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The Internet of Things (and Ads)

  |  June 28, 2013   |  Comments

Before we get too overwhelmed by the spread of technology, we should think about how we are going to deal with the world we have been wishing for, but really don't know what to do with.

Someone forwarded me a link to this new technology for bars.

I have worked on spirits accounts a good deal in my career (lucky me), so I am always interested in how this world is evolving, and this was a pretty interesting new technology. I won't go into the details too much here, but essentially, someone invented a new pourer. You know, the thing they put into a bottle so that the booze comes out smoothly and evenly. This one is actually Wi-Fi-enabled (or Bluetooth or something. Some wireless technology).

The idea is that every pour can now be logged and tracked. If the bar is pouring a lot of a particular brand of vodka on Wednesday nights, that can be not only logged and reported on, but even acted upon. The data can first go to a distributor who can know to bring more bottles of that vodka to that bar, but (more interestingly) it can be used by the bar to know that Wednesday night is a good night to offer even more vodka drinks.

I really like this idea. Actually, I really like this idea, as compared to an older idea. A company, many years ago, introduced a set of pourers to bars across the country that were also wired. But they were for portion control. That is, they only let out a very specific amount of alcohol, and logged each one. I hated that technology because it took control away from bartenders. A bartender could no longer pour as much rye into a Manhattan as she wanted. She was limited to how much was allowed by the technology.

I suppose you could use this new technology to do the same thing - figure out if bartenders are accidentally making drinks too good. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, the technology is sitting in the background, doing precisely what it should be doing: making the experiences we all desire, better.

The Spread of Technology

The presence of technology on pourers is just one piece of the rapidly expanding world of things-that-are-connected. This is the next phase of what we have long anticipated to be the mobile revolution, and (honestly) the moment that I have been waiting for, for a long time. It has always been a bit of a frustration to me that the interactive, digital concepts that we dream up need to be accessed by someone sitting in front of a computer. I want to be able to dream up experiences that impact people's lives whenever and wherever they are.

The first step toward this vision was the simple emergence of the smartphone - people carried little computers around with them where they went. But that was just the beginning. Today, engineers are packing massive amounts of computer power onto tiny chips, and all those chips are connected. We should expect, as digital marketers, that the world in which we operate is going to massively expand.

But the question is, simply, are we ready for it? Before we get too overwhelmed by the spread of technology, connecting every fork, knife, spoon, and plate in the world, we should think about how we are going to deal with the world we have been wishing for, but really don't know what to do with.

To keep things clear, I've sorted my thoughts into two big buckets: data and engagements.

Point 1: Data

As more things become connected to the Internet, more things will be kicking off data about their use. Consider the pourer. In addition to telling the bar how much of a particular spirit is being served, it can also tell what that spirit is being mixed with, how often it is being pulled, whether there is a certain time of day that something is mixed, and so on. The pulse of the bar - or at least the cocktails - is now available in real time.

That approach, I would imagine, can extend to any place. A gym, for example, would be able to capture all of the data about the exercise machines being used, or a shop can capture real-time info about clothes being purchased. We have been experiencing this amazing revolution in capturing all of our personal data. Things like Nike+, for example, which is capturing how we work out and making it sharable. That same thing, I imagine, will begin to happen for spaces and places.

Which brings up point two.

Point 2: Engagements

This is the really exciting thing. As all of this data becomes available, it becomes usable in creating new engagements and interactions. Imagine what the data from pourers could enable to a bar's listing on Yelp, for example. Or how that information could be mapped for a particular spirits brand. Or how you can start to target ads based not only on location but on the particular behavior at that location.

Every new technology creates new opportunities for experiences. The "Internet of Things" (as it is called) is certainly a new technology and it can create a layer of information about the spaces that we inhabit. I am excited to see what creative people will come up with.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Gary Stein

Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.

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