The Internet of Things: B2B Publishing's Gold Rush
The Internet of Things can be one of those terms that cause you to glaze over. How much bandwidth can we be expected to dedicate to every gee-whiz idea we hear?
Now might be time to pay attention. The Internet of Things is going to make some companies in B2B business information a lot of money.
To make sure we are on the same page, here’s a refresher: The IoT is based on the ability to enable things to have a unique ID – the equivalent of your IP address – and for them to communicate data over radio frequencies. RFID technology, Radio Frequency IDentification, accounts for much of this. When your smart refrigerator is able to send a signal to your car reminding you to pick up a quart of milk, that is IoT. When the ID on your bicycle signals the traffic light you are approaching to give you the right of way, that is also IoT. According to Cisco, by 2020 37 billion ‘things’ will be connected.
The IoT is beginning to generate exponentially massive amounts of data. Some of it will be about your industry. The trick is to identify data insights that are of value. The gold rush analogy is literal. The most valuable data may be right in front of everyone; but until you find it, mine it, and polish it, it is just so much landscape.
You need to know where to look to even realize the IoT is there. Most of these potential data sources do not call themselves IoT. Security networks can be IoT. As can large swaths of the supply chain. Smart buildings -- with a network tying together energy usage, HVAC, access control, sensors, safety equipment, and more -- have become a node of the IoT.
What does this have to do with you? It depends what industry you are in.
Let’s say you cover healthcare, hospitals, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, or the insurance industry. More and more hospitals are tagging and tracking all patients, staff, equipment and supplies, hazardous waste, and more. Is there value in knowing how frequently certain equipment was used in hospitals? Something about staffing levels? Might that contribute to trends or even real-time data that your market needs to know perhaps by metro or region? If you track where medicine or treatment equipment is being delivered, are there healthcare patterns worth reporting?
The answer is a resounding maybe. The upside is big, if data aggregation is in your wheelhouse.
You probably already run stories on the IoT, by one name or another. Have your editors find more implementations. Stories around this topic are almost always worth reporting to your readers. By definition, this is cutting edge stuff. If you never find a data source of value, you still come out ahead with good editorial.
Learn what parts of your industry or business have “things” which are part of this new internet. Fuel refineries and remote depots are being plugged in, might there be anything there? Airports and terminals, traffic systems, and emergency response are also tapping into the IoT. Might there be any value in data about water and electric utility meters? If you had a feed of data tracking where heavy equipment is being used, like tractors or cranes, can value be mined from it?
For help in getting this all sorted out, I recommend you spend some time with RFID Journal and their section on IoT. Search your market terms on the Journal’s site. This could tune you into ideas relevant to your audience. Media Post sends out IoT Daily with a more marketing oriented perspective.
Staking Your Claim
To mix related metaphors, data ownership in the IoT is like the Wild West. Not only are there no rules yet, there are no norms. If you approach a purveyor of IoT data in your industry and ask to license their data, chances are this is the first time anybody has asked them. You will need to explain your goals and guide them.
Let me be clear. This would be aggregated data, or non-PII (Personally Identifiable Information). If a technology vendor has implemented a program for Caterpillar, Enterprise Car Rental, or Boeing, it may be unethical to sell private data about specific equipment or parts numbers. You may need to work with them to massage what data you receive, such as by vehicle class rather than specific vehicle.
The point is, right now everything is up for negotiation. I spoke to one of the leading authorities on the business of the IoT and he assured me this is all uncharted territory. Undoubtedly some companies have been fastidious in locking down certain rights; but the companies who are designing and selling the enabling technologies, like Tyco and Avery Dennison, are not talking about this at all. They are too busy trying to introduce buyers to technologies such as RFID, NFC (Near-Field Communication), RTLS (Real-Time Locating Systems), advanced sensors, and location-tracking ultrasound to be worrying about questions nobody has asked.
Data which has never existed before is being trafficked. It will take effort to find and even more effort to be able to use it. This is just a word to the wise to keep your eyes open and lock it up before the competition does. Of course, you need to have an ability to extract, aggregate, parse, and maybe even analyze the data -- to polish the nuggets so they become recognizable to your audience as pure gold. That I leave to you and suspect that most publishers will need to hire a data vendor, much like you would hire a fulfillment house to manage your lists.
For those of you not knowledgeable about the actual Gold Rush of 1849, I suggest you rent the all-time great John Huston flick, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre starring Humphrey Bogart. That’s all you need to know.
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.