In June, delegates from the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry and some very excited CC’ers ventured to Melton Mowbray (the rural capital of the Pork Pie) to enjoy a two day workshop centred on the Internet of Things (IoT). The workshop focused on examining the role that the IoT will play in creating opportunities in the FMCG sector and covered everything from the role of brands to consumer experience and IoT business models. Three of the major themes that evolved from the workshop were: convenience, impact and personalisation. But more on those later, first it’s time for a brief trip through history…
In 1999 Kevin Ashton, a British technologist, pointed out that almost all of the information available on the internet – 50 petabytes at the time– had been captured or created by humans in the form of text, photos or videos. Ashton postulated that in the not too distant future computers would become capable of generating and collecting data by themselves, without the need for human interaction. The technologies required for this were actually pretty simple: RFID tags to track objects, low-powered sensors to gather data and actuators that can switch anything on or off. Ashton called this system the Internet of Things and so a revolution began.
Since then progress has been seemingly slow. Consumers have been underwhelmed by the idea of remotely controlling a kettle over the internet and the robotic vacuum cleaner fared only a little better. Then there is the consumer indifference to the cliché of the IoT world: the connected fridge. For some reason the idea of an all singing all dancing connected fridge that can reorder milk before it runs out and remind you to take your daughter to that birthday party does not appeal. So how can we improve the consumer experience? The most obvious is to address the industry and companies serving them. Help the consumer goods industry to adapt to the IoT and give them the tools and knowledge to use it to improve consumer offerings.
Some of the major themes emerging from the workshop were:
- Convenience – Consumers want connected devices that will not only fit into their lives seamlessly but will make something, a task for example, more convenient for them. Whether that is food shopping, organising calendars, entertainment, health, it must be easy. Another side to this is that the physical act of connecting devices and using this technology must be simple. Consumers won’t waste time trying to get something to work, it must be instantaneous.
- Impact – Success within the IoT will not just come from connecting devices and making objects “smart.” While keeping up with technology advancements is vital, an organisation’s corporate structure needs to evolve as well. This could mean fundamental changes to the way in which businesses are run: moving away from a product based business model, taking more risks or experimentation are some of the ways that businesses can develop in the IoT world.
- Personalisation – modern consumers not only expect convenience but also personalised products, tailored to their individual likes, dislikes and habits. While this is great from a consumer point of view, it is a logistical nightmare for businesses. However business can leverage the data collected by consumers to add personalisation in a number of different ways.
Other topics covered in the workshop included: consumer loyalty, barriers to adoption, business models, security and data handling. As these ideas were being generated they were captured live by an artist sitting in on the discussion. It was great fun to be involved in such an exploratory and thought provoking workshop and Cambridge Consultants will be publishing a report on the findings soon. So keep an eye out as it is sure to be an interesting read.