Soon, could your fridge do your groceries?
Mobile is playing a bigger role in the world, and as it does, it’s enabling some profound shifts in how we live. Soon, our mobile devices – from smartphones to wearables – will know so much about us that they will transform into personal mobile concierges and be able to seamlessly transact on our behalf without prompting. We’re already moving toward this hyper-connected world – toward the Internet of Things – where machine-to-machine communications will soon outpace human-to-machine conversations. But for this connected world to work as seamlessly as many envision, it requires much more than just technology that can predict our wants and needs.
For one, it requires an open and secure, developer-friendly platform — one that is linked together through a cross-platform mobile payments OS. Startups need to be able to quickly move through hundreds of failures before ultimately finding the product or service that resonates with consumers. Today’s most successful startups at one point had to iterate and pivot based on critical feedback from the market. Before Instagram and Flickr became the successful businesses they are today, for example, they both started out with completely different business models but evolved their businesses in response to market feedback.
Security is also paramount. There’s both a need to reduce friction — like removing passwords and enabling logins with the touch of finger — and increase security. In order for young startups to be able to get feedback, customers need to be able to trust that their data — whether it’s passwords or payment information — won’t be compromised. This is especially important as devices become increasingly connected and information gets quickly passed around from one service or device to the next. Customers need to trust that if their refrigerator gets hacked, sensitive data like their credit card information won’t be compromised.
Finally, this all needs to be connected through an agnostic payments OS — one that isn’t confined to a specific platform — that will enable and authenticate purchases. It’s great that your fridge can ping your smartphone when you’re out of eggs or need to pick up some milk, but imagine if your fridge could seamlessly make the order for you. This in the next step in connected commerce.
Today, 1.9 billion devices are already connected to the Internet and it’s estimated that by 2020, we’ll reach 30 billion connected devices globally. As we shift toward a world where our smartphones are now our primary computing devices, we’re moving from what some call an “on-demand world,” to what I see as an “at your service world” – where our devices know what we want, when we want it, and can initiate things on our behalf. From buying through to shipping, technology will be able to deliver these magical experiences without people having to drive the interaction. This is the future of Smart Commerce.
Technologies already exist that enable people to pay across mobile apps with a single touch, or make a purchase without even taking out a wallet or phone thanks to beaconing technology. But that’s just the beginning. Soon, our mobile devices – with access to everything from geo-location information to purchase history to biometric data — will know enough about us that they’ll be able to facilitate not just a single transaction, but trigger a chain of transactions and experiences without prompting. Our devices will not only know our past activity, but also learn our habits and routines and begin to anticipate and predict our needs and preferences.
Imagine a future where your connected wearable device, which tracks your physical activity, identifies that you haven’t been as active this week as you typically are. As a result, it connects with your grocery and/or meal delivery service and orders healthier, low-calorie options for the week — knowing from your past purchase data that you like carrots and Brussels sprouts but would never eat broccoli. These experiences may seem magical now, but soon they’ll be a routine part of our lives. In fact, earlier this month, Munchery, one of our customers, and Jawbone announced a partnership allowing Munchery customers to track the nutritional data in their meals on their Jawbone Up app. Now it’s not so hard to imagine how a partnership like this could play out in the real world.
The connected Internet of Things is rapidly becoming reality. But in order to realize the full potential of a truly connected world, we first need to put into place the foundational fabric on top of which the Internet of Things will exist.
Bill Ready is CEO of Braintree, a company that helps online businesses process online and mobile payments. Follow him @williamready