The Internet of Things’ (IoT) potential is no secret, but there’s more to it than just devices. Coordinating points for feedback and data are just as important as the cameras, sensors and other connected objects themselves. In some industries, machine-to-machine (M2M) insight is something that already exists; it’s just not being utilized to meet the demands of today’s connected society. Retail, construction, public safety and energy are all experiencing a great amount of disruption due to the Internet of Things, and as a result, have difficulty coordinating data in a way that truly solves problems.
According a 2014 Boston Retail Partners survey, 75 percent of retailers will be recognizing customers as they enter stores. The IOT will turn clienteling, formerly the domain of luxury retailers, into an industry standard with increased pressure to understand customers and their patterns. While it’s easy to go on a store futurism tangent and talk about facial recognition technologies, the truth is many retailers already use M2M feedback to target customers. The technology to track their preferences exists too; they’re just not being synched as well as they could be.
Price intelligence, business intelligence, CRM and other correlation engines synthesize the information retailers need without manual intervention. However, the number of dimensions through which customer segments can be analyzed by them will be limited if the store engagements, loyalty programs and online interactions needed to make those analytics robust fail to collect meaningful data.
In this regard, retailers should let store associates and other consumer-facing retail positions work on getting to know the customer while connected devices figure out what he or she needs based on that input.
In a prior position, I worked with a crane inspector and instructional expert on adapting the Internet of Things to construction use cases. While sensory devices were always involved in construction to an extent, they weren’t working together well enough. It was crucial to collaborate with this partner on coordinating data sensors in a way that analyzed structural inadequacies to address safety concerns. By setting up a proactive alerting system, we were able to take a more comprehensive approach to safety that also mitigated legal and insurance costs associated with work site incidents.
While the Internet of Things will never render legal services or insurance obsolete, it’s important to understand how to coordinate data points and overcome gaps to minimize the high costs associated with them in construction.
A few years ago I held a workshop to discuss difficulties with known public safety IT systems between CLEMIS, the IT team for the largest police department in the country, and my old company KD Secure. Chief Ted Quisenberry of the Royal Oak police department spoke during it, saying, “I don’t look for the bad guy. I look for the cop who knew who the bad guy was.” The statement really resonated with me because officers in the field are freer to do their job the more devices can automate processes for them.
By having real-time data access, tasks like going from assigning a ticket to a warrant can be cleared more quickly. Police cameras are another apt example of public safety tools becoming more high tech, with functions ranging from saving footage in the cloud on-the-go, to GPS localization and creating live feeds of emergencies as they happen, all without human intervention.
We already know Nest and other connected devices for controlling temperature can help business reduce spending on energy. But what about the rest of the enterprise? As the lens shifts towards data centers and other large networks that require large amounts of energy, it’s important to start considering a balance between environmental efficiency and business output.
For organizations large enough to consider smart grids and smart monitors, it will be critical to use them not just for temperature controls, but also for understanding how thermodynamically efficient the entirety of their operations are including retail stores, warehouses and other business-related facilities.
With Gartner estimating 13 billion connected devices by 2020, many not created yet, it will be critical for aspiring IoT entrepreneurs to have patents that hold up against what is arguably technology’s most rapidly evolving field. Prolonged USPTO communications can inhibit the launch of a product or service, regardless of the industry.
In order to get the fastest start on IoT-related intellectual property, it’s important to have a tight synchronization of scientific advisors, colleagues with IoT experience and legal teams. The more informed and thorough a prior art search is, the less time it will take to be approved by the USPTO. While the Internet of Things will produce a wealth of innovative, unique products and services, if they take too long to come to market or are not well protected, the entrepreneurs behind them will lose out.
Dan Hussain is an inventor, entrepreneur and patent agent. He is the founder and president of American Patent Agency, a patent agency, and American Pioneer Ventures, an invention investment firm. He is also an active member in the Industrial Internet Consortium and Young Entrepreneurship Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.