Physical spaces get intelligent

Until now, the web hasn’t had any major impact on ‘things’ in our physical world. But, with the IoT and IoE heading into the mainstream, we’re entering a new era.

The smarts of the web are coming to the real world that we live in, and what I call the ‘physical web’ is taking shape. In reality, the physical web consists of three layers: hardware (sensors, beacons or any tool for collecting data about a physical space and the people within it); the channels used to communicate data (WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, or others); and intelligence that can be gathered from the data.

By sharing data backwards and forwards, the physical web can provide lots of useful information businesses can act on in different contexts. It could tell a security manager that a valuable asset was left somewhere that it shouldn’t be. Or alert family members that their elderly mum living on her own has not switched the kettle on for her morning tea.

The real revolution will be in turning physical spaces into ‘websites’ – the World Wide World, if you like. An abundance of real-time data will be available, which can be used to make informed decisions.

At Purple, we see the potential for intelligent physical spaces in so many sectors – restaurants, bars, healthcare centres, universities, malls and stadia. In the retail sector, in particular, there is a huge opportunity.

Retail stores will be able to visualise data about their physical space – from data points including sensors, security cameras and weather stations – which can be overlaid onto purchase pattern data. When this data is combined with the information already available through WiFi analytics, retailers will be well equipped understand and predict customer behaviour. And that will be a massive help to them when they come to plan their marketing campaigns.

This is the moment – like the invention of the barcode and the arrival of Tesco Clubcard. Finally, bricks and mortar businesses will come out of the dark – and benefit from the same smart information as online businesses have enjoyed exclusively to date.

For physical spaces, the tables have finally turned.

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple

Image source: Shutterstock/hin255