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The so-called Internet of Things? Fugetaboutit ... at least for a while. The Internet of Things refers to a world where everyday physical objects are connected to the Internet and are able to identify themselves to other devices.

According to new research from Forrester, the concept is well developed, but the reality is  three to five years away. But the delay is a good thing:  it gives marketers a chance to optimize the Internet of Things for customer engagement.

A Connected World

In the absence of any definite model defining the Internet of Things, the Forrester report, There is No internet Of Things — Yet, offers good points for further discussion. In it, author Sarah Rotman Epps argues that the Internet of Things is still in its infancy. She's not trying to be controversial here;  she's simply stating that the technology to morph the concept to reality is not yet available.

She argues that many of the devices that will eventually make up the Internet of Things are still emerging and creating siloed data in the enterprise. Consequently, it will take up to five years to unify all these silos for seamless information access and use. 

The same argument could be made about many areas of IT, particularly around information management. But let’s step back a minute. What exactly is Epps talking about when she talks about the Internet of Things? Simply put, she is talking about an Internet that promises to connect all ordinary objects to Internet services using sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects — from roadways to pacemakers.

Those sensors and actuators will be interconnected across the internet, which requires the integration of data and services with the back-end systems of numerous applications. In theory, the Internet of Things will pull together records systems with systems of engagement, enabling users to make better informed, real-time decisions.

And who are the defining influencers here? Marketers. With the insights offered by enterprise applications like customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management (CEM) software, marketers can identify the touchpoints between all those interconnected objects. Then they should enable IT departments to locate the right partners to develop those connections.


This not the first time we have come across a definition like this. And it is clear that as the Internet of Things develops, one of its principal objectives will be the development of customer engagement strategies to record levels.

In a look at the subject earlier this year, Sanjay Poonen, head of the mobile division at SAP — which, along with IBM, is really championing the concept  — summarized it as follows:

M2M technology is primarily being used to collect vast amounts of machine and people-based data. The Internet of Things concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP and CRM systems and other information sources like social media, but also analyzing and making use of all the data. Soon, people will interact with devices that in turn interact with data to deliver personalized products and services directly to the consumer in real time…”

It is an interesting description because it summarizes not only the direction that SAP is heading, but also the kinds of systems that are being dragged into the net and what will ultimately happen with all the data it produces.

There are other, smaller companies working in the space, too, like Libeliu, which provides, a modular, easy to program open source sensor platform to develop Internet of Things. Just last week, along with IBM, it announced the release of an Internet of Things Starter Kit to enable creation dozens of sensor applications ranging from monitoring parking spaces and air pollution to providing assistance for the elderly.

IBM, of course, has been working on this for years through its Smarter Cities initiative, which aims to turn cities into massive hubs of information provided by the people who live in those cities. One of the objectives of the initiative is to improve the interaction between services, products and consumers. Again, this is a well-established program, but still has not reached the critical mass needed for the Internet of Things to become a reality.

Forrester’s Internet of Things

In producing the research, Epps used the findings of Forrester’s North American Technographics Consumer Technology Survey 2013, conducted this past April. The survey questioned 4,656 US adults between the ages of 18 and 88 —  a large enough sample, Forrester maintains, to give an overview of what the entire US population things about consumer technologies.