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As IoT develops, there are three main areas consumers and merchants alike need to consider

From fitness trackers to connected refrigerators to coffee makers, there is no end to how smart even the most inane technology can become. The Internet of Things (IoT) isn't just changing how consumers manage their home security or order their coffee filters - it's revolutionizing the very fabric of commerce.

However, according to Gartner, IoT is still in its early days of maturity. Gartner predicts that through 2018 there will be no one prevailing IoT ecosystem platform. This means that in the next few years there will be a proliferation of different devices, products and approaches to IoT. In fact, Cisco predicts that there will be a whopping 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

As IoT develops, there are three main areas consumers and merchants alike need to consider: supply replenishment, purchasing optimization and product acquisition.

Supply replenishment
One natural (and existent) extension of IoT is in supply replenishment. Originally part of its value proposition, the Amazon Dash button promised that smart devices could take advantage of connected technology by enabling something as small as a coffee pot to make predictive purchases for consumers. We have now seen the beginning of this with the water pitcher that orders refills straight from Amazon.

For example, if people program their connected refrigerators to keep at least a half-gallon of milk on hand at the beginning of the week, the refrigerator will measure their milk consumption. Once the milk dips below a half gallon, the refrigerator will add a gallon of milk to the usual grocery store order for delivery on Sundays.

But this is merely the beginning of the possibilities of supply replenishment with IoT. With IoT devices monitoring how often and how much consumers use, remembering to pick up more toothpaste at the store will become a thing of the past.

Purchasing optimization
Going one step beyond purchase replenishment is purchasing optimization. With purchase optimization, devices will be able to change a whole host of options in consumable goods - from quantity to size to the items themselves - that they purchase based on consumers' habits.

For example, connected kitchen devices (including pots and pans that measure consumption) could let consumers know that instead of buying the 16-oz bottle of olive oil they love, they could instead save some money by buying the 32-oz bottle without it going rancid.

The IoT will perform the purchasing optimization that most of us know we should do but don't have time to focus on. Smart products will be able to optimize sizing, pricing and even determine the best places to buy products. If devices have permission to make purchases, consumers will become accustomed to receiving a box in the mail from the olive oil vendor each time they're about to run out.

Product acquisition
Imagine that a child's bed measures his or her weight and height every night. Based on the measurement and the knowledge of the child's clothes on hand (gathered from UPC scanning), the bed orders clothes in new sizes before the parent even realizes that the footie pajamas don't fit anymore.

With product acquisition, the products make the shopping decisions, deciding what other products to buy with minimal human intervention. Not everyone will have the tolerance to handle products making their purchase and service decisions for them, but the IoT will bring it into the realm of possibility.

The IoT may be nascent right now, but as these smart and connected products become more sophisticated, consumers will invest more and more in connected products in their homes and businesses. To keep up with this rapid change, product information needs to catch up to meet the demands of consumers who want the best product for their needs. Without this, consumers will be left with a fractured system that leaves them lagging behind.

Combined with this product information, these sophisticated products will enable consumers to depend on them for more than just a reminder to go to the gym or to optimize their energy consumption at home - they will revolutionize the way consumers purchase their products in the future.

More Stories By Jenn Steele

Jenn Steele is Director of Product Marketing at Indix. She comes to Indix from Silicon Valley, making a move back "home" to Seattle. She started her career by running IT departments at law firms and then moved to HubSpot as a marketing consultant, rising up to lead the consulting team there. After HubSpot, she moved to Seattle to go to Amazon, where she led product marketing for Amazon SES and then transitioned to the free and paid search teams, concentrating on revenues from Bing. She wanted to move back to startups though, and became the first employee and Head of Growth at RecruitLoop, a marketplace startup founded in Sydney.

Jenn holds a degree from MIT and an MBA. When she's not working, she enjoys wine, single malt scotch, running, and spinning, although not all at the same time. She blogs on leadership and gender at http://leadinggeeks.net.

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