What is it?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the whole ecosystem of internet-enabled devices. Not just computers and smartphones, but smart everything – smart fridges, smart homes, cars (driverless or otherwise), and even the kitchen sink. If it has a small computer that can share data with or take commands from another computer over a network, it’s in the IoT. Given how many things have recently started being internet-enabled, it’s a pretty vast category.
We’re also seeing devices emerge that harmonize all of these other smart devices. In theory, a computer or phone could serve this purpose, but voice assistants in particular have begun to fill this niche. Amazon Alexa and Google Home are two prominent examples – voice-controlled computers that can connect to all your other smart devices, and offer an easy, accessible, novel way to control and learn from them.
It’s a natural development. First laptops untethered the internet from desks, then phones untethered it from keyboards, and now voice assistants are untethering it from screens. Assistants are a totally new interface, and a whole new ecosystem – like mobile apps were ten years ago. And as smart devices make more and more data and actions available to us through the internet, the number and variety of things we can do (and can expect) from our homes is skyrocketing.
New opportunities for financials
For financial institutions, this means a world of new opportunities. The fact of the matter is 95% of people that will use financial services over the next decade will never visit a branch. Instead they will interact through mobile devices, providing data that financial institutions can use to their advantage.
More data means more products and services to offer. There’s a vast expanse of unclaimed ideas out there – after all, this is uncharted territory. Use your imagination – even if it seems like science fiction, it might by now be ordinary!
Financials have endless opportunities. Consider a green mortgage. Offer a special rate on a mortgage for homebuyers willing to green-ify their home. Take smart home management hardware (like Nest), combine it with green technology (like solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and more), and have your mortgage app interface with the devices to ensure they’re working as they should. You’ll have an environmentally friendly, money-saving, government-subsidized product that generates interest and appeals to millennials and Gen Z.
Or what about a smart bank account? A hybrid chequing/savings account that analyses the customer’s cash flow habits and optimizes a distribution between chequing and savings, allowing them to save more without losing access to what they need.
Or a teller-at-home? Offer a voice interface app that lets users check balances, view reports (on their smart TV), deposit cheques (via camera), make transfers, and get savings recommendations – all with just a few words?
Insurers are in an especially good position to create win-win situations for themselves and their clients with IoT devices. Home insurers can offer smart home insurance – home insurance bundled with water sensors, security systems, smoke and monoxide detectors, dehumidifiers, and more, all connected to a central program. Properly installed, this suite could reduce claims by detecting leaks, fires, and other problems before they cause damage – offering a more secure home, and the chance for better pricing for claimants (and insurers).
Auto insurers can encourage better driving habits, suggest safer routes, monitor car wear and tear, and reward safe driving with an in-car IoT app. Similarly, health insurers can offer better assessments and encourage healthier lifestyles with fitness trackers, smart fridges, heart rate monitors, blood sugar monitors, and more. Smart monitoring and dynamic premiums can protect customers with prevention, and protect insurers with better data.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a quote, generally attributed to Galileo, that the goal of science is to “measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so". With IoT, almost everything is now measurable – and if you can create a benefit by providing or making sense of a measurement, the world is yours.
Get in on the ground floor
The Internet of Things is an idea that’s been waiting for the technology to arrive – and it finally has. There’s a ton of momentum – like a gold rush – for smart devices in general, and voice interfaces in particular. Those who get there earliest with the best product stand the best chance of commanding the lion’s share of the audience. So get smart!