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Killer app IoT

What’s the killer app for the Internet of Things?

IoT lessons from Taylor Swift and Disney

Laura Lucas | August 28, 2015

When a new technological innovation reaches the peak of its hype cycle, how do you separate the promise from the reality? Hype from value? The Internet of Things (IoT) has reached peak hype, and while some implementations like Google Glass and Apple Watch have not yet matched initial expectations, others created for entertainment and stadium experiences have been brilliantly implemented.

It takes time for products to realize the full possibility of a new technology—and for the ecosystem to develop around it. Many early technologies lack network support. There were fewer than a thousand apps available for the iPhone when the app store launched in 2008, and now there are 1.5 million (according to Statista). For complex products, high expectations may be met over time as support systems grow to meet a product’s potential.

For a product to move beyond hype toward productivity, it must offer customers value unavailable through existing technologies. Early demonstrations of this value for IoT come from focused products that provide value out of the box, without relying on a broader network to develop and create innovative capabilities.

Transforming the customer experience

FitBit was the first great IoT success. From weight-loss programs like Weight Watchers and South Beach to personal trainers and specialized gyms that help us stay fit, consumers have searched for ways to stay on track with their health and fitness goals, making an ever-present wearable companion the perfect partner to assist with awareness. FitBit offered this new service to its customers and broke through.

As those who have been lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World since the 2014 launch of its MagicBand (the colorful wristbands that have transformed park access and interactions) know, the Magic Kingdom has once again leapfrogged the industry with a frictionless system that delivers even more magic to its customers by removing pain points and risks that accompany any theme park experience.

Executives at Disney started with the customer experience by imagining a park without turnstiles, taking Imagineering to the next level (detailed in Wired). Though inspired by early wearable technologies, Disney designed their innovation from a customer’s point of view, ensuring that the final result would be a simple customer delight on stage, with the technological complexity behind the scenes.

Stadium events have also been improved by wearables. The endless lines to get into events or for food and drinks were minimized at last year’s Ryder Cup and Lollapalooza with wristbands that enabled ticketless entry and cashless purchases. This year, Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour uses wristbands in the flawlessly produced show to create connections among attendees as they become part of the show through orchestrated lighting changes.

Taylor Swift 1989 tour

Measuring results

One of the most challenging questions when assessing new technology investments can be measuring the return on investment (ROI). In a case like FitBit, the success of the product is relatively easy to measure through sales. With IoT applications, like those created for Ryder Cup and Lollapalooza, vendor purchases and other user behaviors are relatively simple to quantify through data tracked within.

Returns on applications with more intangible benefits are less straightforward to measure. For Disney’s MagicBand investment, calculating the return is complex. While increased numbers of purchases from reduced friction and sales of special-edition bands are simple to consider, and the well-proven value of big data is also relatively straightforward, the greatest value of Disney’s billion dollar MagicBand investment may be the intangible benefit of creating “magic” by increasing connection with their customers.

It is this element of customer connection that could be the greatest promise of the Internet of Things. Innovation that offers opportunities for people to connect has delivered exponential growth in the past decade, and as Gartner notes, the Internet of Things may create the next significant increase in productivity.

In a large stadium filled with 60,000 people, how do you create feelings of trust and friendship? With Taylor Swift’s well-recognized marketing genius, she could undoubtedly create that connection without new technology. However, it is interesting to note that the bands distributed at her shows are not used for purchases or other types of commercial tracking—but for creating human connections. With lighting changes that mirror the stage show, attendees connect with fellow fans around the stadium as 60,000 lights move together dancing, clapping, and waving. The experience continues as people leave the stadium dancing together, their wristbands now illuminating as they move.

Consumer response to Disney and Taylor Swift speaks to the value of this connection. As Millennials shift buying patterns toward experiences—according to a Harris Poll report commissioned by Eventbright, 78% would rather buy an experience than a thing—investments that improve experiences will increase in value. Human connection is the IoT killer app.

How will your company leverage the Internet of Things to strengthen human connections?

Laura Lucas

Laura Lucas is a solution principal with the Digital Strategy & Commerce Practice for Slalom Consulting, providing thought leadership and delivery of innovative solutions impacting all digital interactions with internal and external customers, including product design, customer experience, marketing, web & mobile commerce, demand generation, social media, and content management.


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