IoT is often thrown into the buzzy mix of tech talk surrounding efficiency, data analytics, mass scale automation, the cloud, advancing network speeds and artificial intelligence. The acronym alone sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Is it a fad? Just some newfangled jargon meant to confuse businesses and sell products to consumers wanting the next big thing? Or is it part of next-generation technology?
Those are all fair questions. After all, VR headsets were hyped as the next big thing, but they never quite infiltrated the average consumer’s life.
IoT is a different beast, one that has the potential to truly alter the mobile industry and create opportunities for businesses looking to improve their communication strategies.
But before we get into the long-term implications of this technology, let’s start with the basics:
What is IoT?
IoT stands for the Internet of Things.
This technology creates a network of physical objects that can connect to the internet, other internet-connected devices and users. It essentially makes a device “smart” and allows it to talk to other devices while still interacting with its user.
So, what makes one of these things smart?
Essentially, a “smart” thing is able to collect and send information, receive information and then act on it. Some devices do both, and others specialize. The key is how they share the data seamlessly across the network without needing a human hand to guide them through every task, sync up or refresh.
By connecting to the internet, integrating with other devices and sharing the information, IoT creates a sort of mini ecosystem around its user.
It may sound complicated and futuristic, but chances are you’ve already used IoT. This technology has been on the market for years, in various degrees, and consumers are already growing accustomed to the level of connectivity, responsiveness and personalization the Internet of Things can provide.
For example, if you’ve ever tracked your steps or lap times with a Fitbit band and checked the data on the app, that’s IoT. Have you answered a text message sent to your iPhone from your Apple Watch? That’s IoT. And if your niece has ever shown off her family’s Amazon Echo by commanding Alexa to play Frozen’s “Let it Go” (for the fifth time) through the Amazon Music app, that’s IoT.
The Internet of Things isn’t complicated for consumers. It’s simplifying everyday tasks through devices like smart speakers, smart cars and smart fridges at mindboggling rates.
IoT pushes for more connections, more devices and more user data. It rewards consumers when they store their preferences or add another device by further personalizing their system and increasing their access to a network of apps, things and data.
This reward system drives the expansion of smart things into the market at an exponential rate. By 2020, Gartner expects to see 20 billion internet-connected devices. By 2021, that number jumps to 25 billion, and these numbers aren’t even counting our general purpose smartphones, tablets and PCs.
That many internet-connected and data-sharing devices in a consumer’s life will impact how they search for information, make purchase decisions and interact with businesses. And the infrastructure that’s needed to power this growing IoT market of data and devices will affect the mobile industry on a much larger scale.
IoT is advancing technology, and consumer behavior is adapting as we participate more through our connections and devices as users—as well as buyers.
Pretty cool, right?
Hold on. If this is about the Internet, what’s it got to do with business texting?
IoT is building on top of smartphones and mobile networks. While practically any technology can gain the ability to join the Internet of Things these days (from smart forks that mask the sound of ramen noodle-slurping to sassy-but-smart whiskey decanters) smartphones remain a heavy hitter in the ecosystem.
T-Mobile Sidekicks and BlackBerry phones may not have sported sleek touchscreens, but their ability to access the internet while still operating as a phone made them great choices for men and women in business with large contact lists and constant phone calls.
When the first iPhone released in 2007, consumers from all walks of life developed a taste for the sleek, customizable smartphone with its apps, web browsing capabilities and chat options. Texting has been around for over 20 years, and it’s still going strong. Facebook feeds, Instagram DMs and Snapchat messages haven’t beat text messages out as a viable form of communication, even among Gen Z and the newest “cool” app.
Texting remains high priority in a world where consumers are bombarded with messages. Text messages are effective, even if they don’t seem flashy at first glance. This medium encourages responses and conversation, with 83% of consumers responding to texts within 30 minutes or less.
Texting for Business provides the same convenience to consumers and has the integration abilities of IoT, putting the medium in a unique position to take advantage of IoT technology.
And the prioritization of mobile devices—especially smartphones—gives texting a boost.
Smartphones as the consumer’s new command center
Smartphone ownership is high. Over 96% of Americans own a cell phone, and the majority of those devices—81% of them—are now smartphones.
The smartphone is now mainstream and it’s commonly the first “smart thing” a consumer will own. It’s an entry point into the Internet of Things, so it gets first dibs on integration with new devices and access to user data.
