Author Archives: Jaimy Szymanski

Mobile Millennials Redefine Downtime With Micro-Moments of Leisure

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When our smartphones are connected to our palms, it can be hard to find a minute alone. Constant notifications from others wanting replies or simply wanting to be heard creep in at every moment for connected Millennials who eat, sleep, and breathe with phones in hand. According to creative technology agency MRY, this creates a mobile relationship that is fraught with contradictions and absent of an “off” button.

MRY’s latest research into consumer digital behaviors uncovers that Millennials are the most distracted generation to date, with technology serving as the catalyst for a growing attention deficit as compared to preceding generations (see Fig. 1). This always-connected normalcy has created what MRY dubs, “The Leisure Paradox,” wherein Millennials suffer from a love/hate relationship with the technology many grew up with. For example, although nearly half (48%) of Millennials worry about spending too much time on their smartphones, 60% believe smartphones enhance their leisure time. Quite the conundrum.

Figure 1. Smartphone-Induced Distractions, Millennials vs. Gen X

MRY millennial microleisure

The report unveils a myriad of other data points, gathered through polling and interviews, around Millennials’ mixed mobile emotions, including:

  • Forty-eight percent have tried implementing a “no phone at the dinner table” policy with friends and family, but 71% also agree that smartphones have made it easier to plan things they like to do in their leisure time.
  • Forty-nine percent agree smartphones make it hard to focus on a singular task, yet 66% also agree that smartphones have greatly enhanced their leisure time by giving more access to leisure activities.
  • Forty-six percent agree smartphones make it difficult to get away from work at home or on weekends, while 51% agree that smartphones provide a means to reduce stress during a busy work day.

As a result of The Leisure Paradox, the traditional split of work vs. play throughout the Millennial’s day doesn’t adhere to the traditional 9-5 work schedule. Rather, daily and evening downtime for younger generations looks a lot more like this (see Fig. 2):

Figure 2. Theoretical View of Millennial Daily Leisure Timeline

MRY millennial timeline

Knowing that small bursts of leisure are intermittently engaged with throughout the day, brands must adapt their advertising, marketing, and content strategies accordingly. MRY shares six key inflection points throughout the day that companies can facilitate micro-leisure, adapting to and satisfying their Millennial audiences (see Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Day-parted Marketing Channel Recommendations

MRY millennial day parting content

Then, once brands understand the when and the where they should be engaging Millennials throughout the day, they can focus on the how. MRY offers the following recommendations for organizations looking to reach Millennials on their level in order to maintain relevancy:

  • Adopt short-form as the format of choice for content aimed at Millennial audiences. This means focusing on communicating key messages in a matter of seconds.
  • Understand the right “etiquette” within each channel to speak to Millennials in their own language and avoid being awkward.
  • Capitalize on emerging mobile ad and content formats designed to tell stories with the functionality Millennials are used to: flicks, clicks, and taps.

MRY’s full report, “The New (Micro)Leisure,” here.

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Barcelona Among Smart Cities Paving the Way for Consumer IoT Adoption

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Residents of Barcelona, Spain, may be introduced to the connective power of the IoT by their municipal government faster than their own personal adoption of smart devices. Barcelona is among a slew of global cities that are successfully using connected products, services, and other sensor applications to control and monitor their city’s energy use, waste management (see photo below), public safety, and more. With less than 10% of online adults owning a wearable device, it’s possible that our cities will evolve quicker than we will in using, and benefiting from, the IoT.

Barcelona smart city

Barcelona, Spain, utilizes sensors throughout its city to monitor irrigation needs, waste management, and air conditions. On the city’s website, residents can view real-time data on a map (above) from the city’s connected devices. The yellow markers in this photo signify trash receptacles; sensors monitor their capacity and alert city officials when they need tending to.

Just how effective are connected objects when considering their impact on economies? Business Insider reports that IoT deployments are expected to create $421 billion in economic value for cities worldwide by 2019, as a result of installing an anticipated 5 billion devices. Add to that, Frost & Sullivan finds that smart products can typically provide energy savings of up to 30%, and generally have a two- to three-year return on investment. That’s an excellent incentive for city governments to invest in innovation that serves not only their own interests, but also those of their residents.

