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March 3, 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly developing force in the digital paradigm, with key players such as Cisco forecasting more than 50 billion active connected devices being in use by 2020. The IoT is already creating waves in the home management space, with remote temperature and lighting controls gaining prominence in most developed markets; an IoT-enabled connected refrigerator that intelligently manages groceries is the next logical development. While we see several such promising innovations in the fields of healthcare, automobile, retail, and manufacturing, there are not too many compelling applications in the media industry yet. This is not to say that the IoT is completely unheard of in the media world, but a careful review will reveal that most use cases of this breakthrough technology hail from other industry verticals. For example, digital marketing interface with retail, or a connected car infotainment system in with manufacturing industry, or a connected home in the consumer electronics space.

Let us first take a look at the core aspects of the media space that make it so unique. This will set the stage for an exploration of future possibilities. We believe that with significant investments and progress in telecom and hi-tech industries with regard to the IoT, coupled with beacon technologies, cloud enablement, and mobility and pervasive platforms, the media industry is poised to make significant IoT-led strides, particularly at the consumer interface level.

What can be an IoT device in the media world? An IoT device should have the ability to command and control, connect inputs and outputs, and connect through TCP/IP or Bluetooth. Considering this as a qualifier, several of our daily use devices are probable starting points, namely, smart watches, wearable devices, smartphones, IP enabled eReaders, smart TVs, and gaming consoles. The communicability of these devices can be extended by embedding specific IoT sensors, transmitters, or receivers, spelling a new paradigm for the digital media business. For example: a headphone may be equipped to collect and transmit audio samples or the RFID chip on a wrist band may provide personalized experiences in a theater or a theme park, or a beacon may be installed in a monument to enable it to provide historical information to tourists on their smartphones.

What are some compelling use cases to start with? The best possible way to begin would be to enable personalized, contextualized, and targeted marketing, with real-world gestures becoming the new clickstream. Second in list could be presenting consumers with personalized media offerings through their ‘connected’ homes or say a live sports/ venue. Other examples include, delivering enhanced infotainment services to passengers through connected cars, offering a seamless digital commerce experience while purchasing physical media. Moreover, the IoT holds the promise of reinforcing, and in some cases reimagining, existing applications of location-based services, augmented reality, and near field communications. Similarly, in the world of education and infotainment, there are possibilities to monitor student behavior in a classroom through connected cameras, or measure the anxiety level of a student during examination, or in fact, offer just-in-time information during field study.

Are technology availability and profitable business model the only barriers? Yes and no. It is much more important for end consumers to understand and appreciate the value IoT-led business models bring. There are clear concerns around privacy, with the way the data gets shared and how it can be potentially misused. From that perspective, exploring more into out-of-home media consumption may have a higher level of acceptance. Moreover, a notion of a win-win exchange of information needs to be established: customers should be convinced that the sharing of personal information is in their benefit and that they will get something in return. Secondly, as the digital-age customers are already overwhelmed with perhaps too many devices, numerous notifications and alert messages from a wide range of devices and platforms, another set of variables being introduced through IoT devices may not be greatly appreciated by one and all. Further, web cookie based or off-the-shelf recommendation engines have not fared very well, in turn reducing customer confidence in such services. Thus, it is imperative to blend IoT technologies with the current paradigm such that they do not become a liability, rather enable accurate and contextual services. Thirdly, the cost of adoption also merits due consideration. Intelligent, connected devices for a smart home are way more costly than their less intelligent counterparts. Does it also explain why the magnitude of promise we see at electronic tradeshows never quite match up to the real-world reality?

What are the key technical ingredients? Apart from core IoT devices, transmitters, sensors, and receivers, the overall technology ecosystem for the IoT is surely going to be much broader and would include other digital elements such as advanced predictive analytics, cloud computing, mobility applications, and social platforms. Key players such as IBM Watson are already providing means to build IoT apps with cognitive services on its BlueMix platform. Thus, while we are still learning to blend data science, advanced mathematics, and statistics with the world of IT, there are newer dimensions taking form each passing minute. A mass-scale integration with embedded systems will probably soon become a necessity for architecting advanced IT solutions.

Stay tuned for our thoughts on what lies ahead… the possibilities, the implications, and the constraints.

Punyabrota Dasgupta is a Domain Consultant and an Enterprise Architect with the Communications, Media, and Information Services (CMI) business unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He has around 15 years of experience in conceptualizing and deploying technology solutions for TCS’ leading clients including television networks, internet companies, and pay TV providers. Punyabrota’s areas of expertise include new media technologies including digital content management, social media, cloud computing, mobility, Big Data analytics, and others. He is an active researcher in the digital media product development space, and has filed several patents around media recommendation engines and digital marketing, in addition to publishing white papers on industry-acknowledged technology forums.


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