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Is Anybody Home?

Posted on August 18, 2014 in Industry Insight

In a role that has me working across the entire digital spectrum, one of the things I find most fascinating is watching a seed of a concept take hold, bubble out and become a thing.

One of the most exciting areas to observe is the rise and prevalence of ‘smart things’ and the ‘smart home’. It’s the perfect storm of technology—low power connectivity (RFID, Bluetooth etc.), cheaper chip manufacturing, and above all, a growing willingness by consumers to adopt. I believe we’re only in the infancy of this nascent market. Sure, we have popular Smart Things like Philips Hue, Nest, Schlage Smart Locks etc. However, when you really boil it down, how ‘smart’ are these devices behind their polished UI and their dedicated Apps?  Is it really ‘smart’ to dim or turn off a light with an App vs. a Switch? Does a Thermostat averaging temperatures based on prior usage really make the most of the technology at our fingertips?

(Fade to the Ad Technology industry)

We have ad exchanges that work in real time to buy, sell, and trade ad impressions and inventory. We have Targeting, Re-Targeting, and even Pre-Targeting, all of which can be tracked and attributed across multiple devices. This, all to make sure the right Ad is being seen by the right Person at the right Time. Billions and Billions of dollars are pumped into making sure our eyes are looking, at that moment, at the ‘thing’ we want the most and then subsequently that we purchase said ‘thing’. But then what?  We plug in our new coffee maker, we get our Refrigerator installed, screw in our LED light bulbs - and that’s it?

(Cue music from any Michael Bay film)

The world I envision combines these two industries. Where that same pre-targeting technology works across my home devices and turns on my coffee maker when I get up in the morning (not when I think I’m going to get up). It knows I just got off the treadmill and turns up the air conditioning. Where re-targeting technology understands what is in my fridge, what items are most commonly used and applies algorithms that set a schedule for automated delivery. Where lights turn on when we walk into a room and turn off after a period of no motion detected.

In order to make this a reality, we need manufacturers and ‘hub’ device markers to work together to create standardized protocols for devices to communicate and share information seamlessly. We need the ad tech industry to start looking past just ad dollars and apply their algorithms to the things that we use, touch, and interact with on a daily basis (while tapping into the trillions of dollars across home device categories and appliances).  Without more collaborations and cooperation between the Thing industry and the Ad Tech industry, the world of siloed smarts is destined to become an empty nest.