From hairbrushes to scales, consumer and industrial devices are having chips inserted into them to collect and communicate data.
Smart toasters, connected rectal thermometers and fitness collars for dogs are just some of the everday "dumb items" being connected to the web as part of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).
Connected machines and objects in factories offer the potential for a 'fourth industrial revolution', and experts predict more than half of new businesses will run on the IoT by 2020.
Here's everything you need to know about the increasingly connected world.
What is the Internet of Things? In the broadest sense, the term IoT encompasses everything connected to the internet, but it is increasingly being used to define objects that "talk" to each other. "Simply, the Internet of Things is made up of devices – from simple sensors to smartphones and wearables – connected together," Matthew Evans, the IoT programme head at TechUK, told WIRED.
By combining these connected devices with automated systems, it is possible to "gather information, analyse it and create an action" to help someone with a particular task, or learn from a process. In reality, this ranges from smart mirrors to beacons in shops and beyond.
"It's about networks, it's about devices, and it's about data," Caroline Gorski, the head of IoT at Digital Catapult told WIRED. IoT allows devices on closed private internet connections to communicate with others and "the Internet of Things brings those networks together. It gives the opportunity for devices to communicate not only within close silos but across different networking types and creates a much more connected world."
Why do connected devices need to share data? An argument has been raised that only because something can be connected to the internet doesn't mean it should be, but each device collects data for a specific purpose that may be useful to a buyer and impact the wider economy.
Within industrial applications, sensors on product lines can increase efficiency and cut down on waste. One study estimates 35 per cent of US manufacturers are using data from smart sensors within their set-ups. US firm Concrete Sensors has created a device that can be inserted into concrete to provide data on the material's condition, for instance.
"IoT offers us opportunity to be more efficient in how we do things, saving us time, money and often emissions in the process," Evans said. It allows companies, governments and public authorities to re-think how they deliver services and produce goods.
"The quality and scope of the data across the Internet of Things generates an opportunity for much more contextualised and responsive interactions with devices to create a potential for change," continued Gorski. IoT "doesn't stop at a screen".
Where does the IoT go next? Even those who have purchased one of the myriad smart home products – from lightbulbs, switches, to motion sensors – will attest to the fact IoT is in its infancy. Products don't always easily connect to each other and there are significant security issues that need to be addressed.
A report from Samsung says the need to secure every connected device by 2020 is "critical". The firm's Open Economy document says "there is a very clear danger that technology is running ahead of the game". The firm said more than 7.3 billion devices will need to be made secure by their manufacturers in the next three years. “We are looking at a future in which companies will indulge in digital Darwinism, using IoT, AI and machine learning to rapidly evolve in a way we’ve never seen before," Brian Solis, from Altimeter Group, who helped on the research said.
IoT botnets, created using a network of out-of-date devices recently took large websites and services offline. A Chinese firm later recalled 4.3 million unsecured connected cameras.
At the centre of creating a vast, reliable IoT network lies one significant issue: compatible standards. Connected objects need to be able to speak to each other to transfer data and share what they are recording. If they all run on different standards, they struggle to communicate and share. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Standards Association lists a huge number of standards being developed and worked on for different applications.
"Additional needs are emerging for standardisation," the Internet Society says. If standardisation happens it will let more devices and applications be connected.
To try and tackle this issue on an enterprise scale, Microsoft has introduced its own system for IoT devices. Called IoT Central, Techcrunch, reports the system gives businesses a managed central platform for setting up IoT devices. Microsoft claims the system will simply the creation of IoT networks.
Gorski described IoT, even among those with the most experience of the concept, as a "relatively immature market" but said 2016 may have been a turning point. The Hypercat standard is now supported by ARM, Intel, Amey, Bae Systems and Accenture and the firms are currently agreeing on a format for "exposing collections" of URLs, for example.
"In the short term, we know [IoT] will impact on anything where there is a high cost of not intervening," Evans said. "And it’ll be for simpler day-to-day issues – like finding a car parking space in busy areas, linking up your home entertainment system and using your fridge webcam to check if you need more milk on the way home. "Ultimately what makes it exciting is that we don’t yet know the exact use cases and just that it has the potential to have a major impact on our lives."
After completing a project for a client this week I've put together a brief guide regarding changing reviews on Google.