But, IoT innovation depends on one crucial piece of citywide infrastructure: high-speed internet. More than 100 cities have already joined the Next Century Cities coalition to work toward bringing their residents gigabit-speed internet connections. These high-speed connections will serve as the foundation for a myriad of connected services stemming from sensor-laden equipment. From reducing traffic congestion to monitoring air pollution, these “IoCity” solutions will bring additional constituent value and may even aid in attracting future tourists and residents.

Tourist destination Barcelona, Spain, is among the most connected cities worldwide, setting pace for other local governments looking to solve resident and municipal needs through the use of decision-making devices. One such use of the IoT in Barcelona is its monitoring of city park and property irrigation needs with the tap of a (tablet) button. Via in-ground sensors, Barcelona’s environmental leaders are able to track ground humidity, temperature, wind velocity, sunlight, and atmospheric pressure. The connected irrigation system sends data back to the city’s central software system from 178 points throughout Barcelona, allowing managers to track watering needs and project future resource allocation and plant growth.

According to MIT Technology Review, Barcelona’s irrigation system is one of two dozen smart systems that the city is currently building. It’s inevitable that other global cities will follow suit once benefits are further realized and publicly reported. From smart cities, to smart campuses, to smart homes, the environments we spend time in may evolve quicker than our personal behaviors can adapt. It’s hopeful that these environments will serve as catalysts for further consumer adoption of wearables and the IoT as a means to foster innovation on a larger scale with greater global impact.

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Chicago’s “Cloud Tax” Targets Digital Media Consumers with 9% Streaming Upcharge

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Streaming tax.
Amusement tax.
Cloud tax.

Regardless of the nomenclature you prefer, one thing’s for certain: a precedent has been set in the city of Chicago that will pave the way for other cities wishing to tax digital services that were once tax-free.

Chicago has applied a 9% amusement tax to paid streaming entertainment.  [Credit: Chicago Tribune]

Chicago has applied a 9% amusement tax to paid streaming entertainment. [Credit: Chicago Tribune]

In case you’re not in the loop (pun completely intended), last month Chicago reinterpreted its existing “amusement tax,” which prior to July 1 included entertainment such as wired TV and concert tickets, to now include paid-for streaming digital entertainment such as Netflix, Spotify, Hulu Plus, et al. The tax, a cringeworthy 9% expected to bring in $12M annually, is being absorbed by some service providers from the get-go (Netflix, for example, adds the tax to its monthly premium), while in other instances the consumers of these services are responsible for reporting their use when filing taxes come April.

The institution of the “cloud tax,” is reminiscent of the not-so-long-ago decision to apply state taxes to online goods purchases. Similarly, Chicago’s application of its longstanding amusement tax to new forms of content is paving the way for further taxation of digital entertainment – which, indeed, is a slippery slope into the territory of paid downloads, paid mobile apps, and other fee-based online communities.

One silver lining to Chicago’s cloud tax, though, is a proposal in the works to maintain the spirit of entrepreneurship by exempting companies with revenues below a yet-to-be-determined threshold. If passed, this amendment will showcase the city’s commitment to startup culture by not penalizing those innovators who are working to create new forms of streaming entertainment services. This is critical to Chicago maintaining a competitive environment that can attract and retain tech talent that may otherwise migrate from the Midwest to more supportive coastal meccas.

Netflix and Hulu Plus

Netflix and Hulu Plus are among the streaming services affected by the cloud tax. [Credit: Slash Gear]

Even if there are proposed support structures to aid small businesses in operating amidst the steep cloud tax, streaming content customers are given no safe haven in avoiding payment. Mobile media consumers will be a heavily affected audience, as they’re regularly using their devices more frequently to watch long-format videos. The question then becomes, if (or when) this impact will become a deterrent to millennials and other heavy mobile users in purchasing or maintaining subscriptions to streaming services. Is 9% of $9.99-$12.99/month enough to incite change?

