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Leap Forward with Me

Acxiom Last Updated June 12th, 2020
Leap Forward with Me

It’s leap day. Do you remember what you were doing in the area of Big Data or the Internet of Things last leap year? Last leap year I was looking at competing data sets for predicting automotive sales. One had rich history and detail about the cars and the other had more information about the buyers. My manager stated that the decision was really simple – we should we go with the second set. When questioned about it he said, “Because cars don’t buy cars, people do.” Parallel testing on how predictive the data sets were later proved his point.

Same can be said of the Internet of Things. Things don’t typically buy things… unless we are speaking about The Thing from Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four fame. I am also excluding M2M (machine to machine) and industrial usage and focusing just on consumer IoT. As more and more news about the Internet of Things and data emerge, I am reminded of the importance of factoring in the key element, i.e. the individual who owns/uses these devices that are recording and sharing usage data.

One common example given is an automatic, trigger-based purchase for a smoke alarm battery. Wouldn’t that be a blessing? Because it’s almost always at 3 a.m. after a long day when the dreaded chirp from the smoke detector is heard. On days that you really feel that the universe is conspiring against you, the other smoke detectors join in that insomnia chorus. In such a case, whether the automatic order is time-triggered or a battery life triggered, I think we will all prefer it.

However, is the human element completely out of the picture? Do I care what battery it is? Brand? Price? So at some point in time I have to factor in user preferences. These preferences often change based on a myriad of influences including personal experience with a new product, reading about a product, referrals or advertising. More on it later, but first join me in reminiscing about IoT-related events over a number of recent leap years:


  • LG announces plan for its connected refrigerator.
  • Civilian GPS authorized by US Congress.


  • GPS systems in cellphones are tested.
  • Wi-Fi hotspots offered by AT&T.


  • Livescribe introduces the first smart pen which can transfer notes to the cloud.
  • Nike officially announced its new Nike+ SportBand with its online runner’s coaching system.


  • Google announces testing of Google Glass.
  • Proteus Digital Health is given FDA clearance for ingestible medical device which communicates information to mobile devices.


  • Gartner predicts that by 2016, smart garments will surpass smart wristbands.

A few thoughts come to mind when I look at this timeline:

  • Many bets were made. Some seemed to be ahead of their time, some were intriguing but not sticky, some were bold experiments into what the future of medicine or human and machine interaction may become. Some stuck and revolutionized industries, while others delivered a completely different way to engage with users.
  • While four-year increments seem like a small measure of time, the recent advancement in those years has been phenomenal. The pace of growth has been increasing, and so has the pace of opportunity for marketers. What marketers are starting to do today or how they are using this new rich data to enhance what they are already doing will have a major impact over the next four years.
  • As we look at incorporating combinations of existing and emerging devices from a 1-1 marketing point of view, a personal or household ecosystem becomes important. Especially since there is an increasing number and variety of IoT products. Today, connected cars and smart homes show a rapid pace of growth, and the growth in health and fitness products and their data has been phenomenal. This makes it important that we look at the data from different devices in concert rather than independently.

The best way to find value in oceans of data with changing waves of signals is to be able to connect signals from devices to people, understand their propensities and preferences. Devices will come and go. The type of data, richness, and frequency – all will continue to evolve, as will people’s preferences. Anchoring device data to people in a smarter and privacy-compliant manner in a safe haven environment will help marketers go beyond understanding what is taking place, when, and where, and will also provide better insights into why. The findings will help develop the strategy. Ability to engage in omni-channel experimentation and testing will help drive results.

What will we see when we look back on the next leap day? As for myself I hope that some company can track coach lights outside my house and the really high light fixture in the entryway, and send someone over to change them before they go out. Have you thought about what you can do today to couple the data from connected devices and other sources with your customer and prospect data in a privacy compliant manner and distill information? How you can use that to drive new and exciting marketing programs? Lets talk over coffee or email me at I still feel like a superhero paying for coffee with my watch.