When Samsung announced recently that it was investing $1.5 billion over the next four years in the research and development of IoT technologies, it wasn’t so much the scale of the investment that was surprising but rather the language that Vice Chairman & CEO Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon used to describe it.
IoT is to be the “centre of our strategy” Dr Kwon promised, while citing its “transformative power”, particularly in the health arena. So is this the point when we can reasonably claim that IoT is no longer a quirky side-project, the preserve of futurologists and dreamers, and has become a fully-realised and investable fact of the modern consumer world?
Personally, I don’t think we’re quite at this stage yet (although we’re certainly close) but the barriers for universal adoption are not, in fact, in the minds of customers. Most people can easily grasp the principle of controlling a device remotely, for example, but for companies that employ IoT technologies within their offerings then the challenges can be legion. The most obvious of these is also the one that’s in most pressing need of an elegant solution, namely a way of shining a light through the digital fog of a billion devices generating, sharing and saving data by the millisecond.
Terabytes of data are only useful in the business world if you’ve a means to make sense of them. CRM solutions are of course an obvious, if not entirely comprehensive, part of this sense-making process and that can be very powerful when deployed in support of an IoT network. Imagine you make your living selling photocopiers and you’re plugged into a system that sends you an alert that the toners low; you’re then primed to send a replacement cartridge even before your customer knows that they need it. This is frictionless commerce and also a frictionless relationship with your customer. And friction in this context is nobody’s friend.
However, not every CRM solution is necessarily a match for the rigours of sense-making in the IoT world. Businesses relying purely on a fixed SaaS model are finding that they are ill-equipped to manage the required scales of data and performance. Perhaps IoT will be the anvil that breaks the camel’s back of the systems based on infrastructure created in the late 1990s?
In his keynote address Dr. Kwon also called for an open and collaborative approach to the next stage of IoT development, suggesting that over-restrictive legislation is a barrier to technological innovation. Such a belief is probably easier to adhere to when you run the biggest electronics company in the world but it’s true that in the post-PC world, flexibility is an essential quality for any solution, whether it be hardware or software.
When flexibility is achieved then innovation can thrive and I’m certain that IOT and CRM have an exciting, mutually beneficial future ahead of them. Many innovative organisations, for example, are already embracing the potential of smart exercise devices; Vetadvisor, the US-based holistic care provider for military veterans, integrated Fitbit bands into its CRM deployment, allowing it to track veterans’ progress towards personalised fitness goals and provide real-time coaching via SMS messaging. Both of these products, and many others like them, offer huge potential for CRM platforms as they evolve to absorb and decipher the data that is being generated and use it to shape sophisticated digital marketing strategies that really understand and satisfy the customer’s needs.
In this age of IoT, the question businesses should therefore ask themselves is not “are we ready?” but “are our tools ready?” The right CRM solution can go a long way to answering this and enable businesses to exploit the fabulous potential of IoT as more than just a means of running a bath on the homebound commute but as an architecture to enable nothing short of a revolution in customer service.
By Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM.