Forecasts for the economic value created by the “Internet of Everything” in the year 2020 are around $19 trillion. With retail and manufacturing two of the industries expected to benefit from this, it’s a topic we’re genuinely excited by.

In the past few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has invaded our smartphones, homes and workplaces and is already operating in ways you might not yet be aware of. Amazon’s Echo and Google home are connected to your TV, heating and lighting and this is only set to increase.

Retail implications

The implications for retailers are numerous. Our clients ask us to design their end to end customer experience, and the increasing connectivity between devices – from smartphones, to tablets, to wearables – is already revolutionising how we do this. The technology is already in available to allow in-store displays and kiosks to change to show a product that may appeal to a customer, depending on their smartphone browsing history, or to monitor the amount of time spent looking at a product and follow that up with emails and social media adverts targeted specifically to that customer’s interests. By analysing the collective data, retailers can track footfall, both in terms of volume and actual routes taken around the store, and see which elements of store design are working and which need changing. The potential stumbling block to all of this innovation taking root is: are customers happy give up their personal data in this way? Arguably, as much as it may improve the high street shopping experience, data and connectivity used primarily benefits sellers and the uptake and continued development will be undoubtedly be commercially driven.

But the ways in which the IoT looks set to aid the health sector promises far more obvious social value and has the potential to relieve pressure on strained healthcare provision in the UK. Early adopters of the technology include a company making a smart plug called 3rings to send alerts to a mobile phone if an elderly or vulnerable person hasn’t switched on an appliance such as a light, kettle or TV for a set amount of time. In a very real way, that technology has the potential to allow older generations to retain a sense of independence in their own homes – benefitting them and reducing the need for hospital or care-home admissions.

Evoke’s own health-check kiosks are greatly enhanced by new IoT devices. The connectivity and sharing of data improves diagnosis accuracy and patient outcomes. While still in its relative infancy, it’s clear the technology has a huge role to play in the ongoing personalisation of medicine.

Smart Cities

Smart Cities, or the way we live in the future, can benefit in many ways such as the reduction in traffic congestion that could be achieved by the IoT. Technology is monitoring traffic flow, providing real-time information to drivers and easing congestion through variable speed limits and instructions to use the hard shoulder. The reduction in pollution and the economic benefits resulting from more efficient commuting will be brilliant – not to mention that it will just be nice to sit in fewer traffic jams!

Security and drawbacks

The issue of security – what should and what shouldn’t be connected – and the importance of keeping personal data secure is perhaps the major caveat in what is otherwise an incredibly promising concept. Whether the existing infrastructure is capable of supporting this connectivity is another hurdle, but one which we feel will be overcome. There is so much to be gained, both financially and in terms of social value, that public and private interest will ensure this doesn’t hold the IoT back.

In terms of allaying fears around security and encouraging people to buy in: that’s on us