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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The internet of things race

June 15, 2016 | By David Mitchell, Vice President of Digital Media, Emerging Platforms—AccuWeather, Inc.

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to build traction and gain ground as the leading force in connected ingenuity. Nowhere was this more apparent than at TU-Automotive Detroit 2016, a recent automotive industry expo and conference that centered on the connected car.

The leading enterprises in the tech and auto industry showcased their concept platforms and concept cars all geared toward accessing more and better data while driving. Though participation was international, the show could be seen as the pinnacle of an American ideal – with each user’s vehicle representing their autonomy as an individual and all available cloud-based data as new horsepower to help drive their daily lives.

With each new device and implementation, IoT continues to fire users’ imaginations and build momentum, but there has been a dynamic shift in IoT, one which lends not only speed but also trajectory. Perhaps we are even defining a destination – from high-velocity data to useful and user-friendly information, all by applying greater context.

Context is King
Recently, Google introduced the new Android Awareness API, which brings together all of the data drawn from the sensors on mobile devices to provide the clearest picture of the user. The API will offer data from seven signals including time, location, places, beacons, headphones, activity, and yes, weather.

What the API offers is the “next big thing” in IoT – contextual relevance.

Now content publishers and their advertisers continuously strive to find new ways to offer just the information users need when they need it, all driven by greater temporal and geographic resolution. With better practices for aggregating and parsing available data, we can now not only tell where users are, we can tell how fast they are traveling. We can tell based on their rate of travel whether they are walking, biking, or driving and even build a sense of what they are doing and where they might be going. Needless to say, this information goes a long way toward delivering on that objective:

If the user is driving on the highway between New Jersey and New York, it may be relevant to tell them about the road closure 25 miles away. Much more relevant than if they are walking down the street in Minneapolis. If it happens to be cold and flurrying snow, we might want to remind them about hot coffee available in the next ten miles.

What we are moving toward is a generation of user-friendly devices that provide information on a predictive basis. Publishers and advertisers can provide content relevant to not only where the user is but also where she is headed, which cuts out the static of unnecessary data and creates a better experience.

Forward Looking Solutions
At the TU-Automotive Detroit show, AccuWeather demoed a concept with NNG for a state-of-the-art connected car with AccuWeather’s MinuteCast Along A Route™. The map-based minute-by-minute forecast shows forecasts with Superior Accuracy for every step of their trip. This new level of personalization will help users make decisions about when to keep driving and when to take breaks to avoid severe weather – saving time, keeping users safer, and providing an extra level of peace of mind.

In this connected car concept, we can tell not only where the user is but also make educated guesses about where the user is going and how fast they are traveling based on changing locations. That way we can provide warnings on dense fog or slowed traffic 50 miles away – warnings which would not be useful to someone making a ten-mile crawl into a metropolitan area for their morning commute.

Of course cars offer a pretty flashy context for this concept. However, the same idea of greater temporal and geographic resolution can be applied to other implementations, such as wearables. Each device has the opportunity to add its own unique information to the overall visibility into the user’s actions, often provided directly by the user:

If a user is wearing her brand new Samsung Gear Fit 2, she is able to track her activity on a regular basis and volunteers that information. The user is also getting regular forecasts and alerts from AccuWeather, so we know what kind of exercise she’s interested in and can help her stay out of the rain while doing it.

Of course, with all this data anonymously aggregated these connected devices are opening new possibilities for big data driven studies, like the one we did with Withings which correlates weather and levels of activity for major cities across the world.

Reaching the Goal for Publishers
Users may be daunted by this rush of new data that’s being collected; Enterprises could be similarly stunned by the sudden range of feedback that can be collected and correlated by users to the publishers and device manufacturers. While there are serious considerations such as balancing user experience vs. user privacy (AccuWeather addresses this by anonymizing all user data), you need to keep moving forward so that you don’t miss out on massive opportunity.

Whether your content is news and entertainment or transactionally based, the same principles of knowing your customer better, providing your content or service in a more relevant way, and building stronger relationships and opportunities for you and potential advertisers apply.

Each new form factor and device seems to present a new set of available data. Google valued whether the user was wearing head phones enough to make it one of the seven parameters for its Awareness API, which is logical since it says something about what the user is doing and how they can be approached. Particularly relevant information since voice command is opening up new types of IoT implementations an innovators like AccuWeather partner SoundHound are making that possible for just about any connected device.

With the proliferation of IoT devices, comes the challenge of coding your content for so many platforms. But what could be viewed as audience fragmentation is really a broad opening up of a ubiquitous global audience that can build a relationship with a savvy brand that is able to consistently deliver valuable content with context that would have been unthinkable ten years ago.

Whether your audience is wearing your data on their wrists, around their necks like headphones, or listening and interacting through speakers, you will have a better idea than ever of what they need and how and when to deliver it to them.

Of course, a trusted brand and quality content will always stay in style. You can already find the world’s most trusted, accurate forecasts from big weather data leader AccuWeather just by looking at your smart TV app, glancing at your refrigerator display, or talking to your wireless speaker. Or smart home center. The data has become as plentiful and varied as the people who use it and the possibilities are enormous.

smallDMIn David’s role as Vice President of Digital Media, Emerging Platforms, he is responsible for AccuWeather Inc.’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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