Creating a connected future with IoT

In Downloads, Technology by Ella Simpson

There are some technological developments with the potential to totally transform the world of business, and the internet of things (IoT) is one of them – a cloud-based ‘revolution’ that’s expected to generate a remarkable US$3.2 trillion in new economic value annually by 2020.

IoT is the latest link in an evolutionary chain that began with our ability to ‘connect’, but has now developing to the point where we can use that connectedness to do business vastly more efficiently.

Just look at where we are now. Connectivity has gone mobile through phones, tablets, watches and even clothes. Cars can feed data back to their owners, dealers, manufacturers and insurers. Smart homes can replenish our fridges and cupboards and buildings can use energy resources much more efficiently. Even entire smart towns are a reality. And this is just the start of things.

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But the real value of IoT isn’t in the connected devices themselves. The value lies in turning the mass of data generated by that world of connected devices into tangible, actionable, business insight – and that’s already happening with extraordinary results every single day, benefiting businesses from the fast food chains to the world’s largest oil producers.

To be able to mine that value, however, we need to be able to see IoT in the round, and not just as a function of its connectivity, and that’s crucial, says Enrique Andaluz, director of strategic business development, Worldwide Discrete Manufacturing, at Microsoft.

“Devices are connected through a network of things, but also through a network of people and services,” Andaluz explains. “So when we talk about IoT, the concept is incomplete unless we talk about the internet of things, the internet of people and the internet of services.”

That more holistic view of connected devices allows us to see not just their ‘industrial’ side – where they fit into the processes and systems of which they are part – but also their consumer side, how their owners interact with them. That’s where much of the innovation occurs and value is generated.

It can often seem simple, even effortless, so sophisticated and unobtrusive has this transformation of data-into-value become.

For example, it’s a sunny day and you’re out for a walk. Suddenly on your phone there’s an offer of a free ice-cream with every sandwich bought at your local McDonald’s, which, as it happens, is just a few hundred yards away. Well, why not! It’s a good deal. You’re pleased to receive it.

What’s happening here is that McDonald’s has been working with New Zealand-based mobile marketing experts, VMob, on ways to harness the data in its IoT, personalise its customer experience – and as a result, boost sales.

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They’ve combined the standard features on the McDonald’s app – such as its restaurant locator – with more ‘contextual information’, such as weather data. So if the day is wet, the special offer may be for coffee. If you’re moving quickly, it may point helpfully to the nearest drive-through. For those whose appetites are whetted mainly by return on investment, consider this: figures from January 2015 show that as a result of using the VMob platform, McDonald’s in the Netherlands alone – it’s also being piloted in Japan and Sweden – has seen a 700% increase in offer redemptions.

What’s more, Dutch customers using the modified app are returning to restaurants twice as often as before – and better still, in tight economic times are spending 47% more per person. It comes as little surprise then that – according to the 2014 IoT Survey by global market intelligence analysts IDC – 60% of enterprises globally already view IoT as strategic to their businesses.


This is an excerpt from an article in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows. To read the full version of this article and much more, visit To subscribe to the FREE digital edition, simply enter your email address and get the next issue sent straight to your inbox.