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The internet of things begins with humans

The internet of things (IoT), or the internet of everything (IoE) if you’re Cisco, has been getting tech heads excited for a few years now. The premise is to connect everything to the internet in order to gather and share data to make your life more efficient. It’s obviously heavily dependant on technology but a recurring theme from Ogilvy’s Lab Day – Connect the Connected is the importance of the human element.


Cisco’s VP marketing EMEA, Jeremy Bevan, told attendees to put people in the centre and create unique, compelling experiences for them. Tom Lawton, designer, inventor and star of Channel Four’s Tom’s Fantastic Floating Home, advised businesses to use the IoT to provide a better customer experience and not to get distracted and use it to create solutions for problems that don't exist. While Liri Andersson, founder of This Fluid World, asserts that marketers need to begin this journey with a quality human interaction.

So before you get bogged down with the technology, develop those connections with your customers now. And there really will be a lot of tech that can do some wonderful things: a blanket able to monitor your mood, a table you can plug your headphones in and listen to music, and a 3D printer that will print your face in mayonnaise (specifically Hellmann’s) onto a burger. So as the technology develops and you’re ready to embrace the IoT, you already have an engaged audience.

A few other words of advice issued at the event were to be ready to collaborate. It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to execute your IoT ideas on your own. Andersson highlighted a very real barrier to the IoT moving forward. In order to get the most from it, the data gathered needs to be horizontal, there needs to be an industry standard to connect the millions of devices and enable them to share their data with each other. This has financial and logistical issues of its own, as well as the consumer data privacy issues that go alongside that. While I can’t begin to come up with a solution to that, I would urge you to work with others in your industry in order to best serve your customers.

And finally, perhaps something B2B brands are not always known for; be brave. The potential is as immense as your imagination. Think big. Lawton said: The future belongs to the brave, you need imagination and conviction to make good ideas happen.” And Andersson rightly said: "Some will evolve, some will become extinct and plenty of new organisations will appear because of the IoT.”

I agree but really believe this is an area B2B brands can thrive and excel in. You are already very deeply aligned with various technology partners, you’ve always had to be more measurable than your consumer counterparts and your customer relationships have had to be stronger because of the vast amounts of money at stake in your deals. All the signs are there, you should be able to own this space and set some examples of the power of connected technology, just let your imagination run wild.