Every year Las Vegas plays host to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an exposé of the latest and greatest in technology. Those who pay close attention to the many exhibits will notice an overall theme. A few years ago, there was a focus on mobility, replacing large, clunky computer electronics with smaller gadgets that fit in our pockets. After that, we were introduced to wearable technology, like fitness trackers, smart watches and augmented reality glasses.

 This year’s exhibit built on previous innovations, and introduced a greater number gadgets and devices built with internet connectivity, and the ability to interact with other devices on a network. This concept is referred to the Internet of Things (IoT). While this offers numerous benefits to users who are now able to control many devices remotely, it serves a dual purpose for manufacturers.

 Enter big data. It’s a common discussion these days. Organizations are trying to understand consumer behavior based on social conversations, purchasing habits and what we like to watch on Netflix. All of this information is collected, and organizations hope that by analyzing it, they’ll find patterns that’ll help them sell more of their products and services. Where does IoT fit into this? Well, many of the recent IoT products on display at CES were items we’d use everyday. They may be in our homes or take us to work. These devices are packed full of sensors, and now with the added internet connectability, they can track more in-depth information and convey it back to manufacturers. For example, we’ve all heard of fitness trackers. Not only are these devices telling you how many calories you’ve burned, but they’re telling the manufacturer the types of people who are running everyday. If this data shows that women are running more than men, guess who they’ll target most of their marketing efforts towards?

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 At CES there were many different devices that fit within the IoT category. One was the new LG smart TVs, which are now being outfitted with a new system called webOS. WebOS offers internet connectivity with apps and built-in speech and voice recognition. As much as we wish every company had altruistic ideals, and was only looking to make our lives easier, that isn’t the case.

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LG is in the business of selling electronics, which is a very competitive market these days. Just as fitness trackers can see who’s running, LG will use webOS to monitor things like which apps are used most often and who is watching what.

 However, it isn’t just televisions that are being outfitted with data collection technology. Believe it or not, cars are on a long list of items joining the IoT revolution. You may have noticed more ads featuring cars with internet connectivity, whether through built-in WiFi or LTE. And while there were a number of cars on display at CES, it was Ford’s announcement that made a big impression. Instead of trying to woo audiences with self-driving robotic cars, Ford revealed it’s Smart Mobility plan, designed to tackle major transportation problems, like congestion and poor air quality. Sensors and trackers built into Ford cars learn where and when you drive most often, helping you avoid congested areas, share cars and locate the nearest parking spot. However, the plan is more expansive than that. Ford can also track driver behavior and create a driving report card. That information could go towards determining more exact insurance rates.

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 For a long time, the biggest roadblock to big data was the lack of tools available. Even a few years ago, without these data collecting devices, we were still producing mounds of information that basic analytical tools couldn’t handle. That’s all changed. Improvements in technology have given us frameworks like Apache Spark, capable of managing and processing large data sets in real-time. This power pushed companies to find more innovative ways of collecting information, hence IoT. Companies looking to outperform their competition are  adopting data strategies. It may not be a crystal ball into the future, but it’ll certainly helps them make better, more informed decisions about which products to develop and how to market them.

~ Rick Delgado