Because the smartphone is portable and versatile, it makes for a natural hub and command center when consumers buy a smartwatch, get a smart speaker as a gift, and so on to build up their mini ecosystem.
High ownership, high connectivity and high levels of personalization—that’s what the smartphone offers in IoT.
Plus, smartphones are still valuable and useful in the everyday life of a consumer. The newest model may be cool and a status symbol, but the older models work perfectly well for texting and surfing the web. And unlike the headphone jack, manufacturers won’t be removing text or call capabilities from their future iPhones, Galaxy Notes and Pixels. That’s because texts, like calls, are ingrained into mobile communication, not just the hardware.
Losing those features would break functionality for consumers and cause gaps in their device ecosystem. The smartphone is a cornerstone in IoT, even when other devices can do similar tasks.
That’s why a lot of IoT developments are focusing on mobile technology. It’s how they’re creating a system of seamless communication between users with their devices.
This is good news for businesses, especially those that have added texting to their communication strategies, as customers are about to become more accessible and more eager for real-time information.
Mobile-first, not just mobile-friendly
Mobile-friendly applies to more than responsive websites. While websites had to scramble to offer responsive sites once it became clear that more consumers were viewing pages on their smartphones and tablets, tech companies are keyed in on the mobile experience for customers.
People still reach for the (smart)phone to research a company online or contact customer service. Their impression of a business’s mobile capabilities is so important that 52% of consumers reported being less likely to engage with a company due to a bad mobile experience.
And consumers are becoming more mobile with the ability to connect to the internet and businesses through features like voice technology and wearable tech.
Voice technology (Look Ma! No hands)
For example, tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are pumping huge amounts of money into their Artificial Intelligence (AI) teams to improve their virtual assistants’ language abilities, voice recognition and voice search.
Why? If you don’t use voice commands very often, they can seem like a novelty—fun and frivolous. But times are changing.
Voice search is expected to make up 50% of all searches by 2020.
Tech companies are jostling to own a piece of the predicted $49 billion space of voice recognition, and AI will be the key to a device’s ability to learn human speech, interpret commands and queries and deliver relevant results.
IoT is making it possible for voice technology to become part of the everyday life of average consumers, not just the tech enthusiasts. By integrating virtual assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby and Alexa into smart things, IoT enables people to do more with their voices.
The network rewards user and device connectivity, and AI gets smarter the more it’s used. So naturally, smart technology companies benefit from integrating their tech into a consumer’s everyday life. Smartphones stay with consumers no matter where they go, and smart speakers are finding permanent places in consumers’ homes to keep people connected even after they’ve set their phone notifications to “do not disturb” after work. And both devices support voice technology.
In fact, smartphones and smart speakers are the two devices most used to issue voice commands. They’re hands-free and growing more popular overtime. Smartphones are already ubiquitous across the U.S. and smart speaker ownership grew by 78% between December 2017 and 2018.
At the start of 2019, there were an estimated 66.4 million active smart speakers in the U.S.
Text and voice pair up to deliver to consumers
We know what you’re thinking: this will all be useless for text-based messages. We’ll have to go back to phone calls!
Virtual assistants and speech-to-text technology would beg to differ.
Text-based communication, like text messages and web results, are still critical to the overall system that allows for voice commands and voice search.
For one, voice search technology still needs to “read” text to bring up results—at least on the technology’s side. A virtual assistant needs to flip between voice and text to interpret a command and then search through its database. This shift is already beginning to influence webpages, as Google is starting to prioritize content using natural language for its search results. If voice search can’t find the content, it’s not going to share it with the user.
Luckily, text messages can be easily found—and read—by voice technology.
A basic voice command like “Siri, read my messages” will give the virtual assistant access your text messages on your iPhone to read them aloud through your smartphone or smart speaker. And yes, Siri can also send these messages directly to your AirPods.
Need to respond hands-free? Speech-to-Text technology allows users to dictate a message to their virtual assistant to be transcribed and sent off with no one the wiser. At least that’s the goal, as voice technology improves to manage errors and companies like Microsoft aim for real-time translations and transcriptions by leveraging AI.
This integration, thanks to IoT, with the user’s contacts in their smartphone means that the virtual assistant can then take the message and “Send to Jane” without requiring any button pressing.
Texting for Business can play in this ecosystem
The smartphone continues to be a prime point of contact for consumers due to its ability to “play well” with voice technology through text messages. They can be “seen” and read out by virtual assistants or pushed to a smartwatch for a reply. Texting can work with IoT devices instead of against them, in part because they’re not bound to a single app.
