Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are We The 'Things' In The Internet Of Things ?

Television has taken a sinister turn recently. 

Samsung has been revealed to be eavesdropping on users of its voice controlled connected TVs and is also inserting ads into viewers' experience. For a company that is already suffering from poor financial performance this is a bombshell and they shall no doubt have to recant these features.

However, for the likes of Google and Apple, who have long had designs on the living room, this trend will be irresistible.

I am now able to control the heating, security, TV and music in my house from my iPad or iPhone, wherever I am.  The experience is pretty primitive - my LG TV needs to be on a specific wifi channel and will not go inline if other devices have selected this channel (I can find no way to hard code it). The Nest heating control is too intelligent for its own good - I was recently away abroad and the heating took on a life of its own, refusing to stay at a low level and with, as far as I could see, no easy over-ride. 

So, there's a way to go. But what is more worrying is what all of this means for us as consumers: already our behaviour is minutely tracked online, by Big Internet and governments alike.

It's unlikely to manifest itself in useful features like the ability to know what TV programmes you have already watched or to pre-heat the car windows on frozen mornings and far more likely to send you more spurious ads on things that you were interested in a month previously.

The problem, of course, is that the more data we generate, the more difficult it is to make sense of this swathe of informatics.

When working in marketing some decades ago I came up with the concept of touch points: you would define your audience and then run through every interaction they would have during the day that posed the opportunity to market to them, from the alarm clock to the late night movie on TV.

This is essentially what the Internet of Things (or Thingternet as it was recently termed) provides: a chronology and narrative on our lives that can be traded outside of our control. And as sanguine as most people seem to be about giving away their privacy and data in exchange for free IM or content, there will need to be a point at which legislation will need to be changed to protect us poor Things.