Due to changes in Google policies reviews on individual business pages cannot now be changed or removed by Google themselves. Google provides every customer an opportunity to give their feedback through the Google review system, and rightly so, whether they have had a bad or a good experience it is their right to give a review which reflects their experience. There may have been some added on your profile over the last few months and, whether left through bad experience or maliciously, need to be managed. So if Google are unable to change or remove bad reviews how can they be countered?
Below I've put together some recommendations for you. It's not an exhaustive list but provides a few suggestions to improve your online profile over time and to deal with those who wish to leave negatives;
1. Recognise potential customer service failings It is possible that individuals have the opportunity to maliciously leave feedback just for the sake of it, and those who have done so for your business may fall into that category having looked at their other reviews. However, there is also an opportunity that they may be genuine customers who have a reason to bear a grievance due to a negative experience. If you have them I would recommend that each of them are investigated individually including speaking to members of staff about the individuals to see if they remember each of the cases and to see what can be improved in the future to ensure that clients are not put in the position to leave negative feedback again.
2. Communicate with those leaving feedback Additional to the internal side of feedback within the business taking the opportunity to communicate with the client giving the feedback is a step towards resolution. As you will see your Google review page, there is a View and Reply button which gives you the opportunity to communicate publicly with the person leaving feedback. Giving the bad reviewer a chance to resolve the issue publicly shows others viewing the reviews that you take customer service seriously and are pro-active in making resolution should anything go awry in the conduct of your business. This can turn a very negative situation into a positive one very quickly and can even create future business opportunities, as well as any 5* reviews can ever provide. After all, we're all human and sometimes things go wrong and admitting it and wanting to put it right is the sign of a 'good company' who values its clients and are responsible in their business actions. It doesn't need to be time consuming and is a situation where results can outweigh the effort put in.
3. Resolve to put things right Both internally through the processes of customer service (training, changing techniques, procedures, etc.) and externally with the clients themselves in investing in putting the things right which the clients have detailed in their negative review. It is unlikely that any costs for doing so will be prohibitive and will be worth it to get the negative review removed. After all, you may never know what business you are missing in the current situation. Once resolved ask them to remove the negative feedback, as they are the only ones who can do so.
4. Putting things right when bad reviews cannot be removed There are some clients or people who we all deal with that whatever you do will not change their feedback, which has to be accepted despite your best efforts to resolve. Leaving opportunities for resolution in the reply area can go some way to showing those reading reviews you are being pro-active, as previously mentioned. But what can be done to address the balance? Positive reviews!
These can be gained from the following 2 areas; 1) Reviews by clients who have good experiences This gives you an opportunity to communicate with your current clients in gaining their feedback and also gives you the chance to incentivise them to do so in the form of an offer, discount, like-for-like positive review (as they benefit from your feedback too!). Be imaginative and ask for them to try and be specific as to why they chose you and use your business. You can always get them to leave feedback after their visit and ask their permission to add their review online, which gives you the chance to add them yourself to save them the job!
2) Adding your own reviews and 'burying' the negative feedback with positive ones This is relatively straight forward and does require a little more in the shape of time and resources than the first. Registering new Google accounts gives you have the chance to create unlimited amounts of positive feedback, however, it must be done in a realistic manner in spacing them over a period of time. I would recommend adding a minimum of 3 positive to each negative. However, it's always better to use real testimonies so talk to your clients and get their thoughts!
6. Review your Google feedback section regularly As your business continues there will be regular interaction with your clients and encouraging them to leave honest feedback can be very productive to you as a business in increasing rankings in Google, especially for positive reviews. Regularly reviewing feedback enables you to be proactive in your relationships with your clients and give them a level of service which will give them a very positive experience no matter what their review has given.
7. Social Media - Standard Procedure Everything detailed previously should be a part of your overall social media strategy. Your profile as a business is not isolated to only Google but has place in an almost limitless amount of places on the internet, especially Social Media. Your business has the opportunity to expand their offering in this area and can provide a multitude of opportunities to interact with existing clients, find new ones and awaken those who haven't done business with you for a period of time. One of the best things about it is that it keeps working when you're not, never asking for a day off, never calling in sick and never affected by the weather. If done correctly it can help add the shine to all the hard work put in for the business and help improve the image and thus the bottom line of the business.
So what are you waiting for? Go for it!!
If you want to know more about how Zion Digital can help you improve your social media profile, repair negative feedback or put together an end-to-end strategy drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01422 255824.