Text messages have the advantage of being an open-communication system, not bound to one platform or device model in the consumer’s life. That improves its chances of integrating with IoT devices across brands and boosts the likelihood of a text reaching the customer.
Increasing consumer demand for real-time, responsive communication
The Internet of Things is all about connectivity, continuous engagement, interaction, seamless transitions across devices and real-time results. As consumers grow accustomed to these features, their expectations for business interactions will adapt. Anything less could leave them seeking out other businesses.
It’s like shipping for online orders. Realizing you’ll have to pay for seven-day shipping in a world of Amazon Prime may give you pause. It’s just enough hesitation and friction to discourage a potential customer from moving forward with the purchase. When a customer’s life is filled with responsive technology, they aren’t going to accept long delays in their business interactions.
However, that doesn’t mean people are accepting fast, one-size-fits all approaches either. Even now, consumers report increasing frustration when they can’t respond to a business’s automated text message to simple tasks like rescheduling an appointment. That makes sense, since it requires them to engage and disengage from one medium (in this case, a one-way text) and switch to another, such as a phone call or email, to do the same job. It’s inefficient, unresponsive and not customer friendly. There’s no way for the customer to interact or have a conversation with the business.
That’s why two-way texting gains a foothold in customer responsiveness. It’s fast, conversational and personalized. And it doesn’t require superhuman speed to achieve the level of interaction that consumers want.
Instead, Texting for Business software leverages features like segmented Group Messaging, Dynamic Fields and Auto Replies that can be triggered by Keywords. The result is a personal reply or real-time conversation in response to a customer’s text without the latency found in playing phone tag, waiting on hold or the nearly inevitable acceptance of an email that was lost to the depths of a cluttered inbox.
Texting can deliver on customer demands for responsiveness, which in the IoT world will mean high levels of engagement with fast and personalized interactions.
Personalization, brought to you by user data
Two-way texting allows for conversation and makes it easy to add a personal touch to professional communication. Whether it’s the inclusion of the customer’s name in the message or a brief introduction of the sales rep like you’d have in real life or over a phone call, personalization adds value for consumers. Especially when the Internet of Things is involved.
In IoT, personalization is more about adapting systems by using AI to learn the user’s preferences, habits and behavior. The more information these devices collect from user interactions, the more the system can learn about the consumer and adapt to suit them.
Take Netflix’s algorithm for example. If a friend uses your account, you might soon find yourself resenting their cinematic tastes as your personalized recommendations adapt to their behavior and grow less useful to you.
It’s bespoke, and no one’s about to trade in their custom fit for a run-of-the-mill alternative. And that attitude stretches to business interactions.
Applying AI and machine learning to things like consumer activity, past purchases and searches creates faster and better personalization, which in turn creates a more convenient customer experience. It’s a customer centric strategy on an individual level.
As customers begin to distance themselves from the physical buying process by shopping online and through their virtual assistants, they weight their entire experience with the business over a single purchase or product.
The sale becomes the starting point for the customer-business relationship. That relationship is continued as the businesses personalize future interactions, improving the process for the customer and creating customer loyalty. Personalized recommendations are also more relevant to customers, increasing a business’ ROI on targeted marketing campaigns and conversion rates.
Customer centric businesses were found to be 60% more profitable than those that did not focus on the customer. That may not be surprising given the success of companies like Zappos and the “customer obsessed” Amazon, both of which push for fast, personalized and convenient customer experiences to provide value. That value can transfer across platforms and technology because it’s linked to the whole experience rather than a static good or service.
People are usually willing to offer user data in return for convenience and high levels of service. But they need to be confident in the business’s security.
IoT’s security vulnerabilities and data privacy concerns
Highly personalized experiences, like Netflix’s complex recommendation system, require lots and lots of user data. IoT devices are predicted to generate over 79.4 zettabytes of data in 2025 (for reference, one zettabyte is equivalent to one billion terabytes, and one terabyte is made up of one trillion gigabytes.)
IoT devices can track heart rates with sensors, movement with GPS, decision making factors based on likes and dislikes and individual speech patterns. The system can learn a user’s routine, store contact and payment information to reduce the steps needed to make a purchase or get directions. All of this makes the Internet of Things so smart and customizable, but also increases the risk of data breaches.
