We’re living in the future, now – wearable tech, the Internet of Things and data-driven decisions

Nicholas Moore

Some of the technology we have available today wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction movie

It’s a common human trait to look ahead and attempt to envisage the ways future generations will live. From floating cars and hoverboards to spaceships and teleportation – we’ve thought up some pretty insane stuff.

In general these are fairly far-fetched ideas to which the technological capability required to enable remains a mystery. However, while floating cars and hover boards are a way off (maybe not so far) and spaceships like those seen in Star Trek and Star Wars are still very much a thing of science fiction, some of those crazy ideas are with us, or are just on the horizon.

What’s so interesting is that the driving factor behind a lot of these modern advances hasn’t come about through some breakthrough eureka moment such as a great scientific discovery. No, it’s come about through the increased capability of gathering, manipulating and processing vast quantities of data.

Think of the fridge that tells you you’re running out of milk when you’re standing in a store? What about a fridge that orders that milk for you?

How about a watch that lets you know when your favourite brand of cereal is on special offer at a store when you walk past it? Or air conditioning that turns itself on and off depending on the temperature outside – without any input from you?

Are these examples not the stuff of Science Fiction? Well they’re all made possible by data. Let’s look at a few examples.

Personalised advertising

Personalised advertising is a relatively well-known marketing technique – not exactly the stuff of the future you’re thinking? Well think again. Remember the Tom Cruise film Minority Report (or the Phillip K Dick book on which it’s based – for the sticklers among you)? It featured what at the time was a futuristic concept – individually tailored adverts.

While some of the finer subtleties may have been a bit off the mark (the ads in the film were fairly invasive) most modern marketers will be able to recognise it for what it is. Personalisation.

And Personalisation is made possible by the large quantities of data now available and the ability of brands to sort through it and draw actionable insights, often in real-time. It’s not the technology that is the driving force here. Not the TV ad, email HTML or dynamic landing page. No, it’s the data that makes it possible.

The Internet of Things 

The Internet of Things is a term that’s seeing a lot of mileage at the moment as something which we are incredibly close to. In fact, early adopters are pretty much there already.

The Internet of Things (often referred to as IoT, or Internet of Everything) is when a number of objects or ‘things’ are all connected to a network and the wider internet to enable them to exchange data with other objects, people and operators.

It’s this that will allow your smart objects to make decisions based on your preferences and other external factors, in real-time. Whether it’s your phone, glasses, fridge, toaster, heating, bath – you name it, it could be connected. In fact, experts estimate that nearly 50 billion objects will be connected to the internet by 2020 – and that’s only five years away…

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is a thing of the future – which is with us today

The Internet of Things will result in improved efficiency and accuracy of those objects – making things run more smoothly and making life easier. Curtains that open at the right time in the morning to wake you up for work – sounds like something from a Science Fiction movie? Well that’s 100% possible with the internet of things.

All these wonderful components working away to make your life easier. They’re all powered by data – your data, your preferences, the weather outside – all data collected, collated and used to inform decisions to power the components of the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things is all about the data.

Wearable tech

So where does all this data come from? All this data that powers all these wonderful futuristic advances?

Modern people create far more data than ever before. Everywhere we go digitally we leave a trail. A trail of individual insights, facts and recorded choices. Mobile phones also mean we leave a behaviour trail while we’re on the move and provide that link between the offline and the online. Even completely anonymised data (which for the most part it is) provides incredibly useful insights into overall patterns and trends of behaviour.

Indeed, the more smart technology and so called ‘wearable tech’ we develop and that become the norm the more data and insights we’ll be generating. Running watches that you upload to social media? Smart watches? Google glass (or its successors)? How about contact lenses and smart shoes – are we really that far off the last two?

These are all products that will add value to our lives. The shoes and exercise watch will make us more motivated to go out for a run. Google glass and contact lenses will help kill time on a long train journey with an episode of your favourite show.

The collection of data from these things will be an afterthought. An afterthought that will enable the development of more products and the optimisation of existing ones. To make them more useful and more accurate. The more data available the more efficient automated and personalised solutions will become.

Yes, wearable tech is definitely something which wouldn’t seem out of place in a science fiction movie.


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It all comes down to data

As I’ve discussed in this post we’re living in a world where many futuristic ideas have come true. Come true thanks to the data.

When we imagined a talking toaster in Red Dwarf (if you haven’t seen it watch it here) back in the early 90s we thought it would be the technology that was the barrier. We thought we would have to invent Artificial Intelligence before such a thing could ever come to pass. Now we know better, with the right sort of data and insights a toaster hooked up to the Internet of Things could do a good deal better job than that talking toaster from Red Dwarf.

It does all depend on the data though. Whether it’s personalised advertising or a smart object making a decision based on what it knows about you, without accurate, clean and actionable data it’s not going to work.

Brands wanting to make the most of these developments, either by creating new products or utilising advanced advertising techniques, need to ensure they have the capabilities in place to gather correct data, ensure it is accurate and then implement actions from the insights they garner. We’re talking first party data, third party data, cross-channel engagement, programmatic and real-time. All these techniques require the right data and the brands that fail behind will struggle.

Yes it’s my view that the future is well and truly here thanks to data. Just don’t keep me waiting too much longer for the hoverboards and light sabres.

Experian Marketing Services is the leading global provider of customer insights, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers.

By helping marketers identify best customers, find more, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.