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Global Electronics Show Previews the Growing Internet of Things

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Whatever business you're involved in, an all-connected, always-on world of devices seems destined to affect your marketing or online strategy in some way. At the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas this week — that candy store for technology lovers formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show — attendees are getting a chance to sample the impact of this Internet of Things (IoT).

We'll examine different areas of the technology throughout the week. Today, we're kicking off our coverage with an overview of what's changing the landscape, moving the IoT from a thing people wonder about to the one thing everyone needs to understand and maximize to their advantage.

Getting Smarter All the Time

Smart or connected devices represent the evolution of mobile and web technology. Both processing and communications features are invading innumerable items, rapidly expanding the IoT — and enabling the recording and transmitting of data to open up new areas of business opportunities.

At CES, attendees can see everything from residential power managers and  better connected cars to wireless-enabled wearable devices and personal health tools that help users incorporate data acquisition into myriad aspects of daily life. 

Some of these products have been gestating for years, long before the term Internet of Things was coined. (According to Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), the term "Internet of Things" dates to around, the time when more “things or objects” were connected to the Internet than people.)

But you know a trend is going mainstream when cookware and even family pets get in on the act with connected collars.

Like it or fear it, all of these devices create new opportunities for businesses to engage with customers. Some are already taking a foothold in consumers' lives, while others are just bursting out of the blocks, creating a new world of possibilities.

Connecting for Business

The takeaway for business is simple:  The IoT offers a lot of direct revenue generation opportunities. A set of traditional golf clubs may retail for $700. But throw in a sensor like the SmartSwing, that shows the golfer the imperfections in his swings through a smartphone app, and the manufacturer can boost the price another $250 or so.

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You can bet a connected kitchen appliance will cost a more than a standard model … and the higher price will more than offset the cost of adding the sensor. What kind of devices? Well, this week, Belkin introduced the WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot, the first smartphone controllable slow cooker.

Auto makers are well on the road to IoT (Ford's SYNC AppLink, for instance, is giving motorists greater control over their vehicles). These increasingly connected cars can provide feedback on not only the vehicle but the health of the driver. With Apple and Android playing hard to get inside these new vehicle technology platforms, there will be plenty of opportunities. 

Next up is additive services. For now, many early IoT health and fitness devices like Nike's FuelBand and Fitbug's Orb device provide free web services to monitor the user's progress. It won't take too long for premium services with more features to become available by subscription. With all the social and web engagement focus, there are many opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling, and customer loyalty programs to thrive. 

For many businesses, especially those with back-end operations for big data, networking and apps, there are and will be plenty of opportunities to work with device makers and service providers to leverage technologies. They will find other revenue generating options by working  with web and gadget entrepreneurs to fill the many gaps in IoT.

Security, the Dirty Word

As everyone knows, with any connected system there are inherent risks. Security issues can come from dubiously-sourced processors, riddled with back doors, as well as insecure transmission methods, good old server hacking and more targeted methods. And with the NSA digging around, who knows what else a sensor could be doing? 

Wired has a good read on the insecure nature of IoT, but you can be sure at some point in the near future, an IoT-related device or service will be hacked and users lives inconvenienced — or worse — by the fallout.

 

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