Top IoT-Enabled Holiday Gifts (S1:E42)

November 17, 2022

The holidays are growing closer and that seasonal scrambling to come up with gift ideas for family and friends is upon us. Loren Miller, Director of Business Development at Identiv, helps us dig into the top IoT-enabled holiday gifts that should make their way into your shopping cart (or your own wish list) this year.

Full Transcript

Announcer:    You're listening to Humans in Tech. Our podcast explores today's most transformative technology and the trends of tomorrow, bringing together the brightest minds in and outside of our industry. We unpack what's new in physical access, identity verification, cyber security, and IOT ecosystems. We reach beyond the physical world, discuss our digital transformation as a species, and dive into the emerging figital [00:00:30] experience. Join us on our journey as we discover just how connected the future will be, and how we will fit into that picture. Your host is Leigh Dow, VP of Global Marketing at Identiv.

Leigh Dow:    Welcome, thanks for listening in to Humans in Tech. Today we're talking with Loren Miller, Director of Business Development here at Identiv. Loren has a pretty impressive CV. He's worked in the RFID and wireless industry for the past decade, including roles in operations, customer service and sales. [00:01:00] Very well rounded resume there. Hi Loren. Thank you for joining us today to discuss the top IOT-enabled gifts for the holiday season.

Loren Miller:    Hi, Leigh. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Leigh Dow:    Yeah, this is a fun topic. As the holidays get closer, we're all scrambling around to come up with gift ideas for family and friends. I read that the National Retail Federation, which is the world's largest retail trade association, projects the average consumer will spend almost a thousand dollars on holiday gifts for themselves and their families, which is about the same [00:01:30] as last year. And even though Amazon has already had several Prime Days, and I also read that in retail right now, they're really encouraging retailers to start the holiday shopping season much earlier because of supply chain issues and things like that, Amazon's already had quite a few Prime Days, but Black Friday, of course, will be here before we know it. So we're talking about the best gifts in the IOT according to CNET. What do you think are the top anticipated IOT gifts [00:02:00] for 2022?

Loren Miller:    Well, over the last few years we've seen just a huge increase in smart devices in general, so IOT enablement. One of the benefits with NFC is that you can do quick pairing with these devices. So Amazon, Echo Dot, Amazon Echo Show, smart dispensers for soap and other items like fragrances, home security systems, where you can access them through mobile applications, [00:02:30] smart thermostats, and then gaming headsets. I have a Bose headset that I connected with NFC, really easy to pair with. And then you can also share that. So if someone else wants to use it, they can quickly access it too.

Leigh Dow:    It's safe to say that in my household there's a lot of pairing of gaming items. There's also a lot of yelling that comes from upstairs during gameplay. [00:03:00] The pandemic is still causing shortages of labor and essential material parts. Other factors are still in play, like inflation, fears of a recession. How long can we expect these shortages and delays to last?

Loren Miller:    Well, they're going to continue for a while, certainly through the end of this year. So if you're able to, I would say go ahead and get what you want and what you need for those gifts. As a company, we've been proactive working with our suppliers and our partners to make [00:03:30] sure that we can deliver for our customers and meet the demand that they have for these RFID and NFC-enabled products.

But I think one thing that this supply chain challenges over the past couple years have shown us is that there's a real need out there for brand owners and distributors to know where their products are at all times within the supply chain, how much they have, and which kind. This really helps them to avoid out of stock scenarios, make sure that [00:04:00] their customers have access to the products that they need when they want them. That way, when they go to the store, and they're looking for a certain item, it's there. They're going to return to that store the next time they want to purchase something. And then they can take it home with them, and then interact with that product through registration, authentication, and then different kinds of experiences.

Leigh Dow:    We've talked about some of the more common IOT-enabled gifts. What about some of the more unique items you [00:04:30] may not have thought about, that use radio frequency identification and near-field communication technology? Can you fill us in on some of those fun gift ideas for family and friends?

Loren Miller:    We're seeing more and more NFC enablement within the wine and spirits industry. So Identiv has a collaboration with OTACA tequila. This is for smart packaging with NFC, and essentially this allows you to use your mobile device to authenticate the product. First of all, make sure that's [00:05:00] a legitimate item, and then also learn more about their brand history, how the tequila was made, see their other product lines, and then share this content with others.

So maybe someone that likes a herradura, and you send that to them, or remind you of a certain restaurant that you went to, and you had that, or whatever it was. The other thing is, wine fraud in general is a major issue for wineries and distributors. [00:05:30] So if you wanted to give a good gift, you want to make sure that it's a real thing. And then also, it kind of allows them to interact with the product too, if it's NFC-enabled, and they kind of get a little bit of extra enjoyment out of that item. [inaudible 00:05:48].

Leigh Dow:    Before you go on, I think that the wine fraud piece is so fascinating. I don't think most people know that the wine industry is just riddled with counterfeit items. And so that [00:06:00] piece of it has been a big learning for me, that it's so prevalent.

Loren Miller:    It is. And another thing that we can work with is tamper evidence. So incorporating NFC technologies with smart label designs, so that these bottles can't be reopened, refilled with something else, or fake bottles printed, so that you [00:06:30] kind of have an end to end cycle with that product, from when it's made at the winery to the customer.

Leigh Dow:    Yeah, that's really cool. I didn't mean to interrupt you, so please continue.