If so, it’s imminent that the Popcorn Times of the internet will emerge as the real winners, leading more consumers down the free (or even illegal) path of digital media consumption. Or, should the tax climb high enough or be applied to more digital products and services, it could even deter future generations from living in such tax-burdened municipalities. It likely won’t be long before Chicagoans are enticed by “sales tax holidays” that apply to digital streaming services as well. Although, it’s doubtful such perks will ever suffice alone in lifting Chicago’s heavy tax hand off the shoulders of digital consumers who are used to, and can easily seek out, free streaming alternatives.

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Microsoft’s WearDrive Saves Battery Life, But Maintains Fractured Mobile CX

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One of the chief complaints heard from consumers owning an Apple Watch is its low battery life and constant need for recharging. Reviews like this are daunting during the consideration phase, and I’ll admit they’ve swayed me away from purchase thus far as well. Because, although Apple touts an 18-hour battery life in its marketing materials, TechRadar testing reveals much lower battery life when the wearable is used for other applications than simply telling time (see below).

Apple Watch battery life

[Credit: TechRadar]

It’s challenging for wearables, like Apple Watch, to offer unlimited functionality and data usage on applications, due to the device’s battery size and operating power. But, that doesn’t stop consumers from expecting longer battery life and shying away from purchase due to related negative reviews. When connected customers are accustomed to immediate information delivery and minuscule load times on their smartphones and tablets with high-speed internet and LTE connections, wearables come up short in their utility … and, often times as a result, sales.

This begs the question: what if some of the wearable’s energy-intensive operations could be done elsewhere, offsite, in order to save battery life? This idea was recently explored in a July 2015 study released by Microsoft, WearDrive: Fast and Energy-Efficient Storage for Wearables. The study may have garnered little media attention, but it serves as a critical foundation for how we develop wearables and plan for their operating capacity in the future.

The study sought out a solution to save battery life on wearables by tackling their chief challenges and constraints:

  • Small batteries – restricted to 1-2 Watt-Hours vs. 7-11 Watt-Hours batteries in our phones.
  • Energy overhead of legacy platforms – manufacturers use the same chips in wearables as they do phones to simplify hardware and software development, leading to energy challenges on smaller batteries. Encryption of private data using this legacy method is also energy-intensive.
  • New applications – existing wearables with small batteries can provide limited data analytics for new applications that require extended display or sensory analysis.
  • Reaching the phone – wearables require a new mechanism (beyond bluetooth and wifi direct) to connect them to phones with the ability to maintain low-power, high energy-efficiency data transfer.
  • Slow flash – as slow flash storage wastes energy by keeping the CPU active for longer periods of time, Microsoft proposes wearables actively use only DRAM (local and remote) to speed up storage operations.

The solution presented by Microsoft researchers is WearDrive, a fast storage system for wearables based on battery-backed RAM and an efficient means to offload energy intensive tasks to the phone. Translation: Large, energy-intensive tasks are done on the phone, while small, energy-efficient tasks are done locally using battery-backed RAM. New data is asynchronously transmitted (using a combination of bluetooth and wifi) to the phone when near proximity to the wearable device, where the phone performs the high-energy operations and encrypts the data for security in its local flash.

The results are impressive. According to their tests, WearDrive improves wearable application performance by up to 8.85x and improves battery life up to 3.69x – all with very low impact to the phone’s battery life (0.21%–2.09%).

Although WearDrive succeeds in increasing battery life for wearable applications, it still contributes to a fractured mobile customer experience (CX) for users who wish to have full functionality on their wearable, regardless of proximity to their smartphone. Apple Watch users are already aware of the “snapshot” functionality provided by its apps as compared to their full-featured smartphone versions, and these miniature experiences are only compounded (and, further jilted) when real-time data processing and updates are relegated to our phones for computation and storage.

The benefits offered by WearDrive are huge when considering its effect on wearable battery life and secure data storage, and consumers will take note of prolonged battery life when considering wearable purchases. But, we can’t stop there. Savvy developers must use innovations like WearDrive as a foundation for future hardware and software development on wearables that achieves both energy-efficient operation and provides a full user experience – with or without nearby phone pairing.

