her next flight, as it has GPS embedded in its cover. Through an e-ink page, the book advises her that her flight is running on time and gives her google maps-style instructions on where to check in and how to get to the departure lounge. Offers on VAT-free shopping from participating retailers are available, and the book is pre-registered to help her fast-track her VAT refund claim.

 Image courtesy of  London City Airport

Image courtesy of London City Airport

As part of her welcome pack, Jane also received two "SOS" keyrings for her young daughters. Anna, her youngest, gets lost in the airport and pushes the panic button on the keyring. Jane receives an automated phone call alerting her that her daughter is trying to find her. Jane is directed to use the Concierge book which will pick up the location of the SOS keyring, and give directions to Jane for where to find her daughter. They are re-united and board safely. An automated text message is sent to her husband to let him know that they are all on board and are safely on their way.

The airline also provides the concierge service through a downloadable app for economy class customers.

Further Reading


A good Harvard Business Review overview of the IOT, and how it's challenging businesses to re-evaluate their models and consider what business they think they're in.

Forbes article on wearables and the insurance market.

A Forrester article on the role of the CIO in serving customer expectations. "As competitive advantage moves beyond an isolated web site or a mobile app, CIOs are in the best position for these end-to-end capabilities. Are all CIOs up for the challenge? No. But in 2015, any CIO who isn’t will be replaced by one who is."

KPMG article on the insurance market business model transformation.

Cisco IoT Infographic: Connected Car, Self and Home.

Kate Stone Ted Talk about making connected paper things.

A video about WiFi beacons in a California town, for local businesses to promote to passing customers through mobile apps without having to download anything. The whole experience is seamless.

"Life360 is a Smartphone app that lets users set up private “Circles” of family members of close friends. People within the Circle can be messaged all at one time, and can “check in” when they arrive at their location."

" Neura.me understands your daily habits, foresees your needs and feeds them into the devices around you. Your devices will stop reacting and start predicting.

Peugeot Connect SOS and Assistance

EVRYTHNG a connected technology development platform.
Novalia conductive print technology.
E Ink digital paper.
IEEE Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things (IoT)
IFTTT - a service which connects things and apps through simple "If this, then that" commands