Only in the last couple of years have we seen Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology take shape in the form of Nest thermostats, Vivint doorbell cameras and gaming phenomenon Pokémon Go. While convenient and cutting edge, these technologies have operated in their own pockets of technology, siloed in their efforts to better connect “things” to the Internet. In 2017, we will begin to cross the threshold of more consistent connectivity between connected devices and the world around us.
IoT technology has been steadily becoming more accessible by making its way into electronic devices of all types. Washing machines, microwaves, door locks. These devices already have the capability to connect to the internet and encourage consumer engagement like never before. However, we’re missing an interconnected ecosystem for everyday applications. We have not reached the tipping point where the digital world and the real world are interchangeable as the IoT once promised. Examples exist but will expand and improve in 2017.
Consider the areas where this type of IoT interconnectivity already exists: sports stadiums and arenas. Why stadiums? Today’s stadiums and arenas are a far cry from the ballparks of yesterday. They’ve become the incubators for IoT technology adoption and increased consumer engagement. Modern stadiums are investing in hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable, massive LED screens and thousands of Wi-Fi access points to help engage with interactive ticket machines, remote-ordering concession stands and even jumbotrons that talk to individuals. Sports teams and big brands have learned that at their fans’ fingertips is a microcosm of connectivity and interaction.
Because visitors to stadiums arrive expecting an entertaining experience, they are ready and willing to engage with their favorite teams. Sports franchises and stadium owners sought specific software to provide the overlay that would connect mobile phone triggers to physical touch points and fans to their favorite sports teams. All it took was connecting people on the devices they already have to specific points in the real world. The result was a living ecosystem of technology within the sports stadium.
The concept applies to Virtual Reality (VR) and AR as well. Virtual reality adds an additional layer to the IoT, as it opens new avenues of interconnectivity and user engagement on new devices. In fact, the IoT and AR are very much part of the same trend, namely making the real world digitally interactive.
The HTC Vice, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream all hold great promise. But an additional device will only find success if its connection brings the user to the cross-section of the digital and real worlds. In addition, augmented reality has struggled for years as well, mostly due to hardware limitations in mobile devices.
Let’s look at a real-world example. In October, the Sacramento Kings basketball team opened their Golden 1 Center, the newest and arguably most technologically advanced sports arena in the world, as many journalists reported. In addition to the largest 4K HD scoreboard, the arena boasts cutting-edge wireless technology with one Wi-Fi access point for every 17 people. Visitors to the arena are able to order food and beverages from their seat and watch instant replays through the proprietary Golden 1 Center mobile app as well as predict plays during a game and learn more about the players all from an arena seat. At home, VR headset owners watching Sacramento Kings games can now interact with the team and the venue just like patrons at the arena itself. Suddenly, we have an IoT-enabled venue and VR devices that can deeply immerse fans into the game experience.
Revolutionary technologies like the IoT and VR require widespread adoption and customer buy-in to succeed. Although they enable new, original ways of grabbing and holding user attention and provide users with capabilities never before possible, they will only be able to achieve these lofty goals if different types of hardware are able to connect to each other beyond short-range, proprietary networks.
This coming year we will see the early days of more sophisticated connected devices working in concert with one another in new and interesting ways. Consumers can expect to see more from sports teams, advertising, theme parks, casinos and other types of businesses beginning to connect IoT technologies and experimenting with VR while looking for new ways to make their brands more digitally interactive and personal in the long run.
Alex Hertel is the CEO and co-founder of Xperiel. Alongside his brother Philipp, Alex built Walleto, a digital wallet company that was acquired by Google and became Google Wallet. At Google, Alex was responsible for inventing new technologies, market analysis, and technical research and development. Prior to that, Alex’s research at University of Toronto, focusing on complexity theory, forms the core of Xperiel’s technology.