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Retailers Lure Mobile Back-to-School Shoppers With Ease of Purchase

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With back-to-school shopping season nigh, retailers are searching for new ways to engage customers – both on- and offline. Brick-and-mortar locations still serve the masses during heavy shopping periods throughout the year, but this back-to-school season, savvy retailers will focus on a growing type of consumer: the mobile shopper.

Mobile shopper app website

[Credit: eMarketer, Pixlee]

The mobile shopper demographic is already nearing its tipping point. According to a recent study by Synchrony Financial, 45% of shoppers report they use a mobile device to do shopping-related activities, such as researching product information, sharing products, purchasing, and reviewing. For many, much of this activity is done through mobile search and applications, versus mobile websites. Why? It’s all about the experience. Fifty-four percent of mobile Millennials report that mobile shopping apps are easier to use than their mobile website counterparts. When users run into issues with mobile site functionality, continuity of experience, and ease of use, they’ll bail for more seamless paths to purchase.

Although the majority of customers still head in-store or online for their back-to-school shopping, global sales on mobile devices are expected to grow tremendously in 2015 – to $217B, up from $76B in 2014. It’s a trend that can’t be ignored if retailers wish to stay relevant among new generations of consumers searching out native mobile experiences in every facet of life, including how and where they purchase goods and services. Pixlee reports that one in two millennials has already downloaded a mobile shopping app, with Amazon, Etsy, and Forever21 reigning favorites due to their mobile-first approach to experience design.

Retailers looking to stay ahead of the back-to-school shopping curve must keep pace with new forms of mobile consumer engagement, taking a page from the forward-thinking playbooks of Wish, Macy’s, and Everlane.

Wish buys Locket to add shopping to our mobile lockscreens

In July, mobile shopping app Wish acquired Locket, a startup that makes lockscreen apps (primarily for news content and messaging) for Android devices. Wish is beloved for its marketplace of many brands at its users fingertips, recommended based on purchase history and fashion interests. Adding Locket to its mobile development arsenal, and we can expect to see personalized product recommendations on our lockscreens – eliminating a few taps to purchase that may otherwise introduce friction in the purchase path and decrease conversion. I’ve written about Locket’s value proposition and trailblazing UI in the past, too.

Macy’s works with Pinterest on “Buy” button integration

Pinterest "Buy It" Button

Pinterest “Buy It” Button

What’s the easiest way to bridge the gap between mobile browsing and purchase? Add a “buy now” button that’s pre-connected to the user’s credit card information and shipping address. Pinterest is working with Macy’s, among other companies, to seamlessly integrate buy buttons (“buyable pins”) into existing mobile app and website architecture. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are testing similar quick-to-convert buttons with retailers and hotels, often positioned within mobile ads on their networks. This could also aid in mobile ad conversion to purchase, as adMarketplace currently reports mobile ads become sales 84% less often than clicks from desktop search.

Everlane delivers exclusive deals to mobile-first shoppers

Fashion startup Everlane has developed a mobile app that rewards its mobile shoppers with “early access” product launches, exclusively delivered through its app. These items are the most anticipated fashion staples of each season, enticing shoppers to download its new app versus shop online. By offering exclusive content to Everlane customers via its mobile experience, Everlane is sure to see an uptick in usage and in-app purchasing. Oh, and it’s also a weather app … in case you need up-to-the-minute recommendations on what to wear to school, rain or shine.

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Beyond B2C: IoT Problem-Solving in Hospitals, Farms, Hotels, and More

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Although connected homes and fitness trackers may garner the most PR buzz in the world of wearable technologies, innovating on the IoT offers true promise to solve some of the world’s biggest problems outside of its consumer applications. In fact, a mere 7% of consumers own a wearable device today, and even less (4%) own an in-home IoT device. The majority of IoT sensors actually reside in factories, businesses, and healthcare. When we can track nearly anything, the opportunities are abound in offering true utility to different industries that, today, the general populace may not directly associate with wearable applications.

According to Cisco Systems, by 2020, the amount of Internet-connected things will reach 50 billion, with $19 trillion in profits and cost savings coming from IoT over the next decade. These connected devices and sensors span far beyond the Fitbits on our wrists and Nest thermostats in our homes. From hospitality to farming, we’re already beginning to see the potential of how these connected devices can work in concert to increase operating efficiencies.

