Verizon Weighs in on the Internet of Things 2015

The author, @GlenGilmore, is a social media strategist and educator at the Rutgers School of Business where he teaches executive courses in Digital and Social Media Marketing.  An attorney at law, Gilmore is the author of Social Media Law for Business.  Earlier this year he was named by Inc. to its list of Top 30 Internet of Things Experts.

Dear Reader, please note I have the privilege of serving as a Verizon brand ambassador, which is a sponsored relationship.  Rest assured, though, that the words and thoughts in this post are entirely my own and may not necessarily reflect those of Verizon. 

“If you don’t have an IoT strategy, you should.”  So begins a 2015 report by Verizon on “The Internet of Things” (IoT).  It is sound advice. 

In 2014, Verizon “saw a 45% year-over-year revenue growth” in its IoT business.  Its IoT report, which speaks to public and private sector applications of the technology, adds nicely to the understanding of an extremely important topic. 

The 23-page report,  gated by a sign up, outlines what enterprises are currently doing in the IoT space and provides recommendations on what organizations should be doing to “get the most out of it.”  If offers examples of the advantages of the technology.

The report looks at the IoT application in four sectors:  (1) Energy and Utilities, (2) Manufacturing, (3) Public Sector, and (4) Transportation.

“The Internet of Things?”  It is the world in which we live today.  Things of all sorts have become “connected things,” things connected to the Internet via the smallest sensors.  It is what gives us the prospect of driverless cars, home thermostats that learn our temperature preferences; smart watches that track how much we’ve slept and how far we’ve run.  Get the picture?  As the report notes, it will “revolutionize how we live and work,” with more than a billion connected devices in use today.

Clearing away some of the confusion surrounding the topic, the report observes, “the key ingredients — network connectivity, cloud, security, and infrastructure — have existed for decades.”

What makes IoT so exciting from a business perspective?  Verizon notes that its customers are seeing benefits in three key categories:

  1. Improved customer and citizen experiences;
  2. Accelerating growth and business performance; and
  3. Improving safety and reducing risk.

Why is the IoT accelerating so quickly?  Verizon observes that, “declining cost of sensors, connectivity, and data processing power is making the ROI equations for IoT projects look even more appealing.”  In other words, it’s worth the investment.

IoT adoption isn’t as pervasive as many report.  Interestingly, Verizon study found that the actual number of enterprises that have “adopted IoT extensively” is just at 10%, far less than other reports that suggest a far higher number.

It’s all about the data – actionable data.  People get real excited about data.  Connected “things” generate a ton of data and share that data.  Verizon cautions that the key point is that this data must be “actionable,” it must be “integrated into business processes.”  The secret sauce is “near real-time business intelligence.”

One of the biggest challenges of IoT is figuring out how best to use it.  Verizon notes that to meet this challenges, even “banks and supermarkets are running public innovation events to generate new ideas for using IoT sensors and data.

Yes, IoT will give us billboard advertising out of the “The Minority Report”

Raising privacy concerns, connected devices do tend to track us:  where we’ve been and where we are, allowing some to predict where we’re likely to go next.  Along the way, sensors will ensure that we get advertising that caters to our “likes”, giving new meaning to “ads that stalk.”

If you want to keep us with the Joneses, your home will need to get smarter.  IoT is bringing smarter devices to our homes.  Verizon reports that its network data showed “an 89% year-over-year increase in the number of connections for smart alarms, cameras, and other home security solutions.”

IoT will make everything much more personal.  For business, IoT will take much of the guesswork out of risk assessment.  For example, the automotive insurance industry could replace existing methods of premium assignment that rely on broad categories of gender, age and geography, with a driver’s actual driving habits, introducing “usage-based” insurance.  This could reward safe drivers and place higher premiums on those whose habits demonstrate a higher risk.

Will consumers buy into “connected” cars?  According to the Verizon report, “25% of car buyers said that connectivity made a vehicle much more desirable at the time of purchase.”

Turning data into insights could help existing businesses beat disruption.  There is a broad-based fear of “Uberization” – a fear that a digital startup will disrupt a well-established business or industry by creating a more seamless and efficient user experience and service.  Verizon counters that, “The ability to gather data and turn it into insight is an important factor in building and sustaining competitive advantage. IoT can help.”

IoT will be huge for loss prevention.  In many ways IoT will improve worker safety and lessen business losses.  "IoT-enabled systems can predict and help prevent accidents,” the report notes. For product inventory, remote awareness of threats will reduce losses by activating cameras or triggering countermeasures.

