We’ve all heard a great deal about the Internet of Things, which was recently reported to be worth an estimated $531 billion to the UK economy by 2030. While it is no doubt still extremely relevant for corporations and brands, trendwatching has picked up on a new tech trend that has been making the rounds – The Internet of Caring Things.
For those who aren’t too familiar with this concept, The Internet of Caring Things is a network of connected objects brought to life by a clear mission: to actively care for consumers – their physical and mental well-being, homes, loved ones, and more.
To name a few, some of the early innovations to come out of this new phenomenon include the Nest Smart Thermostat, NIKE Fuelband and Fitbit.
This concept builds on the idea that there is a set of fundamental, unchanging needs and wants for every human being, and consumers will be drawn to products, services and experiences that unlock new ways to serve these imperatives:
As customers steadily become the centre-point of all technological innovation decisions for companies, finding out exactly what drives customer behaviour has been key to corporate success and profitability, and The Internet of Caring Things unleashes a stream of new innovations and products that directly respond to these motivations. Expect this to be a PR and social media hot topic in the next 12 months.
As the network of caring objects continues to increase, consumers will naturally grow to expect brands to consistently deliver products and services that ‘care’ for them and address their needs. Whether in store, online, during delivery, or even as a form of customer service, customers will place this expectation of caring on brands. This in turn will place pressure on brands to maintain a high standard of ‘customer-centric’ service, even spilling over into social media behaviour where brands are expected to always be on top of customer queries and complaints.
With increased connectedness through the Internet of Caring Things, more and more data has been generated on daily movements, mood, sleep patterns, buyer behaviour and many more. Understanding and analysing this data is key to getting the insight needed to create products and services that enhance the lives of consumers. Most businesses are already swimming in data, so the Internet of Caring Things will add new elements of complexity to a problem that most organisations haven’t yet cracked.
A similar concern that rose out of the Internet of Things, the issue of privacy and security becomes a significant issue as more objects get connected and more data gets shared. This is particularly concerning for personal data such as that sourced from wearable technology. Imagine the public relations disaster if this kind of data was leaked or hacked.
Another example is the baby monitor hack last year, which understandably caused a lot of unease for people involved. While brands can’t always prevent such security breaches from happening with their products, they need to be aware of the security risks as the network becomes increasingly connected and have a crisis communications plan on standby in case anything happens.
In summary, brands can no longer rely on pure novelty value of technological innovations to attract customers. Technology sold needs to be smart, calculated, and directly targeted at addressing customers’ motivation drivers to maximise value. Is the next tweeting fridge going to grab the interest of consumers? Quite possibly, and it might even generate quite a bit of PR buzz. But if technology is to have long term appeal, it needs to solve a problem – and if it cares for us in some way, that’s a good start.
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