Hospitals Explore RFID Potential

A new study by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) reports that healthcare industry plans to spend only 3/10 of a percent of revenue on IoT technology in 2015, but will increase that investment to at least 30% by 2018. This significant increase in spending will likely be attributed, in large part, to RFID deployment. Using RFID transmitter chips, hospitals can now keep tabs on all of their inventory – both human and product. From drug monitoring and patient tracking, to “smart cabinet” inventory and medical equipment management, RFID will be an important asset for the healthcare industry in reducing staff overhead and managing asset supplies efficiently.

Farmers Tackle Seafood Deficit with Sensors

The United States is currently operating at a $11.2 billion seafood trade deficit. In an uphill battle to combat this supply-and-demand gap, Catalina Sea Ranch in Long Beach, Calif., plans to enable its aquaculture fishery with sensor-equipped buoys to collect data about water salinity, temperature, and growth rates of mussels and scallops. This data is then used by the ranch’s farmers to make decisions about what to grow and what changes are needed to keep current conditions operating at peak performance.

International Humane Society (IHS) Monitors, Protects Rhinos

Project RAPID (Real-time Anti Poaching Intelligence Device), supported by the IHS, uses heart rate monitors and satellite signals, combined with real-time video streaming, to protect the world’s endangered rhinoceros population. The animals that are embedded with biometric sensors are monitored 24-7 by anti-poaching teams who are diligently looking for any indication that the rhino’s heart rate is abnormal or spiking as a response to stress. If detected, they then check the video feed provided by a camera implanted in the rhino’s horn to determine if it’s wounded. Wounded animals are rescued via helicopter, sent to their exact GPS coordinates.

Rhino IoT

[Photo credit: Fortune]

Connected Hotels Follow Smart Cities’ and Homes’ Lead

Most consumers have heard of the numerous possibilities to connect one’s home devices to the internet and each other in order to complete a wide array of tasks. Similarly, cities are also using the IoT as a foundation to increase energy efficiency and better allocate municipal services. Now, hotels are slated to follow suit, with the help of CytexOne Hospitality. CytexOne’s hospitality solution will help improve staff productivity and guest comfort via integrated in-room automation, security, HVAC, lighting, energy, video, and wireless systems – all connected to existing hotel IT infrastructure for a one-stop monitoring solution, stored in the cloud. It bills itself as the first of its kind in creating “smart hotels,” and we’re sure other contenders will soon pop up in the hospitality IoT race.

What all of these examples have in common is that innovators are using the IoT as the foundation to solve an existing problem. Insight into long-time industry barriers and previously insurmountable obstacles is the crucial predecessor to any IoT technology solution. Identify what you’re solving and how you’ll measure success before jumping on the bright-shiny-wearable bandwagon. As seen here, often times the simpler the application, the greater (and quicker) the reward.

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Five IoT Innovation Tips Inspired by Smart Campuses

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Companies looking to innovate on the IoT often look to industry peers and competitors for inspiration. However, there may be another source for new ideas and implementation: higher education institutions. With Google recently announcing its plans to turn Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University into a testing ground for IoT solutions, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison advancing student, faculty, and partner involvement with wearables through its Internet of Things Lab, “smart campuses” are gaining traction as feasible sandboxes for rapidly prototyping sensor-laden devices for both individual use and mass consumption.

Strategists are smart to take a page from these institutions, and others, when planning their forays into the quickly moving world of connected products and services.

1. Test, test, and test some more.
At Carnegie Mellon, Google plans to outfit thousands of everyday items – from coffee pots to bus stops – with inexpensive sensors to, “collect data and provide reactionary features.” By collecting data on multiple devices, and allowing the larger research community to develop and share IoT scripts, actions, multiple-sensor feeds, and applications in its IoT App Store, they can quickly assess interoperability issues and rapidly iterate.

UW Madison IoT lab

IoT Lab students at UW-Madison. [Credit: On Wisconsin Magazine]

UW-Madison’s IoT Lab follows a similar approach to efficient innovation, with 40 students executing 15 in-depth projects each semester. Follow at test-and-learn approach within your organization to quickly establish what’s working, what’s not, and why. The more data you have behind your experimentation and recommendations, the easier it will be to garner internal support and address naysayers.