Predictive Analysis and Preemptive Action.  Talking about the variety of IoT solutions that exist, Verizon does a nice job honing in on some of the key advantages of IoT.  So much of the magic of IoT is the use of real-time data collection and data analysis for predictive analysis and preemptive action.  In one scenario, this could be the anticipation of an accident and avoidance measures; in another, it could be the anticipation of a consumer action and the announcement of a coupon to capitalize on the scenario.  As Verizon notes, IoT success is about “agility,” the ability to “predict and adapt.”

Wearables in the workplace will improve worker wellness and safety.  Everyone has an interest in healthcare costs.  Wearable technologies provide opportunities for employer and employee collaboration in improving wellness, lessening healthcare costs, and protecting workers in the workplace. 

Energy and Utilities: 

Smarter Meters; More Reliable Infrastructure

In the Energy and Utilities sectors, “sensor data and advanced analytics can be used to predict the failure of critical components,” “avoiding costly breakdowns. And detailed information on local weather conditions.”  Smarter meters also give the industry far greater efficiencies, with more sophisticated automation.


Remote Monitoring an Added Win

In Manufacturing, beyond real-time stock management and enhancements to workforce safety and efficiencies, manufacturers can tap into IoT to “remotely monitor the condition of equipment,” reducing costs, lessening customer disruption and improving customer satisfaction.

Public Sector: 

Efficiency and Safety

In the public sector, IoT-enabled devices are being used to cut down on energy costs based on actual public usage, smart parking sensors are enhancing down-town visits by reducing drive time and congestion related to finding parking spaces, digital signage is seizing on the aggregation of near real-time traffic information to guide safer and more efficient traffic flow.

Network sensors are both collecting data relating to an array of public services, from monitoring air and water quality, infrastructure stability, early alert of public hazards, and automating responses to address tasks in a more efficient, certain and timely manner.

An energy management initiative using IoT data-tracking and analysis technologies in Charlotte, North Carolina, helped the city reduce total energy costs of “8.4%, equal to 10M in savings.”  Greenhouse gas emissions were also reduced by 20%.


Modes and Pathways

In the field of Transportation, IoT technologies will not only make the modes of transportation safer, from cars to trains, but also the transportation pathways themselves, with smart roads and railways providing real-time data and triggering automated safety and efficiency responses.  Networked sensors will improve transportation efficiencies and safety.

Just how safe will connected cars and smart roads be?   With the adoption of connected car technologies and smart road infrastructure, Verizon predicts that by 2025, “at least five counties will have set a ‘zero road fatalities’ target.”

Standards, a Reliable Cloud  and Security 

Are Critical to IoT Success

Agreeing to standards is still a hurdle in the IoT space, making the decision for partners so critical to reliability, performance and interoperability, the Verizon report notes.

Also, bringing IoT projects to scale deepens the importance of a reliable cloud, as more data is generated and stored.

Enterprises must also be proactive in providing IoT security at every level warns the Verizon report, “not only at the device level.”  The report cautions that in IoT, “every  sensor, device and connection” is a potential risk.  It noted one study that found that “70% of the most commonly used IoT devices contain security vulnerabilities.”

Containing a blunt warning on the risks of an insecure IoT system, the Verizon report notes that hackers could move beyond digital attacks, “like stealing data, moving money, or shutting down websites — they can cause havoc by tampering with infrastructure like electrical grids and traffic signals, or put lives at risk by meddling with healthcare devices, airplanes, or elevators.”  It is a warning that those in the public and private sectors should heed with the greatest care.

The Verizon report lays out a layered approach to security.  It begins with the FTC’s principle of “security by design” and concludes with communications to employees, customers and partners.

“When it comes to IoT, 

you should start small, 

but think big.”

IoT projects don’t have to be huge to make a difference, Verizon says.  Even when enterprises start small, meaningful enhancements in efficiencies and customer satisfaction are likely to be found. 

Wrapping up its IoT report, Verizon notes, “it’s when you start to integrate projects and leverage the data as a whole that it becomes truly transformational.” 

To read Verizon’s complete report, visit the link here (you’ll need to provide some basic information):

State of the Market

Discover how IoT is transforming business results.

Speaking of connections…if we’re not already connected on Twitter, please join me! 

The Magic of Law and Social Media

What to say to a graduating class of law students?...

"Work magic."  Advice for any young professional:  "Do your best to work some magic."

I’ve taken a peculiar path from lawyer to social media strategist.  My law school alma mater recently invited me back to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to be their commencement speaker and to talk about my unusual journey, from Law to Social Media.
I recently authored a book, Social Media Law for Business (yes, I do get royalties from the sale of the book; a disclosure from an abundance of caution), which I guess added some spark for a graduating class of law students who are entirely digital natives.
What follows is my effort to offer a few pearls of wisdom to a graduating class of bright-eyed soon-to-be lawyers from the Widener University School of Law.
I chose to speak about the magic of law and social media.
My old law school said I would have a half hour to speak.  I asked if it would be okay for me to keep my address to about ten minutes.  They said that would be fine.  (I did manage to keep my remarks to about ten minutes, but, there was a quick introduction and ceremony before my address.)

