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Lo-res_450568075-SAn innovative new thermometer links with an app, allowing consumers to track their temperature data easily over time. Such an offering holds great appeal for many people, especially sleep-deprived parents who need to keep track, in the middle of the night when their child wakens with a fever, whether that fever is rising, breaking, or staying the same.
But consumers are not the only ones who find the innovation appealing. For Clorox, the big data gathered from these smart thermometers give it
precise, in-depth information about where it needs to target its advertising, by revealing which geographic locations are suffering from high rates of fevers. That is, when the aggregated data in a particular area show that many people likely have the flu, as signaled by their high temperatures, Clorox can bump up advertising and promotions for its disinfectant products, which will likely resonate with the advice consumers are getting from their medical professionals to disinfect their homes carefully to limit the spread of the virus.
The flu virus is really pertinent, in that it reappears every year and ultimately spreads throughout the entire country. But its spread and effects are not consistent; it usually starts in a specific area, hits certain regions hard, and is mild in other regions. The pattern is nearly impossible to predict. Thus in the past, Clorox would simply buy a mass advertising package everywhere in the country, sometime around flu season. Such an approach was less than efficient, because it meant spending scarce advertising budgets to spread the message in areas where few people had caught the flu.
The company that makes the thermometer and linked app, Kinsa, notes that the data it aggregates and sells are unique because of their specificity. For example, companies might track consumers’ social media and search engine behaviors, looking for trends that suggest a lot of people are looking up flu symptoms. But that information, while better than nothing, still contains a lot of noise. People might simply be reading articles about the current strain of the flu virus without having caught it. Rather than indicating people “talking about the illness,” the thermometer-gathered data reveal “actual illness,” according to the company founder and CEO.
Moreover, the company promises that it shares its data only with companies, like Clorox, whose offerings are designed to benefit public health. It has partnered with a telemedicine firm, in the belief that people suffering from an illness would benefit from easy access to medical advice.
Accordingly, users can share their Kinsa temperature data with the online health provider easily, with one click.

Discussion Questions:
1. What kind of segmentation tools does a smart thermometer offer to companies?
2. Can you imagine any ethical concerns associated with this device? Explain.

 

 

Source: Sapna Maheshwari, “This Thermometer Tells Your Temperature, Then Tells Firms Where to Advertise,” The New York Times, October 23, 2018

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