2. Plan now for growth later.
Testing hundreds, if not thousands, of theories on as many devices is bound to output a significant amount of data. Broaden your horizons while analyzing the data, beyond your current project scope. Could a similar idea work in a different department, with a different product? UW-Madison involves faculty from various disciplines throughout IoT initiative development to aid in extension of applicable programs and add academic insight. Carnegie Mellon University also plans to eventually use its IoT campus learnings and successes in a citywide application for Pittsburgh.

3. Run with simple, yet specific, ideas to garner proof-of-concept wins.
At College of the Holy Cross, biology lab freezers send email alerts when their temperatures vary too far from acceptable. This is a simple, yet effective, use of IoT sensors to prove their value to the university and beyond. Carnegie Mellon’s connected apps also peaked Google’s interest.

Snap2It app

Carnegie Mellon’s Snap2It app allows for quick connection to printers and projectors via smartphone photo. [Credit: Carnegie Mellon University]

From Snap2It, an app that connects users to printers and projectors simply by taking a smartphone photo, to Impromptu, a system that access shared apps only when needed (ie. waiting for a bus), Carnegie Mellon had proven its commitment to using the IoT to better student life – prior to Google’s involvement. Within your organization, spend time assessing the market and weighing opportunities before moving forward with an IoT initiative. Through the process, you’ll uncover quick wins that provide utility to customers, use fewer resources, and prove the value of wearables to your company.

4. Involve outside partners to further advance and support your efforts.
IoT program planning, strategizing, testing, and implementation isn’t cheap. It requires many internal and external resources to get off the ground – resources that often don’t have a budget-line from the CFO. Follow the lead of UW-Madison. By involving the startup community, small businesses, and larger corporations in its IoT Lab, they’re able to fund projects and deliver results to those outside the university who are interested in the outcome and its application to business growth. Consider partnerships with other organizations who can also benefit from IoT innovation. Also look to city and municipal officials, nonprofits and educational institutions, and those outside your industry for partnership opportunities. It’s not just high-tech companies that want to innovate on the IoT; a connected network of devices offers promise to nearly every industry, including healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, and more.

5. Allow for continuous improvement, even after launch.
A “living laboratory,” as Carnegie Mellon refers to its Google-funded IoT campus, allows for continuous innovation and idea validation over time. Although not every company may have an endless pool of funding and resources for IoT endeavors, it’s important to ensure you have a process established for how to assess successes, and failures, of wearable initiatives over time. When operating on top of the IoT, change is imminent if not constant, and technology leaders must plan accordingly to maintain relevance with consumers.

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When Connected Devices Make Decisions, the “80/20 Rule” Risks Losing Significance

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The Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the “80/20” rule, is commonly referenced in both business and economic applications. Essentially, the Pareto Principle states that 80% of the output is achieved by 20% of the input. Dating back to the twentieth century, this rule of thumb has been used to explain the economics behind everything from wealth distribution to employee efficiency, car accidents to criminal activity.

The Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule is commonly referenced in business and economics.

The Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, is commonly referenced in business and economics.

Although the Pareto Principle’s roots are chiefly economic in nature, its many applications rely on observing human nature and the output of associated activities. So, what happens when you take humans out of the equation? When the devices around us, connected in an intricate Internet of Things, communicate, does the Pareto Principle still apply?

Let’s examine a few common applications of the Pareto Principle and how, with the increased connectivity of the devices around us at home, in business, and in our cities, the 80/20 rule may no longer hold significance.

20% of the workers do 80% of the work.

Although only 10% of industrial operations are currently using the connected enterprise, it offers tremendous potential for greater efficiency and productivity among machinery and employees. Food and beverage company, King’s Hawaiian, found that by adding just 11 connected machines to a factory’s existing operations, they were able to double their production, speed time to market, improve asset utilization, lower total cost of ownership, boost workforce efficiency and better manage risk.

And that’s by the addition of only 11 machines. Imagine what entire fleets of connected machines could do for the manufacturing sector, an industry primed for IoT disruption and benefit in 2015. And, when these connected machines replace a portion of an error-prone human workforce, they will undoubtedly throw off the balance of the 80/20 rule in favor of device-to-device communication, decision-making, and efficiency.

