Just over a month ago, Apple finally launched its first, long-awaited wearable device, the Apple Watch. The watch sold out within minutes of becoming available for preorder online, and by the end of the day, the "expected ship-by date" had moved well into the summer months. By the time this story runs, Apple devotees will at last be celebrating the arrival of their new gadget, a piece of technology that analysts believe will mark the true beginning of mainstream wearable device adoption among consumers. But the wearable trend is only a small part of a greater phenomenon. Ready or not, the Internet of Things has officially begun.
According to Gartner, there will be 4.9 billion connected things in use by the end of 2015; by 2020 that number will grow to 25 billion. From wearable fitness trackers to smart thermostats, the Internet of Things presents connectivity potential to a vast number of devices across a range of industries, including retail, healthcare, insurance, financial services, and many others. And where the fast adoption of smartphones and tablets had companies worrying about how to handle the data boom, the arguably faster adoption rate of IoT-enabled devices has some companies "downright scrambling," Gartner analyst Frank Buytendijk said at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in March.
Though bracing for the Internet of Things is daunting, most high-level preparations should involve building a unified strategy for connecting devices, data, and development of apps—the three Ds of the IoT.
With traditional objects becoming digitalized and connected, ensuring that these devices connect not only to the Web and the cloud but also to each other has become crucial. It's not enough to have a digital smart screen in a store or showroom, for example, unless it can sync to a customer's smartphone, smart watch, or other wearable device, says Loni Stark, senior director of strategy and product marketing at Adobe. To create a worthwhile experience that fully leverages the value of having connected things, "the things have to be in conversation with each other," Stark explains. At the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit in March, the vendor introduced an "industry first" feature for its Experience Manager suite of applications that does just that—facilitates a dialogue between digital devices.
The new tool, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) Screens, gives consumers the flexibility to start their customer journey on one screen—be it a mobile phone, a smart watch, or other device—and continue the journey on a different one. By flicking the display from one AEM-enabled screen to another, the consumer is able to not only connect experiences on disparate digital channels but also bring digital experiences into the physical realm.
For example, if consumers have already spent time browsing for items and customizing them using a brand’s mobile app, they don't want to have to repeat the process at the store. If the brand's brick-and-mortar locations are equipped with AEM screens, they can just "throw" the image onto the screen in the store and show a sales representative on the floor the exact item they want, Stark explains.