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The Weekend Edition from The MBS Group, the leading executive search and leadership advisory firm working across all consumer-facing industries View on Web

The Weekend Edition

Good morning Anna,

Weekly Column

From the Internet of Things to the Internet of Everything

By Moira Benigson, Managing Partner


When I want to find my nearest cafe, I search for it on Google. If I need to find my son in a busy crowd, I can send him my location via iMessage or WhatsApp. But if I want to find my slippers in my house, I’m not used to turning to technology – not yet, anyway. But such a possibility now seems imminent following the debut of the Bright BMBR Smart Jacket earlier this month at the Decoded Fashion Summit in New York. This digitally-enhanced jacket marks the entrance of apparel into the global ecosystem of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the hottest tech buzzword of 2016.

The IoT has stepped into the limelight over the past few years, but actually dates back to 1999 when British engineer Kevin Ashton first coined the phrase. It is the connection of inanimate objects to the internet, allowing them to communicate globally across platforms, networks, devices and system. It sits within the arena of computing physics that is merging the physical and digital worlds at an astonishing rate.

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The Internet of Things is the data-based connection between ordinary objects

The BMBR Smart Jacket is one of the first consumer products to be Born Digital – in other words, made digital at the point of manufacture. In this case, the jacket is embellished with a digital label that gives it a virtual existence in the cloud. It is the result of a collaboration between Fortune 500 packaging materials leader Avery Dennison, the IoT pioneer EVRYTHNG and menswear brand Rochambeau. Fifteen limited-edition pieces, due for release next month, are woven with an NFC chip and a QR code, tucked away in a zipped pocket on the left sleeve and give the wearer exclusive VIP access in NYC when detected with a smartphone. I had the chance to catch up with Rochambeau co-founder and designer Laurence Chandler: “We wanted to imagine what the jacket would be like if it came to life. How would it live? What would it do?”

“The IoT adds another layer of identity to the brand, it brings it to life. It gives us, as a brand, another platform for content” – Laurence Chandler, designer and co-founder, Rochambeau

It is estimated that the IoT will contribute US$8tr to the global economy over the next decade. The UK government has been quick to exploit its potential, investing £40m in March to accelerate its development, including listening to the vast array of connected machines and efficiently processing the data they provide. With Big Data dominating the digital landscape and agenda, businesses that best employ data analytics and predictive tools to capitalise on the rich, diverse and immediate flow of information will leave their competitors trailing. For Rochambeau, the move was part of a broader strategy: “The IoT adds another layer of identity to the brand, it brings it to life. The jacket looks different, inspiring people to ask the wearer questions. It gives us, as a brand, another platform for content.”

IBM has been a piorneer in this field. Its supercomputer Watson proved the power of combining data processing with machine learning when it defeated champions of the quiz show Jeopardy! in 2011. The cognitive computer, named after the company’s founder Thomas J Watson, was provided with over 200 million pages of structured and unstructured data and a mechanism to learn from its mistakes, transforming it from supercomputer into superhuman. IBM has since developed IoT software across all industries with Watson, including retail, financial services and healthcare, to harness the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day.

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The Amazon Dash button demonstrates the simplicity of IoT connections in FMCG

Ninety percent of the data that exists today has been created in the last two years alone, and pioneers in the FMCG sector have been quick to take advantage of it. Carling recently responded to the challenge of brand loyalty by trialling its physical Beer Button. The button, located in the refrigerator, is connected to a smartphone app and linked to the online shopping basket of any number of retailers, including Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Similar in practice to the Amazon Dash Button, a simple push of the button delivers beer straight to your door.

Malibu and Martini have also developed innovative IoT concepts. In collaboration with agency SharpEnd, Malibu has developed a connected coconut cup to let bar staff know when glasses are empty. It is set to be ready for bars, clubs and festivals in mid-2017. Similarly, Martini has partnered with creative design agency AMVBDDO to launch the ‘Smart Cube’, a Bluetooth-powered ice cube that featured at a pop-up bar at the Italian F1 Grand Prix. Dutch drinks giant Heineken has also noted plans to start integrating the Internet of Things into its hardware, including bottles and bar taps. These innovations are designed to improve user experience, such as alleviating the issues of overcrowded bars and tampered-with drinks.

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Martini partnered with AMVBDDO to launch the ‘Smart Ice Cube’

Beyond FMCG, the concept of the fully connected home is now firmly in our peripheral vision. John Lewis has established a ‘Smart Home’ zone in its Oxford Street, Leeds and Southampton stores (with plans for further roll-out) devoted to IoT gadgets across entertainment, home monitoring, heating, lighting and wellbeing. The thermostats, cameras and smoke alarms displayed are set to save us billions of kilowatt-hours of energy and enhance home security. Johnathan Marsh, John Lewis buying director for electricals and home technology, told me that “when customers see connected home devices, they’re not entirely sure whether they need it or if indeed it is right for them. Our job at John Lewis is to curate a selection of the best products on the market and bring them together in an inspiring way to support the shopping experience that creates a vision of the connected home.”