20% of car drivers cause 80% of the accidents.

Google self-driving car

A Google self-driving Lexus at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Recent data released by Google and the State of California showcases the safety rate of self-driving cars. According to Google’s report, its self-driving cars have been in 11 minor traffic accidents since it began experimenting with the technology six years ago. And, all of these accidents were caused by the other vehicle, driven by a human, not a computer.

If we can apply this accident rate (and at-fault rate) to a larger data set over time as driverless cars become mainstream, it will undoubtedly have an impact on this particular application of the Pareto Principle. Self-driving cars currently report a zero percent fault rate for accidents, so the 80/20 principle may still apply in the short-term, as human-driven cars outnumber their self-driving counterparts on the road. However, as self-driving cars grow to occupy the majority of space on the road, the percentage of “drivers” responsible for accidents will likely decrease.

In business meetings, 80% of the decisions are made in 20% of the time.

Let’s apply this percentage breakdown to an hour-long meeting. If five decisions are made by the meetings end, then four of them were made in only 12 minutes. Now, if we add sensor-laden devices to the mix, that deliver real-time, actionable data, that ratio is bound to shift.

Cisco is working on technologies that allow for rapid IoT data collection and analysis to influence the speed of informed decision making. They’ve found that, without needing to move device data to a central repository for analysis, organizations can improve their their ability to make decisions more quickly. When you have the right data at your fingertips, aided by machine analysis that can make decisions where humans were once needed, your meeting will likely produce more than one decision in that remaining 48 minutes you’re on the conference line.

Of course, there are some instances where we cannot yet imagine how the IoT would have an impact on the 80/20 rule. Does a more connected infrastructure in our cities change the fact that 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes? Does a bar filled with sensors alter the assessment that 20% of patrons consume 80% of the alcohol? Elements of human nature will always be susceptible to the Pareto Principle. It’s when we allow the devices around us to take over for actions and decisions we once made that we’ll need to reassess the 80/20 rule’s statistical validity.

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GPS-enabled Wearables and Apps Offer Safety Net at Privacy’s Expense

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Just because you can track someone, should you?

GPS is the feature-du-jour of many connected devices, mobile applications, and other wearables hitting the App Store and Google Play markets. Many of these newcomers target parents and families looking to protect their children and loved ones, as it’s easier than ever to keep tabs on others’ safety using our everyday devices.

Want to know where the kids are on their commute from school? Transport with Uber-like Shuddle, or track them with a Circo once it hits the shelves.
Chance, Sassy, and Shadow run away? Hopefully, they have collar Taggs.
Has Grandma wandered off? Find out quickly with GPS SmartSoles.

Tagg Pet

Tagg app and collar wearable lets users track pets easily.

The ability to track each other (and, ourselves) for safety’s sake certainly isn’t something new. To be honest, I’ve longed for a Lifeline device since the wise age of 10. It is, however, much simpler to access and understand GPS technology and its data output when our smartphones and tablets are already enabled with these capabilities. There’s no need to hire a private investigator or spend hundreds on a bluetooth tracking chip when checking in on a family member’s location is as easy as opening an app. This seamlessness and ease of use may offer convenience and peace of mind, but at what cost to privacy?

We all can think back to our childhoods when moments of private solace were accessible and (remotely) within our control. Running to the corner store after school, biking to a friend’s house, and even sneaking out at night were at least rituals, if not the norm. Although the world has evolved and crime can sometimes be a realer threat today, the expectation and right to privacy remains.


Life360’s check-in and GPS tracking features.

Take Life360, for example. An app of choice for 50 million families, Life360 markets itself as the ultimate tool for avoiding the inane “where are you?” texts that spring up six to eight times per day, during normally hectic weeks. Each family member, as part of a private circle, can turn their GPS on/off within the app so that others can see their location with ease. Users can also set up familiar locations to automatically “check in” once they’ve arrived at home, work, or school.

I can already hear the faint sound of teenagers reeling aloud at parents knowing their every move.

