Opinion: Communications Should Tap Into The Wonder
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

Opinion: Communications Should Tap Into The Wonder

Holmes Report

[quote]The Internet of Things is not simply a technology revolution, but a sociological one.[/quote] By Scott Schneider  Just as the advent of social media forever changed our personal and professional landscapes, the Internet of Things (IoT) movement is poised to do the same, and the PR industry should actively work to get ahead of the curve and be prepared. By some accounts the Internet of Things market will be worth $7.1 trillion by 2020 (IDC study). We see the biggest tech companies, including Apple, [caption id="attachment_2061" align="alignright" width="150"]Scott Schneider Scott Schneider[/caption] Google, Samsung, Intel, Cisco and Nokia rushing to own the platforms and standards that will drive the IoT. Paired with the advent of 3D printing and inexpensive sensor tech (sparkcorearduinos, rasberry pis) we can see that the IoT movement is in the hands of the current tech giants as well as the next generation of DIY builders and creators.  This inevitable future has the potential to radically alter the way our clients do business, communicate with their customers, and interact with the world at large. What began as theory has been quietly transforming into a new reality, from the beginning of smart farming in 2010 (cows communicating to the internet when they have been milked) to our city traffic light grids, and street cams. While the automated home of the future has been an idea in circulation for a while (The Jetsons comes to mind), we are now seeing a market-ready crop of internet enabled door locks, thermostats, light bulbs, appliances, and even furniture. Consumers across the board are embracing and adopting these connected objects in their cars, homes, and on their bodies in record numbers. The growing health tracking market alone has one out of every six adults in the US owning a wearable device. And it seems inevitable that the way we interact with the Internet will fundamentally shift away from the current model, where we mostly interact via our smart phone or computer screen, to one where we will have hundreds of automatic interactions a day via enabled objects. This notion frightens some people and excites others. David Rose, Visiting Scientist at MIT Media Lab, refers to these connected things as 'enchanted objects'. ‎That seems a better phrase for us to align our vision with, as it speaks to the wonder and possibility of what lies ahead. It’s not just the utility of these enchanted objects that begs our attention. The sheer quantity of connected objects in use will create an abundance of opportunity – from mining new streams of data, branding particular streams, and capitalizing on new information, in general. Indeed, we’re already seeing some of the biggest industry players (GE, Nike, Amex, Pepsi, to name a few) and their agencies spinning data driven narratives into emotionally compelling and effective storytelling campaigns. And as the data that amounts to our quantified selves continues to exponentially grow, the potential for brand and agency grows along with it. The first hurdle for our industry will be to understand that the IoT is not simply a technology revolution, but a sociological one, with deep potential to impact and change the way we live, work and communicate. We should expect that the most interesting developments will be the ones no one is planning on.  There was no grand architect of the ‘social feed’.  It developed organically, as the aggregate of our online social communications and communities.  Will this New Age of Things bring us other concepts that can become equally important to our daily lives?  An ‘object feed,’ possibly, something that publishes the conversations all my possessions are having with each other, about me? (Or perhaps, it’ll become fashionable to curate and push out only the best bits on my social feed.)  Or will our enchanted objects be telling a completely different kind of story--  one where rather than posting a reaction to a movie I just saw, my connected shirt will send real-time data on my attention span, heart rate and serotonin levels to my Twitter‎ feed, just as Fandango sends an alert that the movie is over. What can we do as an industry to prepare?‎ The agencies and people who ask the right questions and who understand how trends evolve will be in the best position to hit the ground running. We need to be doing real R&D, developing either an in-house understanding of the technology or developing deep relationships with partners that do – and getting our hands dirty with as many social prototypes as possible along the way.  We need to continue to explore and push how data sets can be combined, dissected and spun out into new narratives. And we need to remember that in a world full of enchanted objects, the creative imagination will still reign supreme. Scott Schneider is chief digital officer for Ruder Finn based in New York. Feature image: Partial cover of David Rose's book Enchanted Objects. 
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