How the On-Demand Economy Impacts our Expectations as Shoppers, Citizens and Patients

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In this special guest feature, Joe Francica, Managing Director, Geospatial Industry Solutions at Pitney Bowes, discusses a few examples of how industries are deploying IoT technology to engage with the always-on consumer. Joe is recognized as one most influential people in geospatial technology and the leading proponent of location intelligence (LI) solutions for over 25 years, having founded the Location Intelligence Conference in 2004. He has published and broadcast over 500 articles and podcasts, and has contributed to three books on LI. Joe is the past editor-in-chief and vice publisher of Directions Magazine, the former editor of Business Geographics Magazine and originated the column “GIS in Business” for GIS World Magazine in 1991.

Over the past few years, on-demand services like Uber have done more than just provide an added convenience to our everyday lives. The rapid availability and adoption of the “everything-as-a-service” mentality is completely changing our expectations across the board – as shoppers, patients and even as citizens. We have started expecting the same level of service across all industries, whether it’s accuracy of real-time data or an easy-to-consume-and-digest interface. And that has become the new normal when interacting with our favorite brand as well as our bank and doctor.

To keep up with this unprecedented demand for real time, intelligent service, industries are increasingly turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance their offerings, resulting in a surge of connected devices. According to BI Intelligence, there will be a total of 22.5 billion connected devices in 2021, up from 6.6 billion in 2016.

Below are a few examples of how industries are deploying IoT technology to engage with the always-on consumer.

As Shoppers

Imagine being able to browse a store, receive relevant coupons in real-time and leave without ever having to touch your wallet. This is the future of shopping. Retailers are turning to IoT to dramatically improve the in-person shopping experience, blending the worlds of ecommerce and point-of-sale.

Intel recently announced their new Responsive Retail Platform which includes a set of sensors, software kits and other hardware solutions that will enable retailers to personalize the shopping experience and provide better customer service. For example, if a shopper is looking at a particular shirt but doesn’t pick it up, that data can be sent to a sales associate elsewhere in the store who can approach the shopper to see if he or she needs a different size or color.

In Seattle, Amazon recently launched a brick and mortar/no checkout store which brings the convenience of online shopping to a physical location. And mobile marketing company Mobilozophy works with retailers to place Bluetooth-enabled beacons in a grid throughout a store, rather than simply at entry or exit points.

If customers opt-in, retailers can effectively “accompany” their shoppers within the store and track their behavior in the physical world. Retailers can then offer better deals, promotions and recommendations on nearby products based on the shopper’s route and preferences.

As Citizens

While IoT has been trending in smart homes with light bulbs and digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, it is clear that IoT will continue to grow at an explosive rate and scale up to the city level.

Smart cities are not a new concept, but local governments are still in the early stages of thinking about the IoT infrastructure from the ground up. Intelligent highways equipped with fiber optics, cameras and connected signaling devices are just starting to be implemented in a handful of locations, with the potential to improve in sophistication in the future.

Smart buildings already deploy IoT technology to intelligently control environment and energy usage, such as sensing how many people are in a room and adjusting the temperature accordingly. Additionally, the data generated by these smart buildings can be used to refine its energy usage and reduce carbon footprints. And by using a location intelligence component, smart city initiatives can one day analyze population distribution in order to improve public transportation and identify urban infrastructure inefficiencies.

As Patients

According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests will lose their life. However CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. What if IoT technology could help more cardiac arrest patients receive proper care in a timely manner?

International custom software development and IT outsourcing company Ciklum created a smart automatic external defibrillator (AED) that instantly notifies first responders in the event of the device’s use, providing them with vital health and location data and the means to communicate directly with bystanders on the scene.  As soon as the AED is put into use, an emergency call is placed with accurate location data, traffic insights and route info to the patient, while the bystander using the device will receive instructions on how to properly execute CPR. And, if enough of the AEDs are deployed, they could collectively generate enough data for use by heart disease researches to develop future treatments.

Other IoT applications for healthcare include smart beds, which automatically adjust its angle and pressure to provide proper support for a specific patient, and smart medication dispensers that alert doctors when patients are not correctly taking their prescriptions.

Looking Forward

As on-demand services continue to rapidly increase in popularity, all industries will need to address the enhanced expectations of those using these services. Connected devices will allow all industries to better service their customers, citizens, patients and more. And as data science matures, we are sure to see even more groundbreaking applications of IoT that will change life and society as we have come to know it.


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