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Brief Published: 12 Mar 2013

SXSWi: Internet of Things


The Interactive part of the South by Southwest (SXSW) film, music and technology festival, held annually in Austin, Texas, kicked off on March 8, with a strong focus on convergence and the shift from a connected world to an interconnected one.

This year, talk swirled around the immediate potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the much-discussed opportunity for connected devices to start communicating with each other.

At a panel titled Let Your Products Do the Talking, the discussion revolved around how the IoT might mean a shift to marketers talking to data-enabled devices that track consumer preferences, rather than to consumers. But a clearer implication of interconnected devices – for example, smart refrigerators – is that they might be better equipped to maintain themselves.

“The idea that, through data analysis, devices such as fridges can know our preferences and order food for us seems appealing. But are consumers ready to give up control to these devices? The smart fridge has been around for years. It seems more likely that the fridge would be interconnected to schedule its maintenance, renew its warranty, etc.,” says Fiona Harkin, SVP of content at Stylus.

“The consumer will eventually decide how much to allow in,” said Thomas Fellger, chief executive of Germany-based mobile marketing network Iconmobile. Fellger advocates a more open development process: “We're seeing an appetite now from consumers, like for the Nike Fuelband, to see what these kind of products can do. But consumers are also becoming disappointed by the lack of interconnectivity between devices. In an interconnected world, there's no such thing as competition any more – you have to open up and build application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) to make more value for the customer. This is the challenge: to make sense out of devices and bring them together.” For more on the future of APIs, see APIs for Innovation.

Look out for full coverage of the Interactive themes mentioned here – and more – in our SXSW reports, which will also address directions in film, entertainment and music.