“There are no longer any barriers to connection” – Johnathan Marsh, buying director for electricals and home technology, John Lewis

The rise of consumer expectation for seamless services is relentless, with a key focus on immediacy and ease of use. The long-awaited Google Home launched this month, enabling US customers to turn the lights on, check flight details or play music with simple voice commands. Competing with the likes of Amazon Echo, the ‘personal assistant’ market is sure to be a busy one, following in the steps of digital personal assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Like Johnathan says, “there are no longer any barriers to connection.”

The Internet of Things is rapidly gaining momentum: IT research and advisory consultancy Gartner predicts 20.8 billion connected devices by 2020 worldwide. It’s amazing that I can now believe in a future where I can ask my slippers to book my next pedicure. We’re beginning to envisage an entire society of consumer goods that is #BornDigital. The Internet of Things is quickly being replaced by the Internet of Everything, set to engulf us all!

Moira@thembsgroup.co.uk | @MoiraBenigson | @TheMBSGroup

Remembering to Give Back: Work for Good

 
As the US markets took time off this week to give thanks, it's a good time of year for businesses to reflect on their charitable work and their contributions to society. Here at The MBS Group, we’re happy to have worked with a number of non-profits throughout the year, including the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, our Christmas card charity for the year. We’re also proud of our regular pro-bono work on behalf of non-profits.
 
But giving should be a year-round activity, and most importantly, it should be hassle-free for businesses. Former Unilever marketeer Rupert Pick came up with the idea for ‘Work for Good' when he was looking to give to charity after his newly-born daughter was in intensive care with two rare genetic conditions. Integrating charitable giving into regular business operations, the platform allows companies to publicly display social values and give to multiple causes - along with taking care of legal and tax issues.
 
work-for-good
"Companies are being so creative about how to work for good optimally in their context," says CEO Danny Witter. "An ongoing commitment linked to turnover or profit is simple and clear, but we're also seeing tactical use in new business origination as a differentiator, as an alternative to volunteering, and many other ideas. The decision on how to choose causes also matters if you are hoping to engage clients and employees."
 
Work for Good has some of the UK's largest charities registered to its platform, including Diabetes UK, the British Heart Foundation, Sue Ryder and Evelina London - the charity that originally inspired Rupert to come up with the organisation. This year, like every, we'll be making sure that our charitable efforts extend beyond the new year - and we hope you will, too.
 
To find out more or to register your business visit www.workforgood.co.uk.

Week in Review

The most important industry headlines from the last week



Retail

Kingfisher reports Q3 sales strong in the UK and Poland with transformation plan on track

The Co-op plans to make 80% of own brand packaging recyclable by 2020

Pets at Home reports like-for-like sales up 2.5% in the 28 weeks to 13th October


Consumer Products & Services

Compass Group reports pre-tax profits of £1.32bn in the year ended 30th September

Dr Pepper Snapple Group agrees to acquire Bai Brands for US$1.7bn

Tequila brand Jose Cuervo postpones initial public offering in Mexico


Fashion, Luxury & Lifestyle

Fast Retailing opens Denim Innovation Centre in Los Angeles

Phillip Lim opens third US flagship store in Miami’s Bal Harbour

LVMH launches a watch-making school with TAG Heuer and Zenith


Digital & Tech

Facebook to add 500 new roles to its UK offices, increasing employee count by 50%

Ctrip.com International acquires Sequoia Capital-backed Skyscanner for £1.4bn to expand bookings platform

NBCUniversal doubles stake in BuzzFeed with an additional investment of US$200m


Private Equity

Bridgepoint sells Oasis Dental Care to Bupa for £835m, a 4x return on investment

L Catterton raises US$2.75bn for eighth fund targeting middle-market consumer companies in North America and Europe

Lion Capital-backed French optician Alain Afflelou postpones initial public offering


Travel, Leisure & Hospitality

Mitchells & Butlers reports like-for-like growth in the year to 24th September

Thomas Cook reports underlying profits of £308m in the year to 30th September

Barrhead Travel partners with Travelife to encourage responsible tourism


On The Move

Ocado names Emma Lloyd as an independent non-executive director

Made.com co-founder Ning Li to step down from chief executive role

The Restaurant Group names Helen Moore as human resources director, replacing James Atherton

Recommended Reading

Industry reports, analysis & opinion pieces we've been reading


The future of manufacturing report

In its November report, Raconteur explores the UK industrial strategy to stimulate manufacturing post-Brexit and to relocate overseas production facilities to within the country

A circular fashion economy is about more than clothes

Lynn Oxborrow explains how a re-evaluation of clothing design and the supply chain could help to reduce the amount of clothes sent to landfill, improve recycling potential and lessen the environmental impact

The Agenda

From the arts to events and talks - what's in our diary this week


Art Basel in America: Miami 2016

Ambitious large‐scale artworks, films and performances become part of the city's outdoor landscape at nearby Collins Park and SoundScape Park


Luxury Travel Conference by The New York Times

Featuring keynotes, live interviews and debates, the event will provide access to vital data on the trends shaping the luxury sector