The Internet of Things and Market Research: The Connection is Real


The Internet of Things, or ‘IoT’ for short, has captured the attention of technology and business investors in a big way. The IoT is geared to change the way we do business, including how we manage and expand our market research capabilities.

For those who are still in the dark, the IoT refers to the network of gadgets or devices – excepting smartphones, tablets and the like – that are capable of sending millions of bytes of data over the Internet. These devices include smartwatches, smart power meters, home security devices, and other devices with built-in sensors that are able to collect data and send it off to be analysed in real-time.

It is expected that these ‘things’ will use the Internet more than humans in the near future. Nowadays, according to technology research firm Gartner, 5.5 million new devices are being connected every day. This year alone it is expected that 6.4 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide, up 30 per cent from the previous year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.

IDC has claimed a global spending on IoT of close to US $700 billion in 2015. The Asia-Pacific market is the clear leader, with over 40 per cent of the global total. North America and Western Europe are the second and third largest regions respectively, with a combined spend of over US $350 billion.

So, if you are in the market research industry, what does the IoT mean to you?


A broader market segment

When we speak of the IoT, we tend to focus on technology companies, which are often assumed to be the first to take advantage of such innovations. The fact is, aside from these tech players, other market segments and industry players – usually seen as ‘traditional’ – may be among the first to make use of smart gadgets and devices. These segments could include governments and manufacturing firms.

Governments are already in tune with the so-called ‘smart city’ concept, whereby cities are digitally monitored for parking, traffic, crime and environmental factors. The manufacturing industry is also ready for the IoT, and the number of manufacturers using sensors to detect important data in their processes is predicted to rise.

While most of the devices available today are so-called ‘wearable’ devices, smart thermostats and security devices, there is said to be an upcoming shift in focus from the consumer market to the government and business markets. The IoT can be used to enhance supply chains and monitor energy efficiency in buildings, as well as for other uses in various enterprises and industries. As a market research player, your research should include an investigation into existing processes in business and, following this, how these processes could be enhanced by the IoT in the future.

The data collected and generated through IoT-enabled devices is a potential goldmine for market researchers. So far, passive data has mainly been collected through the analysis of social media and online/mobile media consumption. Information collected by IoT devices, however, can produce even more valuable insights into consumer behaviour because they are ‘always on’ and ‘in the moment’. Devices placed in the home and directly on the consumer (as wearables) can especially generate a lot of information about behavioural patterns, movements, and so on.

Cloud computing is also set to play a large role in the growth of the IoT, simply because much of the data gathered by these devices will be sent to the Cloud. And while traditional cloud computing companies like Amazon and Microsoft Azure will benefit greatly from this, other companies and start-ups stand to benefit as well.

The future for market research

Market research firms are also going beyond traditional means: take the case of Thoughtly’s product, Ellipse, which combines artificial intelligence with market research in a big way. Ellipse processes natural language in order to visualise, analyse and summarise a large volume of text, in real time.

In recent years, a number of IoTs have also started to show up at events such as MRMW, a leading conference series focusing on mobile and high-tech market research. For example, Google Glass, Smart Shirts and even drones were showcased at MRMW as potential tools for collecting consumer information. In the arena of data mining and big data in market research, companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook have already transformed the field into a market worth close to US $1 trillion in a span of only a few years. When properly gathered, the fusion of analytical processes with data about consumer behaviour can give any market research firm a tremendous advantage for their business.

With all the advancements going on in market research – and the fact that the use of the IoT is becoming ever more essential and necessary – who knows what the future holds? Wherever it takes us, trends are happening everywhere, and the IoT and market research methodologies are obviously on the same track.

One final tip: when conducting your research, you should focus on understanding the entire topography of the IoT landscape. Your integral focus should be less on the consumer and more on the market as a whole.

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