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AT&T Will Debut LTE-M IoT Network By Mid 2017

It will be easier than ever to bring connected devices online — and here's what that means for marketers.

AT&T will roll out LTE-M, an IoT network aimed at linking sensors and other devices to the Internet of Things, nationwide by midyear, CIO reported Tuesday — meaning that widespread IoT connectivity is set to become a reality sooner than many marketers may have expected.

The idea behind LTE-M — which is also being explored by Verizon — is that to get small, lower-power IoT devices online “it’s no longer necessary to saddle them with full-scale cellular radios,” Stephen Lawson explained in an article from PCWorld. “Low-power LTE networks [like LTE-M] promise cellular-grade range and coverage without the cost and complexity of full-scale LTE devices.”

Translation? LTE-M makes it easier to bring devices online so that they can communicate with others, and AT&T is heavily invested in this idea. This means that the Internet of Things is moving full speed ahead — and we could be heading toward an era in which connected devices are as prolific as smartphones are today.

The IoT Future Is Now

At CES, it became clear that marketers had already turned their attention toward the Internet of Things. From the proliferation of health-related wearables to the buzz around Amazon Alexa and Google Home, plenty of attendees were eager to dub the technology as the way of the future.

“In a future world where our devices are talking to each other continuously, how can that data be taken to a macro level and used to improve targeting, to improve creative, to improve planning?” Kinetic UK’s Rosh Singh told GeoMarketing earlier this year. “I think that’s what really interests us [going forward.]”

But now, with major players rolling out LTE-M, that “future” looks like more of an immediate reality.

This means that marketers need to prepare to deliver messages, content, and interactive experiences through consumers’ connected devices — but the key is to success here is relevancy. Connected home devices, as well as wearables that consumers literally wear against their skin, are arguably even more personal than the smartphone.

As GeoMarketing‘s David Kaplan wrote in December, the message to advertisers about what kind of marketing consumers are willing to receive is clear: the word “usefulness” tops the list of reasons why a person owns a connected device. Other reasons, such as “convenience” and “coolness” are fairly low on the list.

“Vigorous growth in familiarity and IoT usage is fueling interest among consumers—and brands need to pay attention,” said Patrick Dolan, EVP and COO of the IAB, in a statement. “To access the coveted IoT audience that is already open to receiving ads on their devices, advertisers need to consider ‘added incentives’ for their messages. As adoption continues and marketers learn to weave the Internet of Things into their strategies, tomorrow’s prospects for IoT as a marketing platform will be very bright.”