Lessons in Social Media Marketing from the 2015 British Election

"Lessons from London" ~ Photo Credit: Social Media World Forum

The first question posed to the first panel at Social Media World Forum being held at the very cool, cavernous Vinopolis, a wine-tasting venue and wine museum near the London bridge, seemed to this American chair of day one of the event an odd question:  “2015 – Was it the first social media British election?”  How could it be, I wondered.

Five hundred attendees, many of the brightest minds and biggest brands (Coca-Cola, GE, Ford, American Express, Conde Nast) in digital and social media marketing from throughout Europe, crammed into a large hall at Vinopolis to hear the answer.  Moderating the panel, I decided to pose the question first to the audience.  “Was 2015 the first British social media election?”  Few hands went up.

Turning to my esteemed panel, which included no less a personage than the young Tom Edmonds, who had just finished his highly-successful tour of duty as the Director of Digital and Creative for the Conservative Party (yes, my fellow Americans, that means he’s the guy who headed the reelection of Prime Minister David Cameron in the digital and social space), Jason Mills, head of Digital at ITV News, a fast-growing online news service, and John Crowley, Digital Editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, for a traditional and evolving news media news outlet – you may have heard of it:  The Wall Street Journal.

Tom Edwards, who can neither hide his youthfulness nor his keen intellect, dispatched the question with complete candor:  “We really didn’t know what we were doing before.  We were making funny videos and things like that.  This time, we knew what we were doing.”

It’s a whole new world now.  Like Gandalf the Grey turning serious, Edwards explained that going into the election, “We knew who we had to move and we moved them with social media.”  Edwards explained that it wasn’t all digital.  He was quick to credit solid, traditional polling with giving the campaign the insights it needed to target its paid social media marketing to drive votes.

Revealing some of his magic, Edwards said, “We knew who the swing voters were, what they cared about, and we messaged them with that.” 

What can brands learn from politicians 
to improve social media marketing?

“What can politicians learn from brands to improve their social strategies,” was supposed to have been one of the questions addressed by the panel.  Coming off his solid win from the election, Edmonds suggested that the question be turned on its head to ask what brands could learn from politicians (or, more precisely, digital campaign handlers) to drive the results they want.  (No arguing with success.)

“It’s all about the data, stupid.”

Edmonds answer on how brands might find more success with their online marketing activities?  Start with good data.  Message based on the data.  Be precise about your targeting and messaging.  Be agile.  Personalize your message.  Invest in social where you see results.  (Yes, Edmonds has started his own digital marketing firm.  He is certainly available for campaigns locally or globally.  But, as he pointed out, what he did for a political campaign, he can probably do for a commercial brand in a marketing campaign as well!)

The Wall Street Journal “Gets” Social

Not leaving the field of digital innovation to social media savvy political consultants, the Wall Street Journal dove into the 2015 British election cycle with its ever high-quality content, this time, however, geared for a readership accustomed to getting its content online in ways that visualize content and reward engagement. 

What does going digital mean for a 
stogy old news service like WSJ?  
Animation, Games and Social Sharing, of course!

 Explain the basics first.  The WSJ always does an excellent job of providing its readers with a solid body of information to understand both the basics and intricacies of big issues.  Recognizing that many readers from outside the UK would have an interest in the British election, the WSJ decided to provide content that would explain the British electoral process to outsiders.

Er, don’t be surprised by who gravitates to your basic content, when you make it crisp, visual and fun.  “What was surprising for the Journal was that our election explainers got a big social engagement from the UK, said Crowley, a journalist who is clearly excited about growing his readership through innovation and digital.

“A British audience who doesn't follow the ins and outs of parliamentary politics was keen to find out what a ‘hung parliament’ actually means – even if it didn’t eventually happen,” said Crowley.  “Sometimes we’re guilty of assuming when we’re in the trenches that the readership are well-acquainted with what these terms mean. This mobile-friendly animation worked very well for us and was shared widely.”

We all love a game.  We also played around with formats and created a ‘game' to pair up the parties,” Crowley said.  “This did very well for us on social and also served a way to explain what could happen.”  Readers were invited to guess how the parties might align themselves in the upcoming election and the game they played gave them instant feedback on how well they did in their pairings.

