The so-called Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t a visionary concept, it is here today – devices, sensors, cloud and data intelligence tools that can quickly enhance and monetise your business – add Wi-Fi to the mix and you can capitalise on this fast growing trend. The IoT and the technology ecosystem surrounding it are expected to be a $8.9 trillion market in 2020, according to market research company IDC. IDC forecasts that smart cities, cars and houses will accelerate the growth along with the infrastructure that surrounds them.
The IoT revolution, or what could be referred to as M2M communication, is well under way. Today microprocessors can be found in everything from your washing machine and car to the family dog and CCTV cameras at supermarkets. Add internet connectivity via Wi-Fi and you’ve got that magic ingredient – 24/7 access practically anywhere you go. Here we are connecting mobile devices to computing power way beyond what the gadget or gizmo actually packs itself. We are doing this through links to powerful servers and the cloud infrastructure to drive data hungry applications such as video.
IoT and Wi-Fi offer much in terms of monetisation and revenue growth opportunities. Wi-Fi isn’t just an internet technology, it can offer new ways of engaging with customers via social media. Suddenly you have a vehicle for talking to your customers, understanding their needs and offering them a variety of services, such as reward points, coupons and competitions, to retain both their loyalty and interest. There is also nothing like the word of social media to get your message out to those who may want your products and services.
Of course this is all dependent on the availability of Wi-Fi – and our love affair with Wi-Fi is growing. There are more and more hotspots becoming available and companies are increasing utilising Wi-Fi technology. The UK is leading the global Wi-Fi boom, with estimates of around 18 million hotspots in the UK, set to increase to 21 million by 2015, according to industry experts Informa Telecoms & Media.
Businesses are already aware of the productivity benefits Wi-Fi can have with employees no-longer tethered to their desks. Market research company Infonetic reports an estimated half of all networking devices will be mobile by 2015 and that most businesses are planning to increase Wi-Fi capacity by at least 20% this year alone.
And there is no getting away from it as Wi-Fi will get continue to get faster. Samsung claims it has developed a 60GHz WiFi technology that can send data five times faster than other devices. With speeds up to 575 megabytes (MB) per second you could theoretically transfer a 1GB movie between devices in less than three seconds. The first devices built to use the 60GHz Wi-Fi standard are expected to appear in 2015 and will undoubtedly include wearables, given the forecast size of the market place. Samsung will not be the only company looking into Wi-Fi speeds – that is for sure.
As well as providing valuable customer data, some industries are looking to monetise Wi-Fi from the offset. Hotel chains, for example, are providing free internet access with the offer to upgrade for users who need higher bandwidth. They are developing apps that will enable guests to order room service and review charges.
Because Wi-Fi connects to a device and the user is continually on the move, key data can be generated for businesses. A gym, for example, can issue fit bands which will provide members with their own personal health and workout updates, but will also provide the venue with valuable data on when the member visits, what they purchase in the shop and if they purchase additional fitness classes. This data can be used to send them messages to encourage them to ‘up buy’ services and merchandise.
Another ‘free limited time’ model that is appearing at train stations, airports and other public spaces. You get some much Wi-Fi time for free and then you have to pay. This again creates a viable revenue stream which can be shared between the operator and the business. In addition, M2M and Wi-Fi can bring a positive impact to business in terms of carbon foot print and corporate sustainability initiatives. M2M apps, for example, are providing enhanced intelligence to vehicle maintenance and diagnostics for logistics companies, helping them monitor their fuel consumption and reduce the consumption of natural resources.
Monetising can be seen from several perspectives. IoT and Wi-Fi can make money as a straight forward ‘time spent’ connected service. But the ultimate value is in intelligence and predictive analysis to enable businesses to deliver higher value services to customers and increase sales.