In the spirit of full disclosure, I spend a lot of time on the internet.

I read a lot of technology blogs and marketing blogs, and consider myself pretty savvy about (or at least aware of) the latest trends.  Even so, it took me a few minutes to wrap my head around the IoT acronym and to realize that it wasn’t shorthand for some “Game of Thrones” subplot.

IoT, of course, stands for Internet of Things (and it’s bigger than Melisandre using magic to bring Jon Snow back from the dead). Gartner research found that in 2015 we had 4.8 billion objects connected to the internet and by 2020 that number is projected to grow to a staggering 25 billion objects. This creates a network of physical objects – or an Internet of Things – embedded with network connectivity, allowing each “thing” to collect and exchange data. In short, IoT creates the opportunity for real-time, machine-to-machine communication.

For consumers the benefits are obvious – convenience, convenience, convenience. We’re able to remotely control the lights or thermostat in our home via an app on a smartphone. A fitness tracker on our wrist uploads information to the cloud where it’s shared with our mobile devices and desktop. There are even refrigerators that will send an email when we need to pick up something at the grocery store.

But, the IoT is more than refrigerators that remind us to buy milk or apps that tell our friends and family how many steps we’ve logged in a day. As Forbes reporter Janakiram MSV noted, “The real value of enterprise IoT comes from data.”

The possibilities are endless if you think about it. Associations are, at their core, about creating, fostering, and deepening relationships. They are forever seeking to better understand and know their members, hoping to uncover new information that will help drive engagement, support retention, or create a more meaningful value proposition that resonates with those looking to join.

Though it sounds big, there are small steps any organization can take to get started:

  1. Pay attention to the IoT and the various devices it includes. The ways in which your members are interacting with your association are more relevant than others and can provide important additional clues to help you shape a successful path forward.
  2. Ensure your websites are ready.
  3. Explore ways you may be able to integrate with wearables when it’s appropriate to drive interest and attention. Can you gamify any elements of your membership experience? Can you leverage wearables to drive engagement at an event or create urgency around a specific news item or offer?
  4. Invest in and pay attention to data. What do you want to track? Where does it come from? Is it helpful, relevant, and trustworthy?
  5. Make sure your AMS is ready to collect and analyze data and help you use it to make smart decisions.  Review the data with an eye on your strategic goals, but also be open to trends the data might reveal … and, that you hadn’t previously considered. Because when it comes to your membership, you simply can’t know too much.