The rise of the Internet of Things was just the beginning, says Dr. Davor Sutija, CEO of Thinfilm.
There is something much bigger brewing. It’s called the Internet of Everything — otherwise known as IoE. Instead of the communications between electric-powered, internet-connected devices that the IoT allows, the IoE expands it exponentially. The IoE extends well beyond traditional IoT boundaries to include the countless everyday, disposable items in the world. If the IoT is the solar system, then the IoE is every galaxy in the universe.
What is the Internet of Everything?
The IoE is where disposable products and consumer goods are connected and “talking” to customers. It enables direct one-on-one engagement between brands and mobile-savvy consumers, and it eliminates interference from intermediaries like web searches, social media or product reviews, which can often distort a brand’s messaging.
These products don’t need electricity to connect, because the IoE is built around the smartphone and existing Near Field Communications technology — otherwise known as NFC. By using a smartphone to power and interact with NFC-based tags integrated directly into products, a consumer can instantly receive contextual messaging, unique content, special offers or product information.
How can it benefit consumers?
The IoE allows consumers to make informed shopping decisions at any time. Take the common scenario where shoppers are trying to find a nice bottle of wine to go with dinner — they go into the store and encounter a literal wall of options. They could try to find the wine clerk, but an expert isn’t always available. However, when the bottles themselves have special NFC tags, consumers are a literal phone tap away from information about the wine’s vintage, history of the vineyard, pairing notes or a promotional discount upon purchase.
The benefits of the IoE for the consumer continue even after the product goes home with them. They can still interact with the embedded tags, gaining access to customised content such as recipes or an option to quickly reorder goods through their smartphone.
One room alone, the kitchen, contains several items with which a consumer could interact in an IoE scenario — pantry goods, paper towels, cooking oil, cleaning supplies, dish soap and wine bottles, just to name a few. If these items were all connected, consumers could reorder them with one device — their smartphone — rather than a drawer full of brand-specific dash buttons, and they could reorder without having to leave their homes on emergency runs to the store.
IoE-related technology can also ensure the authenticity of items that consumers purchase. Take the olive oil market — which has become so saturated with knockoffs and cheap imitations that consumers have been left doubting that their bottle of “extra virgin olive oil” is the real deal. But this is where we are right now: the Tuscan olive oil market has begun embracing IoE’s potential.
Through NFC-embedded tags on bottles of extra virgin olive oil, producers can ensure customers that they’re getting a genuine item and enjoying the experience that goes with it. This is because the integrated tags — each of which contains a unique ID and is trackable to the individual-item level — cannot be forged, tampered with or removed without damaging the packaging itself.
How can IoE benefit companies trying to reach consumers?
The consumer benefits of instantly reordering products at home, along with the ensured authenticity made possible by the IoE, benefit brands as well. When a consumer reorders a favored brand from home, it deepens that person’s brand loyalty and, perhaps more importantly, prevents return trips to the store where a competitor’s brand could be selected.
If a consumer repurchases a brand of laundry detergent by simply tapping it at home with a smartphone, he or she is likely to keep reordering that brand at home. Ensuring authenticity cuts into the huge losses companies suffer due to counterfeiting — currently at $1.7 trillion per year, according to the Counterfeit Report. NFC-tagged products can prevent consumers from inadvertently purchasing knockoffs or forgeries, thus protecting a brand’s integrity and reputation.
The IoE’s biggest benefit to companies is that it turns disposable products into marketing vehicles and brand ambassadors. In essence, each package becomes its own media channel. Through NFC-enabled tags, a high-end scotch whiskey can be tracked from distillery to bottling line, from packaging to shipping, and from point-of-sale through consumption.
The maker can potentially identify where and when the bottle was purchased, where and when it was first opened, how long it took to consume the product, who consumed it, and who the consumer shared their experience with. This data can then be used to adjust marketing campaigns on-the-fly to get the best results.
Because the IoE ecosystem uses smartphones to achieve this, it creates a mobile-minded system to engage these smartphone users — especially millennials, 82% of which go online wirelessly, according to the Pew Research Centre.
How big will it get?
Infoholic Research says the IoE market is expected to hit $23.97 trillion by 2020. This rise in the IoE market will happen alongside gains in the intelligent packaging industry, which is expected by Accuracy Research to hit $52 billion in 2025. These expected gains in the IoE and intelligent packaging markets show that we’re taking strides toward a “tap of the smartphone” being the primary gateway to product information, and connected products themselves being the providers of that information.
The Internet of Everything expands what the Internet of Things makes possible. We’re working toward a world where hundreds of billions of everyday disposable products could interact with consumers through a mobile interface. Packaging and consumer goods will become portals to a digital experience offering convenience, information and engagement. The IoE is much bigger than the IoT could ever be.
The author of this blog is Dr. Davor Sutija, CEO of Thinfilm