Life through a lens…
Humans are creatures of habit and technology is adapting to that fact. Nick Ross explores what the internet of behaviours is and how it affects day-to-day life.
The Internet of Behaviours is a relatively new term that’s evolved from both the marketing analysis of shopping behaviour and the analysis of big data derived from the Internet of Things. While there are significant superficial differences, both involve varying gains in efficiency, health, safety and productivity, plus losses in privacy.
Perhaps, a good place to start is the rude awakening that comes courtesy of the marketers: your credit cards and loyalty cards know more about you than your spouse does and the people who own that information routinely sell to anyone who’ll buy it.
On the one hand, marketers are doing increasingly clever (and automated) things with it, like sending you targeted ads and brand-loyalty offers for your favourite products that are actually useful. However, things take more of a turn when someone buying pregnancy tests triggers their integration into a sales funnel that will see them being offered specials on nappies and formula in nine months’ time and increasing-sized infant clothes and accoutrements thereafter.
Things get even more iffy with potentially sensitive purchases surrounding medication and related treatment paraphernalia. How could you profit from identifying a married person buying prophylactics on a night out? Send them divorce lawyer ads?
Many websites and online stores are hooked into increasingly sophisticated CRM systems (customer relationship management) which identify (and assign scores to) the webpages you look at, the emails you open and which products lie abandoned in your cart. When your behaviour hits a lead-score threshold you’re automatically ascribed a marketing persona which either triggers a call from a salesperson or placement in a sales funnel of automated, personalised emails and ads that keep coming until you buy something.
The clever systems would stop there: if a customer just bought a one-year mobile phone plan, pause the ads until 12 months later!
A related area is chatbots. While these are frequently rubbish, others are approaching Turing Test levels of humanity and a well programmed one with artificial intelligence can fend off angry calls to expensive, customer service employees. For instance, Uber offers instant refunds and apologies to its highest-rated customers who make occasional complaints, but less valuable customers get put through the mill. Could this behaviour-identified, customer-experience response be a model for convincing customers to give over more of their data while simultaneously boosting brand loyalty?
Trust and privacy
The tolerance for privacy impingement will vary from person to person. Most people live in blissful acceptance regarding what marketers know about them. But what about more-nefarious third parties? Data breaches at major organisations happen all the time.
Furthermore, has someone you live with set-up a smart speaker with a virtual assistant? Almost everything it hears gets transcribed and stored in the cloud where it’s accessible by the account holder. Virtual assistants do this to get a better understanding of your intent: the tone and inflexion of your voice are measured to improve results. Your smartphone does likewise and is constantly listening to your conversations to subsequently deliver related, personalised ads when you browse the web.
Meanwhile, Forcepoint is a security company that identifies and monitors regular employee behaviour to protect valuable company data. Deviation could be indicative of an intention to leave (or worse). This might involve copying sensitive files from a server or accessing unusual locations. If enough red flags are raised, management gets alerted.
Is IoT any better?
The proliferation of IoT devices means that more and more individual, physical actions are being recorded – giving us additional insight into behaviour. Every industry is impacted but Aged Care represents a potentially positive starting point.
Basic IoT pressure sensors can recognise when someone gets out of bed, opens the fridge, boils the kettle, runs a bath and goes to the toilet which paints a non-invasive picture of a healthy, elderly person’s routine. Should that behaviour deviate, an alarm triggers someone to check-in via phone or in-person. It enables vulnerable people to live alone for additional years before requiring assisted care.
COVID-19 forced the construction industry to digitise overnight. The resulting proliferation of IoT devices and the liberation of data, from multiple silos to a centralised cloud with AI analytical processing, delivered numerous productivity gains, insights and efficiencies. Improved on-site visibility exposed the duplicate-ordering of machinery; fuel fraud was eliminated with automatic sensors detecting when a site needed more fuel, automatically ordering it and ensuring the correct amount was delivered; crane-mounted smart cameras automatically policed restricted areas.
Sensors even tracked cement batches from a factory to the exact pour site. This included information on the mixer-truck and identified whether a driver was caught in traffic or if they turned the mixer off to reduce fuel costs. It all provides a complete digital history of a building which informs purchasers if corners were cut while reducing insurance premiums.
The insurance industry appears to be a great driver in this space. Not only is there potential to monitor a new driver’s actions and adjust premiums accordingly, but it’s also already being used by haulage fleets. Repeated, poor driving behaviour like driving too close to leading vehicles, rapid braking, exceeding speed limits and driving too long without a break can now, automatically, send notifications to management (and insurers) if a malfeasance threshold is breached.
Governments too are getting involved by recognising the cost and efficiency benefits of behavioural monitoring. At a basic level, smart water and electricity metres more accurately identify supply and demand. People and traffic flow applications are also being embraced: the latter helps identify accident hot-spots, broken-down vehicles, vehicular occupancy and can optimise parking spaces. Pedestrian behavioural identification provides intelligence on public transport requirements, provisioning for lunchtime eating spaces and provisioning for bins and ablution facilities.
The Internet of Behaviours is upon thanks to the increased availability and processing of individual actions. At present IoT-related benefits tend to intrude less on our privacy but that’s possibly because marketers haven’t got their hands on the data yet. As with any blooming young industry, much will hinge upon the privacy and security related fleas that come with the dog.