The connectivity and connectability of physical objects is exploding the number of digital interfaces people are interacting through. The next 5 to 10 years will see a tremendous transformation as almost every physical object we use in our every day lives becomes internet enabled in one form or another – every thing we touch applying real-time information to adapt, optimise and enhance its utility.
Today millions of people are using their smartphones daily to scan every day products and benefit from access to personalised services, information and linked applications – physical things extended with digital capabilities. Each one of those interactions is an exchange of information – product provider learning about customers, customers benefiting from additional services, utility and rewards as a result. As the cost of connectivity and the technology to make things connectable declines, that exchange of information will only accelerate. Connected products keep a constant stream of information flowing about where they are, who’s using them, what they’re doing and so forth.
So with this explosion of connectability comes an explosion of the volume of information that the brands who make and sell products are entrusted with by their customers. The flow of information is fast shifting from a fringe benefit of digital-consumer engagement to being a necessity for product and business operation. Just as supply chain systems have revolutionised and indeed transformed how products get from manufacturing plant to retail shelf, so shall the real-time information swirling around the individual products those supply chains ship transform the products themselves and the business models of the brands supplying them.
Big Data is spoken about in the context of the scale of information that this connected world is and will be generating – and indeed it is enormous. But less often discussed is the responsibility that falls on the shoulders of brands, product manufacturers and retailers accumulating and applying it. Aside from the basic issues of access control and how good organisations are at keeping the information they accumulate secure, there is the more fundamental issue how they actually use it. The trust consumers have in a brand’s trustworthiness to apply the information they share is going to become a critical business success factor. If a brand loses that trust, consumers will literally unplug their products. And in a connected product world an unplugged product will likely not be a product at all.
So with Big Data comes big responsibility. The choices organisations make in the technologies and service providers they choose to manage their consumers information is a business critical issue. But more than that, the values they choose to apply to how they use that information is a business survival issue.