The baby is sick, and Mom is overwhelmed. She’s trying to call her doctor, researching symptoms online, and all while attempting to comfort a crying baby in pain. Few experiences in raising a newborn are as challenging or as frustrating as this one, and yet it’s something every parent faces sooner or later.
The task is even more cumbersome when you’re a single parent, or when the children outnumber the adults. For modern-day parents, rescue is arriving in the form of the internet of things (IoT), which is bringing useful solutions to the daily work of raising a child. From smart baby monitors to health tracking devices and in-home digital assistants that can field questions and conduct online research while both of your hands are busy changing a diaper, IoT is already reinventing how parents juggle their responsibilities.
According to a survey conducted by BabyCenter, more than 71 percent of today’s parents own at least one IoT device, and 36 percent of those owners say that their connected devices make them a better parent. Those findings are significant, given that IoT is still in the early stages of its evolution: tens of millions of new devices, with new softwares and applications, will hit the market in the next few years, while large-scale projects like self-driving cars promise to change not just our daily lives, but the function of whole societies.
Lost in this innovation is the way certain solutions are building a base of users among certain generations. While the sum of IoT’s parts will bring wholesale change to every person’s life, the application of that technology is being used for very different purposes, depending on what that particular demographic needs.
Millennials and the IoT Generation
Millennials have always been the least reticent generation with regard to mobile technology innovation, and in many cases they are the early adopters of new solutions. But millennials have a particular craving for experiences shaped by IoT technology, which is why these consumers are the hardest to please when it comes to remaking the in-store shopping experience. This ability to power new experiences also illustrates the potential of IoT as a marketing technology.
Meanwhile, overnight successes of games and other immersive experiences highlight the millennial desire to use IoT to transform the physical world. Pokémon Go is a shining example: The mobile gaming app, which used augmented reality to power a gaming experience that took place in the physical world, set records for its unprecedented adoption and growth of its active user base. Millennials were the core demographic behind that success, which is one reason why experts expect millennials to be the primary drivers of IoT’s continued movement into the consumer mainstream.
As for generations to come after millennials—including those babies whose parents are already leaning on IoT—they can expect to grow up in a world where the internet of things is a foregone conclusion, the same way today’s 20-year-old might not remember a time before mobile phones. The stigmas and fears of IoT solutions will be even less for these individuals, due to both familiarity and the improvement of security over time. IoT will have infiltrated so deep into daily life that it’s hard to predict where the forefront of innovation will be for these young consumers, but this much is clear: they won’t know how the world worked without this mobile technology. In the meantime, IoT will play a central role in raising and educating our youngest generation.
A New Way of Living for Generation X
Generation X will benefit from mobile innovation that improves and streamlines aspects of daily life, with a particular focus on the practical applications of this technology. Such innovations could mean everything from giving parents a digital assist to driving the car to a doctor’s appointment. These uses show how this marketing technology can also help brands connect to consumers: baby product companies can target their messaging toward parents in need, while smart cars can leverage real-time data to better engage a captive audience.
Health wearables like Fitbit and Nike Fuelband are already popular among this generation, and Gen Xers with expendable income have already taken to investing into smart technology upgrades in their homes, including smart digital thermostats and Bluetooth-equipped locks for their doors.
Even though this generation remembers a time before computers, its consumers tend to be relatively tech-savvy and open to new technologies, especially ones that have a clear benefit. This generation is also positioned to embrace more costly IoT innovations that millennials can’t afford, such as self-driving cars, so where luxury IoT is concerned, Gen X is likely to be the primary market.
Baby Boomers and the Recently Retired
Health wearables like Fitbit have been a big hit across all generations, but the use of health wearables is seen as even more critical for baby boomers. There are a lot of ways this technology can be applied, supporting everything from telehealth to remote patient monitoring. Wearables can reliably monitor health and put out automatic alerts if something goes wrong; the same technology could even be used to call for medical attention if an emergency strikes.
According to Forbes, IoT for health care is projected to become a $117 billion industry by the year 2020. While recent retirees are eager to take advantage of their golden years, health-care-oriented IoT is an opportunity to improve their quality of life and more effectively combat issues that may crop up in later years.
Improving End-of-Life Care
Although the elderly often don’t get much consideration in the conversation around IoT innovation, end-of-life care may be one of the areas of life where change is most radical, and most influential. As The Guardian pointed out, IoT solutions are providing critical services that keep elderly individuals safe and even give them greater independence in their daily lives. In some cases, IoT can delay the need for assisted living and moves to a nursing home.
Solutions (such as those offered by Canary and Howz), for example, provide this service by monitoring light, movement, electricity use, and other common activity in a person’s home. If something out of the ordinary happens, such as a prolonged lack of movement during waking hours, or excessive electricity use that might indicate the stove was left on, these services can send out a notification to have someone go to the home and check on the person. This limits the risk the elderly face when they live alone but want to maintain their independence.
IoT can also be instrumental in compensating for certain disabilities or limitations, such as smart doorbells that account for hearing-impaired or mobility-limited residents. Through this IoT transformation, consumers can live longer, healthier, happier lives, and with greater assurance of their safety.
The applications and audiences for these internet of things innovations will only grow with time. The change will bring new opportunities for brands, developers, and everyday consumers of all ages who are looking for simple ways to improve their quality of life.
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