From Life360, to its predecessor Glympse, to other aforementioned navigation/social networking apps and wearables, the safety concerns mitigated with their use are indeed alluring and key benefits. In fact, App Annie data indicates that “safety” is among the top App Store search terms that lead iPhone users to Life360. I won’t refute that safety benefits of such apps do exist. I am questioning the ethical dilemma at hand, though: at what point do we draw the line between the information we can gather and that which we truly need to?

Data collection for safety’s sake is desirable, but it indeed is a slippery slope into a violation of privacy. As it becomes easier to automate, track, and analyze the data we give and receive, a human element of caution must be present. Continually weighing safety concerns against other lifestyle needs is the only way to ensure the right balance between risk and reward is maintained. Because, technological innovations will never cease to blind us with new data tracking possibilities primed for abuse.

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Shifting from Novelty to Utility Offers Promise for IoT Adoption Growth

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Through each new phase of technology development, consumers have fallen prey to “bright, shiny object syndrome.” Is it new? Does my co-worker have it? I must own it! … (regardless of its usefulness or applicability to my life.)

The Internet of Things has brought about an entirely new slew of products, gadgets, and wearable technologies that have consumers coveting thine neighbors and swooning over newly connected product features. But, what happens when the novelty wears off? We’re left with loads of products with little utility, and we move on to the next fad without looking back.

Or, worse yet, too much novelty can send consumers running in the other direction before even trying wearables on for size. According to data from Business Intelligence and Affinova, 41% of consumers feel strongly that IoT products they have seen or heard about are gimmicky, and 58% feel strongly that they won’t upgrade to IoT devices unless they can be more than just a novelty. If brands are looking to increase sales of wearables and related technologies, they must prove a product’s utility beyond sheer convenience, whether in the form of efficiency, cost-savings, health benefits, or other useful properties.

Take the sports industry, for example. At 2014’s CES, InfoMotion Sports Technologies unveiled the 94Fifty Basketball for $295. It’s equipped with nine lightweight sensors and a bluetooth chip to relay data back to an iPhone app – data about the ball’s backspin, its arc, and the force of the bounce. However, it can’t track if the ball went into the basket nor if a shot was taken (without a pass from another player first). A prime example of novelty for novelty’s sake.

Reebok Checklight Wearable

Reebok’s Checklight wearable identifies when athletes have taken a heavy hit.

Compare the 94Fifty Basketball to recent efforts in the sports wearables arena from Reebok and FITguard. Reebok partnered with mc10 to develop the Checklight – a device that sits under NFL athlete helmets and emits a colored alert light when a significant hit is suffered. Along the same vein, Force Impact Technologies developed the FITguard mouthguard that incorporates motion sensors to detect forceful blows to the head and face, also emitting flashing lights when players withstand a heavy hit. These wearable technologies offer true healthcare utility to both players and their coaches in determining whether or not athletes should continue playing.

Let’s examine a few other examples of how connected products can create value as part of the IoT ecosystem:

  • General Electric believes that using IoT enabled products and processes has the potential to make oil and gas exploration and development just 1% more efficient, resulting in a savings of $90 billion.

True IoT innovation moves past the “gee whiz” factor and focuses on the potential that lies within the connection of smart products to one another.

Apigee Link

Apigee Link enables secure linking of devices to the internet.

Rather than simply adding a remote control to existing products and services, companies are beginning to push boundaries by first eliminating barriers to entry for developers looking to innovate on top of the IoT. One such company, Apigee, offers an API-first IoT platform, Apigee Link, to enable device makers to securely link previously unconnected devices to the internet and grow ecosystems with other devices, apps, customers and partners. This allows companies to securely take the first step into transforming into a digital IoT platform business – the foundation needed for creating meaningful wearable device networks.

When we’re faced with fewer hardware and software barriers to entry in creating connected product ecosystems, wearable tech can offer greater utility to consumers and enterprises alike. Pew Research Center reports that 83% of experts believe wearable tech will have a “widespread and beneficial effect” on the public by the year 2025. This prediction may indeed come to fruition if developers and businesses pursue connected products that, when working in concert with other devices, offer lifestyle and bottom-line value over fleeting novelty.

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