Loren Miller:    Well, I was just going to say along the same lines, luxury items. So along the same lines, there's also high fraud within luxury apparel, luxury goods, like purses. So authenticating those items, as well, [00:07:00] with NFC. So one advantage with NFC is that it can be embedded into an item itself. So it's not something that can be scratched off. It's not something that gets worn off or gets smudged. It's in the item itself, it can be done at the point of manufacturing, it can be tied to that UPC. You can even validate it digitally through maybe a picture of when it was taken. And then you can tie that into, [00:07:30] even if you want to resell that at a later date, where you have that authenticity for that product.

Leigh Dow:    That's great. What about gamification? What are some of the gifts people can consider buying in the sports world?

Loren Miller:    Yeah, so we see NFC being used almost every day with our smartphones, with Apple Pay and Google Pay, with the phone acting as the card emulator. We can take that phone and then also interact with items around us. So one such item would be a sports jersey. [00:08:00] We have a collaboration with the Nashville Predators with a sewn-in NFC tag. It's designed specifically for that purpose, and it allows for experience-based content.

Maybe on game day there's a specific interaction with that item, you can get profiles, you can see who's playing and who's not playing, get special rewards, discounts to the team shop, access to VIP and insider areas. So it allows you to really take what's a physical item that you would normally [00:08:30] just wear, and then really build on that item. You can show your support for the team, and then you can also kind of unlock some cool stuff through your phone.

Leigh Dow:    Just having that extended fan experience is really cool. I'm doing a session at AIPIA next week, specifically about the Nashville Predator's activation, and how that gave fans such an unlocked version of a unique experience with just a beloved [00:09:00] player that was retiring. And so that story is very interesting to me.

And I also see in sports and entertainment, a lot of the stadiums and arenas and venues that are being built, really putting more and more technology into the venue, to create that experience, using these technologies and others to create really unique, engaging fan experiences for fans attending, whether it's sports or a concert, [00:09:30] anything like that. It's really cool, just the changes that you're seeing in just the build of those facilities.

Loren Miller:    For sure. And you see the same concept being used at museums for experiences, all-inclusive resorts that use wristbands, so that you have access to different areas. You can keep that tied into your account. And the same thing at amusement parts, with wristbands, where you can sync this to your credit card, purchase [00:10:00] items in the park, and then get access to other areas.

Leigh Dow:    It's really funny. This is a few years ago, we went to the Waste Management Open, which is the big Phoenix Open here in January. And we had wristbands that were VIP wristbands for the company that we were there with. And I was like, "Oh, RFID is a status symbol," because people were like, "Ooh, you have that wristband." I never thought of RFID as a status symbol, but I guess it [00:10:30] is in some instances.

Loren Miller:    For sure. Absolutely.

Leigh Dow:    What are some of the benefits of RFID and NFC technologies in these personal items?

Loren Miller:    Well, according to NRF, the top three categories for gift giving this year are electronics, toys, and clothing. And each of these categories has a really strong fit for IOT enablement, especially with NFC as the embedded technology, since everyone has a smartphone now, pretty much. So one of the requirements for IOT, that being the thing itself, [00:11:00] is to have a digital identifier on each item that you can interface with digitally. So whether that even be just access control with your car key to get into your car, UHF supply chain and logistics for inventory, or NFC for these consumer based items, for authentication registration. And then also these special experiences.

One that comes to mind for me, actually from one of my colleagues here at Identiv, [00:11:30] he knows that I have two daughters. They have a Nintendo Switch that they play. He sent me these little NFC-enabled cards for their animal crossing game. And it's basically a little trading card that you can use with the game controller, and you can bring that character into the game itself. So you have a physical representation of the character. You can see who it is, their name, what number, their [00:12:00] attributes, and then you can also bring them in at a specific point into the game.

So I think that one's really cool. And I can also kind of show my kids what I do for work, and kind of explain, "Okay, well there's something in here, and it interacts with your controller, and then all of a sudden it's in your game." Same thing can be done with trading cards, figurines, other physical items, where you can take those items, merge it into a digital world, whether that be in an online game like this, [00:12:30] a mobile application, social media, or some kind of profile that you have.

And then it also does a two-way interaction, where you can kind of refocus some of that digitization and online content back to the physical products themselves. Something that you can touch and feel, have in your hand, take with you, and then interact with other people, and show them the cards, and maybe trade and just have fun with the item itself. So it is just a fun thing to see. [00:13:00] Certainly stuff that I didn't have when I was a kid. I was playing the Atari that had two colors on it.

Leigh Dow:    Pong. That's great. I love that. And the story about your kids being able to get a feel for the industry that you work in, I know for me, when my kids were little and I worked at Intel, it was like, she does something with computers. And then when I got to Honeywell and Aerospace, they were like, something with airplanes. So it's always fun to [00:13:30] actually be able to show them a real world application of the technology you work on.

Loren Miller:    For sure.

Leigh Dow:    Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Loren, for such a timely and fun topic. We really appreciate your insight. And I guess my last question to you is, have you already started your holiday shopping?

Loren Miller:    Yeah, I've got a few things ready. Certainly over the next month or so, I'll have to make sure I've got all the bases covered.

Leigh Dow:    I now realize [00:14:00] I'm way behind the curve.

Loren Miller:    There's still time.

Leigh Dow:    All right. Well, thanks so much for joining us today, Loren.

Loren Miller:    Thank you. Take care.

Leigh Dow:    If you enjoyed this podcast, please like and subscribe for more. We drop a new episode every Thursday.

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