These ecosystems can add many devices with varying levels of security to things that already store user information. Plus, they can access the internet. User data can be as simple as knowing that a user prefers pop over jazz music, but it can also be Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
Smartphones, for example, often store large amounts of information about a person and some of it is sensitive, which is why it’s so vital businesses use data encryption. This is especially true for industries like finance and medicine that routinely deal with PII. To protect that data, businesses also need to follow best practices for compliance and safety, as outlined by the TCPA. Those include honoring opt-outs, requiring consent and using conversational language.
A phishing attempt that installs malware could be especially detrimental for a consumer’s IoT ecosystem of devices and data. The business texting industry is unique because of how software companies and carriers work together to protect consumers from spam and phishing attempts. As smartphones integrate with more devices, collect more data and connect to the internet, compliance and data privacy will need to adapt to cover IoT.
Improving cellular networks to accommodate IoT
We’ve talked a lot about internet, but we can’t forget another important network: cellular networks.
Cellular IoT will also be used by some devices, connecting them to mobile networks to transfer data to devices and the cloud. It builds off of the same functionality as a smartphone without Wi-Fi, essentially having the smart thing “piggyback” off a mobile network.
By 2024, there will be an estimated 4.1 billion IoT devices connected to cellular IoT. With the surge in data and device connections, alongside texts, calls, internet and app usage, mobile networks will need to buff up to accommodate IoT. It will need the next generation of infrastructure.
5G, the fifth-generation cellular network, is especially exciting for the mobile industry and IoT. It’s a tide that will raise all ships and bring exciting capabilities to what smartphones, applications and even texting can do.
For one, 5G will be 10 times faster than our current 4G LTE by improving data throughput and speed while decreasing latency. The network is also expected to be more efficient and denser, allowing for more connectivity with IoT devices across the country.
IoT needs 5G to work properly. With smart cars and even smart cities entering our reality, new standards are popping up. For texting, that new standard will be RCS messages, which 5G will help integrate even further into smart devices.
RCS and IoT
Rich Communication Services (RCS) may sound intimidating, but it’s a piece of technology that’s likely on your phone now. By 2020, 86% of phones will be RCS enabled and that has huge potential for businesses that want to reach customers by text. If 5G is the next generation of cellular networks, RCS is the next generation for texting.
RCS makes texting even more interactive for customers. Everyone was thrilled to start including emojis, GIFs and photos in their texts when Multimedia Messaging (MMS) became available. RCS goes even further, making it possible to send payments, use personalized suggested replies (which are great for IoT devices like smartwatches), view local restaurant menus and even book appointments all through one text conversation.
Zipwhip CEO John Lauer explained on the Folk Life podcast how RCS messaging will simplify interactions between businesses and customers. His example? Ordering a pizza.
“You should just be able to text your pizza order in saying, ‘Hey, give me the same thing as last time,’ and they reply back, “Yep, gotcha. Two larges, breadsticks, a thing of Coke. We got your credit card on file. We’ll be there in 35 minutes.’ Done. It was one text in and one text back. That’s the dream. That’s the utopia.” –John Lauer, CEO of Zipwhip
That utopia requires a lot of technology. It requires businesses to have texting software with automation tools to help teams keep up with the demand for responsive and personalized communication. It will require data encryption to protect consumers’ payment information, and spam monitoring to keep the medium free from spam and scams. And it will require 5G cellular networks to manage that throughput and make it possible to reach customers across devices.
An era of the Internet of Things is an exciting time for texting.
As consumer preferences evolve with IoT technology and they continue to ask for personalized communication without the wait times, businesses will find more opportunities to utilize Texting for Business.
Business texting and IoT can work together to ensure a stronger customer connection, and a good experience. It’s what will help a customer quickly respond and confirm an automated appointment reminder text from their smartwatch before they head into their next meeting… or covertly text to reschedule that same appointment as the meeting runs late.
And once that customer is home and cooking dinner while listening to their favorite radio station on their smart speaker, they can still reach out when the DJ says announces the sweepstakes code. All it will take is a voice command to tell their virtual assistant to text in that code to the station and they can keep cooking without missing a beat. After that, who knows? Maybe they will end up ordering that pizza through a single text. That utopia for communication is closer to reality than science fiction.
The Internet of Things, next gen mobile network and voice technology are all set on connecting people in one way or another to make everyday things more personalized and efficient.
And that’s what texting does, too. It’s a medium that can integrate into these growing networks just like the next smart device.
After all, Texting for Business is pretty smart.
Want to see what your team can do with Texting for Business? Start a free trial today.