The Internet of Things: Tracking the 'Cross-Everywhere' Consumer - eMarketer
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The Internet of Things: Tracking the 'Cross-Everywhere' Consumer

Digital identity may rely on a blend of smartphones, wearables, biometrics and the IoT

June 24, 2015

Digital identity is increasingly unwieldy. An ever-growing collection of emails, usernames, passwords and profiles are hard for consumers to manage and challenging for marketers to make sense of. The value exchange of services rendered for sharing identity data is also in constant flux. Technologies like wearables, biometrics and the internet of things (IoT) could serve as points of convergence for digital identity to make interactions more personal, contextual and valuable—if consumers are willing to adopt them en masse, according to a new eMarketer report, “Digital Identity: How Tomorrow’s Connected Life Could Help Solve Today’s Fragmentation Issues.”

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Mobile Connections and Penetration Worldwide, 2010-2020 (millions and % of total mobile connections)

As noted, one factor that will play a role in the future of digital identity is the IoT, in which a growing amount of objects have sensors and can be connected to the internet—often without screens. GSMA Intelligence forecast that worldwide machine-to-machine (M2M) mobile connections would triple between 2015 and 2020 to make up 10% of total mobile connections.

GSMA defines M2M mobile connections as “the next wave of smartphones, tablets and consumer electronics, as well as machines, vehicles, monitors and sensors equipped with [M2M] communications.” In other words, objects that talk to each other.

Marketers also believe that the IoT will have a significant effect on how they operate. In a November 2014 survey of CMOs and senior marketers worldwide by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 51% thought the IoT would have the biggest impact on their profession by 2020. Also of note: Just 13% were concerned about the future effect of any type of privacy backlash.

Trends that CMOs and Senior Marketing Executives Worldwide Believe Will Have the Biggest Effect on Marketers by 2020, Nov 2014 (% of respondents)

Martin Gilliard, general manager of the Americas for the Experian-owned ad audience identification provider AdTruth, believes the IoT brings a new dimension to the challenges that marketers have already been facing with mobile. “Anything that was built to solve just mobile devices is going to be different than what you have to use to solve for thermostats or for cars or for wearables.”

Gilliard said that these devices are going to create different signals for the customer. He suggested that “as a brand or technology company, you have to figure out, ‘How do I ingest this information and find things that are meaningful enough in this to connect and understand who this consumer is?’”

Jonathan Schler, chief scientist for ad management platform Sizmek, also described how the IoT changes the nature of cross-screen identity for marketers and advertisers. “I think when you look a bit further out, cross-screen doesn’t become cross-screen anymore—it’s cross-everywhere. Every system interacts with the user, especially if you think about the internet of things.”

The challenge, according to Schler, will be related to data management, as consumers move from having between five and 10 personal devices to dozens or hundreds. One potential solution could be a sort of persistent digital identity that could be established using a combination of smartphones, wearables and IoT devices, with it all tied back to biometrics and user behaviors.

That type of setup may address some current woes with digital identity, but it remains to be seen how readily consumers will adopt this mode of persistent monitoring.

eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Digital Identity: How Tomorrow’s Connected Life Could Help Solve Today’s Fragmentation Issues.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer corporate subscribers.

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