What Can the Internet of Things Learn From Mobile Apps?

Mobile apps have dominated marketing conversations in recent years — and for good reason. Growth projections for 2016, from research firm eMarketer, show mobile-ad spending is expected to rise by 38 percent, totaling $43.60 billion and making up 63.4 percent of total digital-ad spend in the US.

Recent data compiled by Smart Insights further shows that 90 percent of the time consumers spend on mobile devices is spent in mobile apps. While such data may verify the need to continue investing in traditional marketing mobile opportunities, it could also lead to brands forsaking the future of marketing across the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) altogether.

That would mean losing the forest for the trees. Mobile apps are powerful in their own right, but they are also influencing the growth of the Internet of Things in a big way. Mobile apps are acting as stepping stones for forward-thinking brands that are working to develop smarter devices to improve efficiencies while measuring more nuanced customer journeys at scale.

The innovative brands of the future will be the industry leaders who take that knowledge and experience with mobile apps and apply it to IoT.

Mobile Apps: A Foundation for IoT Growth
When speaking about how mobile apps are typically used today, it’s best to start at the end — that is, the endpoint. In most cases, people are using apps as endpoints — to play games, stream music, locate restaurants, or interact with friends on social media.

While apps can serve two purposes — gateway or endpoint — IoT fundamentally requires an endpoint from which to send back data. IoT endpoints, such as connected devices in the home, generally have simpler architectures when compared to mobile devices. These endpoints are capable of monitoring events — like room temperature — before sending back data to services through which trends can be analyzed.

A well-known example of mobile app and IoT integration is a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat. In this case, the thermostat itself is considered the IoT endpoint, and a mobile app can be used as a remote or gateway to control the device.

This emerging dynamic between mobile apps and IoT devices has remarkable potential, and as a result, has effectively opened the minds of organizations seeking to harness the full potential of the coming IoT. And, because of the preexistence of mobile-app development within many organizations, developers now have a baseline from which they can build frameworks for the future, freeing them from the traditional HTML web-browser approach.

How Have Mobile Apps Influenced IoT?
The relationship between IoT as an endpoint and mobile apps as remotes is rather clear, but apps also have the ability to act as sensors, similar to IoT devices.

If your brand is thinking about leveraging native operating-system (OS) functionality and using mobile apps as sensors, such apps can be utilized to collect background data before sending it to a server in ways that they — from a technical standpoint — have never been able to do before. One such example would include sending information about a user’s location in the background. This might not qualify as a traditional visit, session, or user interaction, but it can remain an important event along the customer journey, and the data collected could — and should — provide a more personalized user experience. This data can be used to enhance a user’s relationship with the brand.

Such mobile app use cases have helped IoT define the relationship between data coming through and the ultimate problem the user is trying to solve. By analyzing the various ways that mobile apps as sensors have helped businesses report, collect, and analyze data, brands already have a head start in the transition to understanding the possibilities of IoT devices.

In Closing
The Internet of Things is here, due in part to the way mobile apps have completely changed how business is done in the 21st century. IoT is going to take us one step further — enhancing consumer-to-business interactions by using rich data provided by what will be an estimated 21 billion connected devices by the year 2020. Day-to-day business efficiency will increase as more enterprises integrate IoT technology across touchpoints that businesses have never been able to measure before.

And, the brands that are unwilling to test and venture out into the world of IoT today will miss out on both the cost savings that come with automation and opportunities for more personalized user experiences. What else do you think the Internet of Things can learn from mobile apps?