Social Media Sentiment Analysis Bombed 

It was supposed to be a close election.  It wasn’t.  How could everyone be so wrong when social media is so good at sentiment analysis?

“Social was a great news gathering tool, but lousy at sentiment (analysis),” said Jason Mills, Head of Digital for ITV News. 

Mulling over the point, there seemed to be a sentiment (borrowing a poor pun first pulled by Crowley) that it may not have been that the data shared on social was poor or inadequate, but that the analysis was lacking. 

Social media gets good grades for news and driving engagement surrounding live events.  Though Mills lamented the poor social media analysis that took place in the British election, he noted that social media was quite good as a tool “gather news” and “to drive engagement and content.” 

Better pick up your pace!  Mills said that for brands and parties, “the instant ability to react is getting more and more important.”

Takeaways for Politics, Media & Marketing

  1. Professionals have gotten much better at using social media to drive results.
  2. Social media marketing in the political arena is getting better – a lot better.
  3. It’s all about data.  (And the money needed to do something with the data.)
  4. Good traditional polling is still a powerful, albeit expensive, tool.
  5. Invest in good polling and trust your polling to craft your messaging.
  6. Target swing voters.
  7. Don’t target swing voters with politics.
  8. Target swing voters with the meaty issues that matter most to them.
  9. In politics, it’s still “about the economy, stupid.”
  10. The political ads you see in your stream are no coincidence – they are targeted to you personally.
  11. Sentiment analysis needs to get better; it’s getting better.
  12. There’s still no app that replaces the nitty-gritty social media marketing work of looking at consumer/constituent social media engagement for insights.
  13. Media has an important role to play not only in informing voters about election issues, but also about the election process.
  14. Make it fun for your readers – heck, make education a game – literally!
  15. To get your message across, make it fun.
  16. “Personalization” is not just a buzzword of the day in digital marketing, it is a key technique in digital campaigning in the political arena.
  17. Twitter is great for getting attention and connecting with media; Facebook (ads) is (are) better at moving voters/consumers.
  18. Get visual.
  19. Use videos.
  20. Add animations to your repitoire.
  21. Make your content “snappy!”
  22. Speed matters.
  23. Add social share to your content.  (This has become an easier sell to the C-suite now that the WSJ does it!)
  24. Give instant gratification. (Engage your constituents, your readers, your customers!)

Bonus takeaway:  Uber-Proof Yourself!  This wasn’t mentioned directly in the panel on the British election, but it became a theme throughout day one of Social Media World Forum and was also the essence of the British elections panel as well:  Uber-proof yourself, your campaign, your consultancy, your business.  Learn to be agile and digital or you won’t make it in politics or the marketplace!

What did I miss?  I’d love to hear from you if you think I’ve missed any of the lessons from the 2015 British election.


Let’s Chat About #Tech and #SocialGood

One of the things I enjoy doing is getting to work with companies that are forward thinking and thinking about “social good.”  Verizon is one such company.  

On a monthly basis, Verizon holds a Twitter chat, which is simply a time on Twitter when everyone and anyone are welcomed to join an open conversation about a given topic.  (Verizon likes to spice it up by usually offering a prize as well to those who RSVP, let their community know about the chat, and join the chat.  

Verizon's May 8th, 2015’s #LifeOnFiOS (the official hashtag) Twitter chat was set to talk about “Technology and Social Good.”  Let’s consider some examples.

Customer Service Call Center…
Using American Sign Language

Using Verizon as an example, just scratching the surface, the convergence of “social good and technology” can be found in Verizon’s creation of a video call center that allows customers to ask questions and receive answers using American Sign Language.  It’s a social good that comes about from the emergence of a technology that allows video calling in real time.  How else might we use this technology for social good?

Verizon’s “Descriptive Video Services” Enable 
Visually-Impaired Viewers
To “Hear” Onscreen

“It’s incredibly helpful” is how one consumer describes Verizon’s “Descriptive Video Service.”  Take a quick moment to find out how the service works.  I think you’ll be pretty amazed!  What more could we be doing?

Join the Conversation/Chat

The two examples just given should get our creative juices flowing.  Join our chat or, if you missed it, add your suggestions in the comments here!  Thanks!

Technology for Social Good:
Some Works in Progress

  • Wearables that help kids with autism recognize the emotions of others from their facial expressions….
  • Augmented reality to help those with color blindness….
  • Wearables for caregivers to track their loved ones in real time….

Your turn!  Comments encouraged!  

And let's connect on Twitter!  @GlenGilmore

Please note:  I’m a sponsored brand ambassador for Verizon FiOS.  That means I do receive some compensation for our collaboration.  Rest assured, though, the thoughts and sentiments are always mine (and, I hope, maybe yours!)