"You can’t predict what is going to happen for one simple reason: People"
~Sara Sheridan, in Brighton Belle
Not too long ago I was having a conversation with a neighborhood friend regarding the social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
She went on to explain that she carefully screens each and every friend and/or contact that she adds to her network as not to dilute the "specialness" of each person.
She expounded, "If I just add everyone, then I worry about who might look at my information and cause potential harm to me and/or my family. There are very dangerous people lurking in the shadows of the Internet and I really don’t want to freely expose myself to them".
I can’t really fault her logic... there are indeed quasi-evil people out there who do nothing but gather up data regarding people who use social media... and by quasi-evil people I mean of course those who work at Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram... as well as Amazon, Apple, Google, (just to name a few).
This is the era of "Big Data".
Each and every time we search for a term, book, person, or place that information is collected and cataloged by large online companies who are able to store this information in large digital repositories.
From this massive data, these companies are able to create profiles about what we like, how we buy, and who we know. Our profiles then allow marketers to preemptively predict what might entice us to buy a particular product or service.
My friend erroneously believes that if she limits her connections to other people on social media, this might prevent her data from being collected.
Unfortunately the data is being collected regardless of how many friends, contacts or followers she may have.
If you actually log onto a website... practically any site... you are creating data points that are helping marketers hone a specific message just for you.
So you might say, "I never go onto websites that force me to register... so I’m safe..."
Well... unfortunately that doesn’t work either...
You see... if you carry a mobile phone, paid with a credit card, or used a membership card... then you are actually being tracked like a homing device is attached to your ankle.
Maybe you went to Starbuck’s before going to the office... out to lunch at the Olive Garden... stopped by Staples to get some envelopes... and then went to a class at Corepower Yoga after work.
Big Data aggregators are now able to track people’s entire day, noting where they went... how long they stayed... what they bought... and where they went next.
So you finally manage to get yourself home... you make dinner... do some laundry... watch some TV... and play Candy Crush on your iPad before heading off to bed...
While you may think that you’re safe from more data collection while in your own home... you’re wrong (or will be soon).
A new technology called Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly infiltrating homes under the guise of remote monitoring and sensing through wireless internet connections.
The future is not only here... but it is widely available and affordable to most people.
Imagine a washing machine that is registered with Amazon. You purchase a 64 ounce bottle of laundry soap which is delivered to you via Amazon’s new drone delivery service. Knowing that you use 2 ounces of laundry soap per load as well as keeping track of how many loads you’ve washed via a wireless connection to the internet, Amazon now knows that after about 28 loads or so, it needs to automatically deliver a new bottle of laundry soap to you.
They know that you’ll need more soap before you do...
This past week I was traveling to visit with some key customers.
At one hotel I stayed at, the minibar in the room had sensors on all the shelves so if a bottle or can was removed a signal was sent to the hotels computers to indicate that you had made a purchase. I know this because I mistakenly removed a bottle in the mini fridge to chill a bottle of my own water and was almost charge $4.00 for the soda can that I later replaced.
Cable providers know exactly what channels we are watching or when we use the internet to stream Ted Talks videos.
Soon they will use this information to create custom pricing... charging us for the specific services we use and the channels we watch (think pay-per-view instead of a month subscription).
Our homes are protected via a closed-circuit camera system that allows us to monitor all of the doors and windows of the house via our cell phones.
All of this is being done in the name of marketing... that is, businesses trying to understand the individual needs, wants, and behaviors of consumers.
No longer are companies trying to force feed buyers what they sell. Rather they are looking at what people do and how they think and provide them with goods and services that allow people customized solutions to their individual needs, wants and behaviors.
It’s not that people haven’t always wanted tailored solutions and total customization. The problem with this approach is that it requires too much decision making by the consumer.
No one really wants to design their stuff... they just want to use what’s available to them... mastering the tools instead of creating new tools... instead of making endless decisions...
For at least the last 10 years, components of Microsoft Office, such as Word and Excel have allowed users to create their own customized menus and tool bars to better serve the user.
In that time, I know of no one (perhaps with me being the lone exception) who has actually created customized tool bars (and by customized, I don’t mean just adding a customized signature or changing the default font). They are happy to use the pre-made menus that Microsoft provided.
Much of the time, an option to customize our experiences are already within our grasp... where the true paradigm shift is occurring is that other entities, such as marketers, are now making the customization decisions for us based on our own individual actions.
This is both scary and exciting.
Are human beings really that predicable as to allow machines (computers) to make decisions for us?
...in truth, we’ve always abdicated much of our decision making to others...
We live in a democratically elected republic were we hire professionals (politicians) to enact and enforce our laws...
We go to our houses of worship where we expect our spiritual leaders to interpret our Holy Scriptures and tenets for us...
We work at jobs where executives and managers are trusted to create the rules and make decisions that affect our financial well-being...
There is no way we can participate in all of the decision making that affect each and every part of our lives... nor do we attempt to...
Our collective fates are now being placed into trust that there is someone out there who is looking out for our best shared interests...
We can only hope and pray that this shared self-interest will cause a better society... because at this point in the progression of our civilization there is no way of turning back...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we still believe that the best data collection comes from a two-way dialogue with our customers.
Jim Kalb President
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Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse