While attending Dreamforce 2013 I got my first real taste of the impending phenomenon that has been coined the Internet of Things from an enterprise / business mindset. Much like many other everyday people, I’ve taken part in things like fitbit which leverages hardware to collect data for your personal usage (other items of note: Google Glass, Nest, etc.), but the concept of businesses embracing these types of technology awareness is inevitably the next step in increasing efficiencies.
At Dreamforce I had the pleasure of discussing hypotheticals with many other attendees. While not tied specifically to the Salesforce.com platform, the idea of letting machines tell you when they are broken or low on a necessary component allows your staff to play a more reactive role in maintenance.
On an extremely small picture level, imagine if a shopping mall were to equip their bathrooms with sensors that told you the amount of soap left in the each of the dispensers, the amount of toilet paper/paper towel left, or even a sensor to track whether there was a spill on the floor. If all three of these were able to let you know ahead of time that a refill was necessary in the near future, no one would have to walk around constantly checking.
Unfortunately, the ROI of something on that level likely won’t make sense in the near future. However, once you start getting into the business of manufacturing or other processes where a piece of equipment being down is cause for major concern, having these type of sensors in place allows for both constant monitoring for both the business using the equipment as well as the equipment manufacturer.
Consider a piece of equipment that failed in a manufacturing plant. What if the equipment’s original manufacturer could take a look at that machine’s pertinent data in the hours or days leading up to the failure — would they be able to predict other machines failing? They might even be able to more quickly diagnose an issue remotely without even needing to send a technician in. In fact, that piece of equipment might even be set up to file a support case in the original manufacturer’s Salesforce.com organization without any human intervention.
Bluetooth Low Energy
Another really cool piece of technology that is just starting to get some publicity is Bluetooth Low Energy. Some might know it as the technology that Apple chose to support instead of adopting NFC. In a nutshell, Bluetooth Low Energy is a way to transmit data to a device within a certain range (in this case, an iPhone) — Apple is referring to this concept as iBeacon.
The transmitter, in this case, can be something as small as a quarter (that I am aware of) in the consumer space. Tile is an example of one of these devices, which is powered by a battery with the lifespan of a year. One of the consumer based concepts I’ve seen quite a bit is a way to keep track of where you parked your car by leaving one of these tiles in the car, and using your phone to see how close you are.
From a business perspective, the prospect of knowing where your customers are in your store gives you the ability to offer extremely targeted deals to them (and aggregate that data for future targeted marketing campaigns). Additionally, consider if you were walking past an ice cream shop and suddenly your phone popped up with a coupon. Those types of location based advertisements for customers nearby who didn’t originally plan on visiting the store could result in additional sales that currently rely on print advertisements or static signage.
WIRED recently posted an article highlighting iBeacon and how they think it is going to change personalization titled 4 Reasons Why Apple’s iBeacon Is About to Disrupt Interaction Design.
The Internet of Things space is something that I’m extremely interested in seeing come to life. While we are currently just getting started from both a consumer and enterprise perspective, the possibilities of automation and data aggregation is immense.