How the IoT may improve your life — and get you better milk

Connected Life

Would you like your own personal shopper? Your own stylist? Your own cow?

All of these things are available now — for a significant price. But in the near future they may be available to everyone affordably as the Internet of Things eliminates the need for middlemen and allows companies to form tighter, more beneficial relationships with customers.

In the short-term, IoT data can help make the ads we see more relevant, which might improve your life and sales, slightly.

“However, the marketers who win the customer relationships of the future will do so by personalizing their offerings to a consumer’s preferences, habits and environments, and managing that consumer’s requirements over the longer term,” TechCrunch‘s Ray Kingman wrote.

He suggests this will happen in the form of subscription-based services. If you’re a “Chevy family”, the car manufacturer and you could benefit from a direct long-term relationship that encompasses your entire driving life.

“Rather than selling you a car, an automotive brand would be better off selling you a multi-year subscription to a service contract that includes the car, maintenance and scheduled upgrades to a new model,” he wrote. “Given the totality of IoT data coming from tomorrow’s cars, it would also make sense to include fuel and insurance in the subscription.”

He also imagines big stores — both online and brick and mortar — developing these kinds of relationships to aggregate several of your needs.

“If the light bulbs in my basement signal that they are near end-of-life and replacements automatically go on a virtual shopping list as part of my Home Depot service contract, then that is valuable to me as a consumer, more sales efficient for Home Depot and much more cost-effective to Sylvania and Phillips.”

Apple already has already announced a service where you can get a new iPhone every year for $32 a month.

But F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan imagines much more disruptive uses in the merging of the IoT and subscription models. He sees the potential to improve the quality of our lives and change our relationship with companies by giving us more benefits from our data.

More and more, we’re the product that’s being marketing to big services. Middlemen use their economies of size to secure a slice of the action coming and going. They take a slice of your purchases and and a cut from the manufacturers for providing access to the consumer.

“In the current model of big data, your data doesn’t work for you,” he told me. “It works for someone else. Retailers sell your shopper card data to third-parties who then can target you. ”

Subscription services can shift the benefit of these relationships back to consumers.

He notes that RenttheRunway.com already offers a clothing subscription model that could immediately benefit from the users having their data tracked consensually.

“What if your clothes had RFID devices that track what you and people who dress like you are wearing? You could get exactly clothes you want to wear shipped to you monthly.”

IoT-driven subscription services can also create new markets directly between consumers and more artisanal products, merging the real food movement with conscious data use.

“If I can give up some of my data to the actual producer of the product, I’m willing to make that deal,” Sean said. “The producer probably earns more and I may even pay less with the middleman out of the transaction.”

What would that look like?

“My grandmother had a milkman (once upon a time) – and it’s quite likely that one day, my son will too. And not just milk, but ice cream and yogurt and cream and everything dairy. And in places like Brooklyn, you’ll probably even own a subscription to your own well-cared for cow.”

The transparency Sean imagines cuts both ways.

“We have no information about how the food we buy ends up on a shelf and why it’s sitting where it’s sitting where it is in the store. Did the brand pay for that endcap? Likewise, we have no idea how our data is being used and whom.”

If you’re consciously sharing our data, we’re being tracked without reducing our privacy.

“The more things that are talking to each other in your home, the better. It’s not that your milk will know it’s empty. It’s that it will know that it’s next to your cheese and salsa and you might like this sausage with it. Or you can put it all in this great recipe you’ve never tried before but people with this same food love.”

He imagines a drone delivering you the food you need exactly when you need it as a potential value of the IoT. But the added benefit is that you’ll need to order less food because you’ll optimize what you’ve bought and waste less of it.

There is $165 billion a year of food waste in America alone, he noted. That’s more than the entire gross domestic product of Hungary.

“You might have the makings of the great recipe and you don’t even know it. The other day I heard a podcast that made me want to try a recipe with my leftovers. What if my refrigerator could tell me that instead?”

[Image by Chris Marchant | Flickr]

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