In a few years, toothbrushes could tell dentists about their patients' oral-hygiene habits.
Malfunctioning sump pumps could send a phone alert before it's too late and your basement floods.
Your car will not only send you an alert when it's time for an oil change or tire rotation, it'll deliver a coupon for a nearby service provider.
To name a few: cars, televisions, kitchen appliances, clothing and electronic cigarettes.
"We can message into any of those devices as long as they have an Internet connection," said
The company has joined the technology industry's charge into the "Internet of things" - the much-hyped concept that suggests almost all household and personal objects will someday connect to the Internet.
Once the dreams of science-fiction writers, entire homes can now be controlled from a single Internet-connected device.
The theme dominated the Consumer Electronics Show in January in
Each Internet-connected device creates another road for marketers to reach consumers.
A handful of non-computer appliances connect to the Internet today.
Industry executives believe even more basic belongings, in a few years, will have computer chips that connect them to the Web.
An estimated 26 billion devices - excluding computers, tablets and phones - will connect to the Internet by 2020, compared to 900 million devices in 2009,
That kind of growth in digital devices opens a huge area for marketers, said
More devices with wireless connections give marketers more ways to interact with consumers, as well as collect data on them. Companies can better tailor their marketing to individuals, compared with the "cannonball" approach of mass advertising on TV or in print, Arland said.
"How that exactly will be monetized," he said, "that's for the ExactTargets of the world to figure out."
The idea of using bathroom products or clothing for marketing is not as farfetched as it would seem.
Scales can already report to people on changes in their weight. Google and
In early 2013, the company unveiled MobilePush. The marketing-software platform lets marketers interact with customers through apps, email and social media.
The marketing technology is currently used more for things like guided tours.
"We can greet them and say, 'Welcome to
The app can prompt users with audio information about specific landmarks when people walk past them or offer discounts to museums and other attractions when visitors are nearby.
Travel is one of five key business areas
The others are retail, financial services, automotive and health care. Those industries all tend to quickly adopt technology, he said.
One key point of an
One "other device" that
The sports car's setup, which was a demo that is not commercially available, had the Ford Sync. The automaker's system, in effect, makes the dash operate like a touch-screen computer.
The core technology is virtually no different than connecting with refrigerators, washing machines or any other household appliances.
"We've architected it in such a way that it's open," Taylor said, "Anything that has an Internet connection, whether it's a toothbrush or a TV or your phone ... or even your clothes. I've seen tattoos that connect to the Internet, believe it or not."
Consumers' use of computers and phones is one thing for marketers to monitor. Clothing or bathroom products are another.
Taylor frequently inserted the word "permission" into his explanation of marketing in the "Internet of things." In other words: Make sure consumers know what kind of information they are volunteering.
"You wouldn't want to send a private message or potentially something that had private information to a car if there's a passenger, maybe for example, who isn't familiar with the inner workings of your life," Taylor said.
Asking permission to track someone needs to be blatant, not something hidden within hundreds of words' worth of consent-agreements, Taylor said.
"Right now, it's literally, 'This app would like to use your location. Yes or no?' " he said.
Having billions more devices online will prod debate over marketing and trade regulations, said
Regulators need to think about security and who has access to what information, he said.
"There's all these things that the Internet of things will do initially that will be efficient for customers," he said, using the example of car owners who receive coupons when they need oil changes.
Later he added, "the same ability to tell you when ... you're overdue for an oil change could lead AAA to charge you a higher price or could lead your insurance to profile you differently."
Internet of things
Tech experts believe that, someday, pretty much anything people own can connect to the Internet as long as it has the necessary sensors and microchips. Some products that have been developed, but not necessarily commercialized:
Source: IBJ research
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