The 3 Ds of the Internet of Things

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IBM Watson, the supercomputer that competed on Jeopardy!, has become a beacon of opportunity for data scientists experimenting with the link between Internet of Things–enabled devices and algorithmic intelligence. Using IBM's app development platform, Bluemix, developers are now able to build cognitive Internet of Things apps that leverage Watson's machine-learning capabilities.

In a Web presentation, Swami Chandrasekaran, executive architect in the CTO office at IBM Watson Innovations, demonstrated how user modeling, just one of many Watson capabilities, enables brands to deliver an unprecedented kind of customer experience. Watson user modeling uses linguistic analytics to extract personality and social traits, as well as values and needs, from the way a person communicates. The tool also analyzes users' digital footprints including email, text messages, tweets, forum posts, and other engagements, mapping "cognitive and social characteristics with their corresponding percentile values as the basis for analyzing personality and social traits," Chandrasekaran explained.

The sample scenario that Chandrasekaran outlined involved a connected car and its driver, John, who happens to be a "very vocal person who maintains a strong digital presence." After a long day at work, John shares tweets that contain strong emotions as he walks to his car; by the time he gets there, the connected car app has already done a psychographic analysis of his tweets using Watson user modeling. The analysis complete, John's connected car makes music recommendations or auto-tunes to a station he'd enjoy given his particular set of emotions at that point, and can also control settings or make changes such as readjusting the seat, air-conditioning, and even maximum speed limit, Chandrasekaran said.

In this scenario, the analytics reach beyond user preferences, past interactions or other behavioral data. By using complex algorithms that learn not only how a person acts but how he thinks, Watson pushes the boundaries of predictive and prescriptive analysis, arming marketers, sales teams, and customer service departments with data for the "next level" of personalized engagements, Chandrasekaran said. Insight gathered from this kind of IoT network "can be used anywhere to improve customer engagement for an organization trying to differentiate itself," he added, and can fuel personality-driven engagements like marketing messages, special offers, social campaigns, and product recommendations.


Opportunities to operationalize data from IoT devices are so boundless that demand has given rise to a new breed of cloud solution—application-platform-as-a-service (APaaS). Gartner predicts that total APaaS revenue will grow from $1.8 billion in 2015 to nearly $2.9 billion in 2016 and will only increase as the Internet of Things continues to foster adoption of APaaS solutions.

App development was once a task relegated to the IT department, but because the expanding number of connected devices has created new niche use cases for the growing magnitude of data, app building is becoming a responsibility that is shared across the enterprise. Vendors have responded aggressively, offering competitive platforms designed to make app development accessible to any user.

IBM, for example, announced a $3 billion Internet of Things investment in March, allocating the funds toward bringing together the different pieces of its IoT ecosystem, including its APaaS offering, Bluemix. Bluemix gives users the tools required to build a variety of apps for the Myo armband, the Pebble smart watch, the Apple Watch, the Oculus Rift headset, and an evolving list of wearable and other IoT devices.

"IBM sees the Internet of Things as a huge opportunity that's poised for explosive growth," Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM ExperienceOne, says. Bluemix equips app developers—be they marketers or IT staff—with prebuilt connectors, automated components, and guidelines to provide additional support. APaaS solutions allow a faster, more nimble approach to building, deploying, and upgrading apps because they let you build apps by clicking and dragging instead of complicated coding. For marketers, the prospect of creating apps for the Internet of Things will significantly change their job roles. Because of marketers' increasing need for technology, Gartner predicts that by 2017, the CMO will control more of the IT budget than the CIO.

"When you look at what you can do with IoT, the opportunity for the marketing portfolio is exciting. The Internet of Things is providing two big interesting areas for marketing. It's providing a way to better understand customers and a way to deliver engagements in a more relevant context," Henderson explains. "The market for solutions is still emerging and is still largely experimental, but the Internet of Things is already redefining marketing in a way," he adds.

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