Tech: The Internet of Things

Explaining the concept of 'The Internet of Things' is difficult, writes John V Willshire, but it revolves around how the maker creates something and the customer brings it to life.

I've been thinking about how to explain 'The Internet of Things' in a concise column, and detail why the concept might be useful for marketers. Even Wikipedia, whose editors usually simplify so well, explain it as 'uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an internet-like structure'. Sheesh.

Given it's quite hard to do in the abstract, I thought it might prove more useful to describe a Smithery project I'm using it for, and expand that to uses and examples for any brand.

I've been developing a product called Artefact Cards, which helps people with unpacking, reordering, and sharing their ideas (read more at

In this iteration, they are a straightforward product that can be manufactured. However, there is lots of information I could attach at the making end - blog posts, interviews with testers, techniques, and so on.

Yet there is only so much I can put in an instruction booklet, and that's out of date as soon as it leaves the printer.


In addition, the feedback from the first customers suggests some people keep specific projects and ideas within each box; they are boxes that are the physical centre of a wider idea.

So I want to develop something that lets people attach digital files, links, photos, stories, customer profiles and so on to each box.

This principle applies to many things. On either side of the product, there is a wealth of information that could be attached to it: how the maker creates it, and how the customer brings it to life.

The premise of the Internet of Things is that the product in the centre is unique, and has a name and address. This can be used by both maker and customer to attach information, to make what was once just one of a million identical products unique, because of the people around it and the things it helped them do.

This line of thinking starts to change the idea of what marketing is: products move from holding a centrally created brand myth, to becoming a platform upon which people can build their own version of the tale, if they choose.

The trick is, as always, asking why people would bother. You must create a system that asks a little and gives a lot. I'll let you know how I get on.

John V Willshire is the founder of Smithery, an innovation works for marketing and product development. Follow him on Twitter @willsh or at



This start-up from digital media consultant Andy Hobsbawn provides a range of managed applications to help you build this 'Internet of Things' approach at scale (

HIUT Denim/History Tag

A collaboration between Britain's favourite small-batch jeans company and London's RIG, History Tag allows you to capture the story of your jeans (


It's possible to create a small test by using IFTTT (If This Then That): just give a set number of products a unique tag, and set up the pipes to create a profile on a site such as Tumblr (

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