People often think of the Internet of Things as being about smart thermostats, milk-ordering fridges and cheap beacons. This practical view obscures both the promise and the threat of IoT.

IoT is about adding sensors, logic and connectivity to anything imaginable. In an IoT world, so much data that could only be captured with significant human effort can now be easily gathered and quantified. With a small investment, almost anything bigger than a postage stamp can be located and observed. Large objects and more investment allow for many additional capabilities, which are amplified when the devices interact with other things in the IoT.

Vendor Lock-In and Duct Tape Integration

The complex set of tools and services that power modern digital experience often have content management systems at their core. This is a mixed blessing for CMS vendors. On the one hand, their solutions are tremendously important. On the other, they struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of solutions and services that their product must integrate with. The pressure to go to market often forces vendors to choose between suite-based approaches that lock customers in and duct tape integrations that work poorly.

IoT magnifies this problem. The fact that CMSs are key to digital experience means that IoT should be integrated with the CMS. But this will bring thousands of new potential integration points to the problem.

To capitalize on the promise of IoT, CMS vendors must adopt business and product strategies that make integration with new services, tools and technologies easy, predictable and robust. Those that don’t will be left behind or forced into niche markets.

Digital Customer Experience in the Early IoT Era

IoT will open up many possibilities for consumers in the coming years. In much the same way that smartphones reshaped not only what people thought possible, but also what they took for granted, IoT will dramatically change what people do, how they do it and what they expect. Over the next few years, we expect the use of IoT in digital experience to stand out most to consumers in the following ways.

1. Effortless

IoT’s main effect on consumers is that it will make previously exhausting and stressful interactions effortless. For example, sensors could tell customers how to best get from where they are to where they want to be -- from the front row of the rock concert back to the car, taking into account the actual, real time flow of people through the exits. In an airport, providing travelers with real time information would allow them to spend more time in a restaurant or store, or be less stressed out when they arrive at the gate.

2. Expected

Once customers are used to being served faster and in a more personal manner, expectations will increase. For instance, once you’re used to instantly being served your favorite dish at your local café (because a smart device provides it as a shortcut to your order), you won’t be so happy about waiting anymore.

3. Invisible

A washing machine that senses the amount of laundry and how dirty it is can automatically adjust the detergent and cycles needed. The consumer won’t notice the process, but it’ll save them time, money and energy. The machine can also contact the customer once it’s done -- another time saver.

4. Intrusive

The flip side of the IoT medal is that it has unintended consequences, just like every big change in technology. By its nature, it is intrusive and comes with many privacy and legal concerns. Ultimately, IoT is bound to lead to ubiquitous surveillance -- just think of the disturbing case of a website streaming from hundreds of thousands of security cameras.

5. Weird

No matter the promise of IoT for consumers, it has a lot of potential for the bizarre -- especially early on in the IoT-enhanced digital experience. The potential ranges from comically misguided (such as bad personalization) to the genuinely life-threatening (such as providing incorrect location data at a critical point). We also expect to see the proliferation of IoT-enabled chindōgu -- does anybody need a connected egg tray?

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of how the Internet of Things will affect different stakeholders.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Keoni Cabral