Is The Internet of Things (IoT) Creepy or Cool?



This event took place at Social Media Week in New York. You can get the SMW Insider Digital Subscription to access the full video of this event and 60+ other #SMWNYC sessions.

In nearly every movie about the future, technology powers not only people’s electronics but their clothes, cars, an even items as simple as pencils or spatulas.

As we continue to make technological advances, our society is moving closer to this futuristic ideal, as more and more “non-tech” items are being synced with and advanced by technology, becoming known as the Internet of Things.

The presenters from Salesforce, Itai Asseo and Marshall Buxton, first explained that the thread that links all successful participants in the Internet of Things is the meaningful interactions they have with their customers. In their opinion, as long as devices grounded in tech can retain classic features and human touch, they can succeed.

To illustrate their point, they provided numerous examples of items and services that have been improved by combining with technology, such as an inhaler that provides its user with information on when and how to use it optimally and also sends data to their doctor.

Technology also escapes the outline of a computer or phone to provide many services that are less crucial but still improve people’s lives. Asseo and Buxton illustrated this by discussing how, when a plane is delayed in-flight, the airline KLM will automatically book the customer onto another flight before they even land and regain a connection.

The presenters admitted, though, that a device’s value is made up not only of the device itself but the data that it generates and stores. While this data can improve the device’s usefulness, such as by helping it to remember a person’s preferences, its intense knowledge of people’s lives and personalities can straddle the line between cool and creepy.

Perhaps scariest of all is the ability of iPhones to track where people are all at all times, especially since they often do not realize that their phone is doing so. Once the phone has its information, it can cause other seemingly customized content to appear on phones and other screens.

For instance, Apple uses a program called iBeacons, which, among other uses, allows companies to send customers special advertisements for products they are walking past on the street.

The Internet of Things has even opened the door to keeping tabs on others. Asseo mentioned that his young daughters have Barbie dolls fitted with artificial intelligence who conduct “conversations” with the children and then email the results to the parents. He noted that, even though he is only getting innocent information on his own kids, he still feels uncomfortable with intruding on their private thoughts.

Toward the end of the event, the presenters allowed the audience to interact with the Internet of Things and decide whether they thought it was creepy or cool. They passed out large sheets of paper and asked people to sketch out ideas of how apps on their phones could connect with other products and services to create some sort sort of experience or solve a problem.

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