All the data generated by connected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) has been somewhat ambiguous and invisible to businesses. We all know that the IoT offers huge potential for data collection and analysis to improve customer experiences, but the how behind it has been somewhat elusive without a data scientists on staff and a hefty development budget to boot. This presents a problem, as McKinsey reports IoT applications could have a potential economic impact of $11.1 trillion per year by 2025 – an amount only reachable if companies can begin to make sense of the IoT’s constant data stream.

Earlier this week, Salesforce.com (SFDC) announced its plans to help customers intake, analyze, and act on both IoT data coming from the wearables around us but also sales and service data already in SFDC’s CRM tools. The product, IoT Cloud, “will ingest, filter and transform the data and then tie it back to the Salesforce platform where users can work with the data to understand their customers better,” according to early reports from TechCrunch. It’s powered by SFDC’s new operating system, Thunder, and built on four existing open-source big data analytics platforms, which you can read more about here.

Salesforce IoT cloud

Salesforce’s IoT Cloud seamlessly connects to its other service, analytics, and sales CRM products to offer a complete customer view.

The significance of SFDC’s investment in the IoT can’t be ignored. SFDC is banking on the prediction that data gathered from the millions of sensors around us, about our behaviors and preferences, will someday be equally as important (if not more so) than existing data about our actions within sales, service, and digital analytics software. In other words: someday, our devices may know more about us than we do, and businesses will be able to offer predictive products and services with the help of products like SFDC IoT Cloud.

I find this proposition both exciting (because, hey, who doesn’t want more relevant, real-time problem solving?), and also anxiety-inducing (because my connected products are basically making decisions on my behalf).

SFDC IoT Cloud will also begin to solve the current problem of interoperability between connected devices. Today, the most likely scenario is that our devices transmit data to the cloud, but the “cloud” isn’t a single repository. Rather, data exists in multiple silos, with no connection, limiting the ability for us or businesses to analyze it and trigger future actions accordingly. However, if smart products (for the consumer or corporate sector) can transmit their data to the same place, and SFDC is doing the heavy lifting in hardware configuration and software analytics, we can begin to break big data into smaller, more actionable pieces.

IoT Cloud is especially attractive to current SFDC customers. Now, they can begin to paint a truly 360-degree picture of their customers by accessing data points about actions that typically don’t occur within the traditional purchase funnel. IoT Cloud has vast applications for the B2B sector as well, with companies like Cisco already using it in conjunction with SFDC Wave Analytics and Service Cloud to monitor all equipment, including routers, switches and networkers. Then, as SFDC demonstrated at Dreamforce, Cisco customer service reps are notified if a switch within the network is causing serious problems and needs servicing.  

Although IoT cloud won’t be available until 2016, it’s certain that competition is taking note and will follow suit (perhaps another announcement will come from Oracle at OpenWorld this year?). Brands are smart to prepare now for the onslaught of even more customer data that will soon be readily accessible through the IoT Cloud. Once consumers experience ultimate personalization and predictive servicing, expectations will shift for all other brand interactions. And, it will be impossible to imagine life (interacting with “archaic” companies) any other way.