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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The unified field theory of IoT

December 1, 2015 | By David Mitchell, Vice President of Digital Media, Emerging Platforms—AccuWeather, Inc.

Albert Einstein, noted physicist and author of the only advanced physics equation most people have committed to memory, spent the latter part of his life trying to find a general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. Trying to find a harmony with his earlier success in relativity and the nature of…nearly everything else, he was ultimately unsuccessful despite being ahead of his time.

Of course, everything is increasingly connecting through a combination of technology and demand. We have yet to finish Einstein’s work, but we are making leaps in connectivity; connecting the outdoor temperature, humidity, chance of precipitation and the needs of our lawns with smart sprinkler systems. We are combining optimal activity conditions and our running goals to create optimal programs for healthy activity on our smart fitness trackers. We are integrating live video feeds with local alerts in home monitoring systems to make our homes safer and more convenient. This combination of data sets with a focus on form and practical function has become what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Going Beyond Big Data
To anyone living in the connected world, data overload is a daily reality. Like a Dr. Seuss narrative, data keeps “biggering and biggering,” with questionable results. Why? Because consumers don’t necessarily want more data: Rather, they need solutions that help them make their lives easier. IoT makes the connection where “Big Data” can’t, bridging from big data sets to a form factor that fits into people’s lives.

So how can your company’s content successfully play a role in the expanding world of IoT? The answers will ultimately be provided by the consumer, but there are a few basic principles to follow:

  • The whole can be more than the sum of its parts. In other words, if you have the best data available for traffic, that’s the basis for a valuable app – but not a revolutionary app. If you can combine traffic with flight delay information, or movie times, or live event start times, you have created an invaluable tool for people who need a simple answer to a paramount question at a specific moment in their lives.
  • Make it easy. Studies have shown that while smart device users download many apps, just a few get used every day. If you want to be an essential part of a user’s life, you have to make answers not just relevant, but reliable, quick, and easy to access.
  • Form is as important as function. Smart devices in general, starting with smart phones and then moving onto tablets, wearables, and a whole universe of IoT devices, have already caused disruptive change in users’ lives. Look for places where you can change your approach to meet the existing habits of your user. Watches for example have significant restrictions in screen size, but the form factor appeals to users because they fit rather neatly into an existing space in users’ lives (or rather on their wrists) and so have taken off as the most commonly adopted form of wearable.
  • Imagination is key. Even if your content seems strictly B2B, don’t discount the potential consumer value when put into a form that is easy to use and shows the consumer how the information can be applied. An app that measures the pressure of contained fuel may not seem to have consumer appeal, but combined with other data sets it could help users predict the mileage for their commute or when they need to buy heating oil or gas for their homes.

I’ve been fortunate to work with content that is wanted and needed by nearly every kind of consumer and business all over the world. That has made my role leading emerging platforms particularly exciting, but since there are so many potential uses for data on something like weather, we’ve kept a particularly open mind about how the data could be of benefit to people.

For example, AccuWeather recently cross-referenced our data with Withings, leaders in the connected health revolution and makers of great activity tracking devices, to come up with some interesting findings on how weather impacts peoples’ desire to be active and provide insight into the optimal temperatures and conditions for activity according to location and demographic.

Of course, other practical examples already on the market include Garmin wearables, smart TVs, smart appliances, smart homes, smart cars, and every kind of implementation that shows promise where weather is a good fit for the users of the device.

In IoT, the consumer is showing technologists the way even as advances in technology make new things possible for consumers. As the global leader in weather data, we are ready to meet our audience on the “next big thing” no matter what that might be.

As the market continues to innovate and available data moves more rapidly than ever before, reliable, easy to use solutions only grow in relevancy. We at AccuWeather are excited to meet all the future challenges brought by whatever revolutionary platforms or form functions the market chooses with our forecasts with Superior Accuracy™, and so should your company.

This is truly an exciting time to be at the forefront of maximizing the value of human interactions with the confluence of smart technology and big data.


In David’s role as Vice President of Digital Media, Emerging Platforms, he is responsible for AccuWeather’s suite of universally-accessible mobile and connected products within the emerging platforms marketplace. He spearheads the integration of current and new weather data sets within emerging platforms – including smartphones, tablets, connected TVs and appliances, wearable devices, smart cars, and smart homes.

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