IoT Technology: Keeping it Focused on the Customer Experience

by Kevin Lindsay

posted on 03-14-2018

Internet of Things (IoT) technology is all around us, yet most people are unaware of what IoT means for them. In fact, just a few years ago the majority of people (87 percent) had not even heard of the term “Internet of Things.”

Perhaps that’s because most IoT devices are used in factories, businesses, and for healthcare. According to a recent McKinsey report, as much as 70 percent of total potential value from IoT functionality will be generated for businesses, not consumers.

Internet-connected smart objects give major industries the data they need to realize the promise of their digital transformation. They save costs by tracking inventory, managing machines, and increasing efficiency. They can even save lives.

OK, not every IoT device will save lives, but that last point is in line with how you need to view the ultimate benefit of IoT — how it all works together to enhance the customer experience.

So, even though you are using connected devices to benefit your business, don’t lose sight of the many ways that same information can also benefit your customers. Here are a few examples of how IoT technology is being used to both improve business-to-business (B2B) relationships, as well as improve the customer experience.

Fulfillment

People are no longer satisfied with paying shipping on products that will be delivered in 7-10 business days. Amazon Prime has raised the bar so that we all expect our online orders to be on our doorstep in no more than two days, for free. That’s a great customer experience.

But the real story here is all the work that needs to take place in the background for that to consistently happen with every available product. B2B relationships with retailers, manufacturers, supply chains, and delivery services all must be in order, and IoT devices play an increasingly important role.

Connected sensors in the warehouse of the future determine when your supply of widgets is low and send a signal to automatically trigger a perfectly-timed order — no additional warehouse space necessary. Shipping partners receive real-time data on packages that are ready to ship — the number, size, weight, destination — and then use devices in the field to report delivery tracking information that anyone can monitor online.

Aside from supporting an entire ecosystem to provide a great online retail experience, Amazon has also transferred IoT technology to its customers via Dash buttons and Amazon Echo. While orders still require the action of pressing a button or verbalizing an order, the concept is the same — internet-connected devices provide the products and services needed in the moment.

Watch for developments in appliance-CPG-retailer relationships that will make ordering from home completely automatic, or washing machines with sensors to know when the requisite number of loads has consumed the available detergent and can reorder that detergent — all without human input or thought. We already see this from single vendors, such as HP’s Instant Ink program. For the customer, the benefit is convenience. For the business, the benefit is increased efficiency and sales.

Personalization

IoT devices provide huge benefits through the data they can collect and communicate. This data gives businesses and consumers an incredible opportunity as they have a way to sense what is going on around them or in remote locations.

ChargePoint is a manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations, and they are using the data they collect to benefit their business partners and the end-consumer alike. If you buy an electric car from BMW, they’ll set up an account for you and provide a keychain tag for ChargePoint. In addition to charging your car, ChargePoint is able to collect usage data — miles driven, where you drive, when, and how often you drive. The company provides the driver with this data and more through a mobile app and monthly emails.

Going a step further to interpret the data can provide additional consumer-friendly info such as how much money was saved by using an electric car. But the value of ChargePoint data from its internet-enabled charging stations doesn’t stop there. This service goes deeper as a provider of valuable usage data for BMW.

And BMW can use the data far beyond understanding the battery life in its cars. Think about how the data can help them with audience segmentation — suddenly they have really comprehensive information about who drives which type of car, and how and why they use that car. This is just one data set that will help them create data-driven and personalized marketing campaigns.

A better life

Back to the point about saving lives. Beyond making life more convenient and enjoyable, IoT devices really do have an impact on health and wellness. We’re all familiar with fitness trackers and how they connect to scales and apps to help out with healthy lifestyle goals. Other devices like the Owlet baby monitor lets parents monitor their newborn’s vital signs without a lot of intrusive and expensive equipment, and do it in the comfort of their home. Healthcare professionals monitor the infant’s health from their facility, the IoT device is with the baby, and the peace of mind experience is with relaxed parents who can see everything on an app. That’s a micro example of how IoT devices can benefit health experiences.

On the macro level, IoT in healthcare is providing the big data necessary to better diagnose disease, identify risk factors, and develop treatment protocols. For example, sepsis is a disease that claims 250,000 lives each year in the United States. It’s the body’s response to overwhelming infection and there is no diagnostic test. Instead, healthcare professionals rely on a pattern of symptoms to alert them to danger.

At Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, nurses use information in electronic health records to algorithmically track patient data and identify known patterns that indicate sepsis. However, data is entered manually only every 12 hours, yet the goal for effectively treating infections before the body has a septic response is to start antibiotics within three hours.

This latency from data entry is being solved by an IoT monitor that is placed under a patient’s mattress and continuously calculates heart rate and respiratory rate in real time. In the B2B partnership between the monitor manufacturer and the healthcare system, patients are benefitting from more timely diagnoses and treatments, hospitals are seeing lower mortality rates, and the manufacturer has the possibility of opening new lines of business with insights gained from mounds of patient data — data that can provide even more significant insights into disease risk, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes.

Every piece of data that is captured opens an entirely new world. New and improved customer experiences — whether B2B, B2B2C, or B2C — are the result of better connections to the things that are happening all around us, and the data insights that connected devices facilitate.

Find more stories from top brands and experience makers, and read more about effectively using experience-era technologies to build stronger customer relationships in our #ExperienceBusinessTech series.

Topics: Digital Transformation

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