Demystifying IoT: Uniting Online and Offline Experiences

Jenna Rodrigues
September 9, 2021

“Dude, where’s my car” is so 2000. (If you have no idea what we’re talking about, we envy your youth.) Today, it’s “Alexa, where’s my car?

Connected devices, also known as the internet of things (IoT), are everywhere. There will be 41.6 billion connected devices by 2025, used everywhere from our homes and cars to medical equipment and the factories in which they’re produced.

Many brands are already using IoT technologies to connect online and offline touchpoints. By interacting with customers in the right place and at the right time, they can deliver a seamless and relevant customer experience. Here’s what you need to know about IoT and how you can apply them to improve your products.

What Is IoT?

IoT refers to physical devices connected to the internet via wireless networks. They include web-based devices, smart gadgets, appliances, medical devices, industrial sensors, vehicles, drones, and more — pretty much any electronic product into which you can insert a computer chip.

These devices can interact with one another and share data in real-time without any human intervention. All the data is collected and processed by a server, which directs the devices to take specific actions based on predetermined logic.

What Are the Benefits of IoT?

IoT integrates “things” we use in our life with the interconnectedness of the digital information system to make objects around us smarter and more responsive. Here are some of the advantages of IoT:

• Automation reduces the need for human labor and improves employee productivity while minimizing bottlenecks and errors associated with manual processes.

• Interconnected devices improve operation management and facilitate processes (e.g., inventory management, shipment tracking, fuel utilization, and spare parts management.)

• Connected sensors enable automated scheduling and monitoring to optimize resource usage and asset management.

• Continuous monitoring and automated reporting minimize downtime, improve operational cost-efficiency, and reduce maintenance costs.

• Smart devices (e.g., voice assistants) allow businesses to communicate with users regularly and improve the customer experience.

• IoT devices connect various touchpoints and collect large amounts of data to support business analytics and derive customer insights.

• Automated tracking, post-sales follow-up, and maintenance reminders help ensure that equipment is working optimally, improving customer satisfaction and retention.

• IoT solutions allow companies to bridge online and offline touchpoints and deliver a cohesive customer experience that drives sales and increases loyalty.

What Industries Use IoT?

IoT solutions are used by many different industries thanks to their increasing range of capabilities. Here are some examples:

Retail

IoT implementation helps companies connect with customers across multiple touchpoints through innovative ways. Brands can shorten the purchasing path by delivering personalized communications and recommendations in the right place and at the right time. IoT also improves product maintenance, allowing companies to foster long-term relationships with customers.

Additionally, IoT devices can collect customer data across online and offline channels to inform demand forecasts and supply chain management. Stores can optimize stock and automate reordering processes to improve operational cost-efficiency and reduce waste.

Hospitality

Hotels use IoT solutions to lower costs while improving the guest experience. For example, IoT devices can detect the amount of natural light to modify lighting or the occupancy to adjust the thermostat in a room so hotels can reduce energy expenses without compromising guests’ comfort. IoT technologies can also enable guests to check-in and unlock their rooms with their mobile devices to streamline their experience.

Financial Services

IoT will reach $116.27 billion in the banking, financial services, and insurance industries by 2026. Customers can manage their accounts and transactions using connected devices. Meanwhile, financial institutions can leverage customer data to understand consumer preferences and offer personalized products or services.

IoT technologies are also revolutionizing payment processing. Self-checkout services such as Amazon Go makes waiting in line and paying at a cashier a thing of the past. These innovations help streamline the customer experience and reduce the labor cost involved in accepting and processing payments.

Manufacturing

IoT sensors implemented on factory floors and across assembly lines allow companies to monitor their assets more efficiently. Using predictive analytics, they can preempt issues that may result in unplanned downtime, lead to lost productivity, or even put workers in harm’s way.

Automation enabled by IoT solutions can eliminate various repetitive and manual processes, so employees can focus on activities that increase output. Meanwhile, managers can oversee operations from a centralized location. Fewer resources are required to run more facilities, even if they’re dispersed across various geographic regions.

What Are Some Common IoT Applications?

When the rubber meets the road, what does it look like to apply IoT solutions to our daily lives? IoT applications are rapidly expanding, and here are some of the most common uses:

• Smart homes: IoT-enabled electricity meters show real-time energy usage, and WiFi-enabled appliances allow you to program or run them even when you’re not home. You can get a set-top box to record a show and a surveillance system to monitor activities in your house via a smartphone app from anywhere in the world.

• Self-driving cars: These vehicles use sensors and embedded systems to process data, make decisions, and react to situations in a split second. This is made possible by IoT devices, along with AI-driven and edge computing technologies, to collect and respond to vast amounts of data in real-time.

• Smart wearables: From earphones and navigational devices to fitness trackers and medical sensors, many wearables contain IoT technologies. Users can collect and analyze information or get data from the cloud for various purposes.

• Telehealth: IoT devices support the digital communication of medical imaging, remote medical diagnosis, video consultation, remote patient monitoring, etc., to bring high-quality healthcare to more people in every corner of the world while dramatically lowering the cost of these essential services.

IoT: Bridging the Digital and Physical World

IoT solutions link many of our online and offline experiences thanks to their wide range of applications. Companies that produce physical goods are constantly looking for ways to incorporate IoT technologies to make their products smarter and more relevant to consumer needs. Meanwhile, app developers are seeking opportunities to leverage IoT devices to bring their ideas into the physical world.

A digital interface in the form of a mobile or web app is often the connection between a physical device and the digital world. For an IoT solution to be successful, you can’t leave this interface as an afterthought. It should be an integral part of your product strategy and inform your audience and revenue approach so you can deliver a coherent and seamless user experience — both online and offline.

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