Governing the onslaught of connected devices – what’s at stake for enterprises?

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The Internet-of-Things has ingrained itself into a multitude of industries – verticals like the automotive space, agriculture, healthcare and even home appliances have begun to realize the effects of this transformative technology. The common thread between each sector is the importance of data in relation to making critical business decisions.

As customer-centric utilities become internet-enabled they’ll, in turn, collect more data. Traditionally confined to data lakes (otherwise known as a single store of raw data), this stagnation of data should instead be aggregated, stored, and analyzed to better inform organizations about who their customers are, and how they’re using those applications or devices. Subject to the changing tides, companies that aren’t prepared to handle the impending influx of information will be lapped by competitors that can.

Factoring into this complex equation – beyond compounding volume – advancements in sensor equipment will allow for more data to be gathered with greater accuracy, granularity and at a lower cost (both from financial and power-consumption standpoints).

Looking at trends further out that we can expect from this, the rollout of 5G networks, continued improvements in satellites, and evolution of chipsets will provide the bandwidth and coverage to aggregate the hoards of end-point sensors, while cloud architectures and AI/ML algorithms will open the door to even more scalable storage and compute required to analyze that data.

Mining priceless data from heaps of coal

Covering a wide variety of use cases, internet-enabled “things” (devices and applications) possess immense intrinsic value. But, the ways in which those coals, or data, are mined for a specific end goal vary across different sectors.

Some might see data as an opportunity to optimize their operations, whereas others use those insights to enhance their product or service offering. For example, an electricity company can utilize data gathered from IoT-enabled smart meters, as well as weather sensors, to better model and predict energy consumption patterns, which in turn, can help optimize pricing and capacity planning strategies.

Alternatively, data collected by wearable health-tracking devices has become of increasing importance and value to providers of life and medical insurance.

In fact, just last year, life insurer John Hancock made the decision to stop selling traditional policies and instead only sell interactive policies where rewards and premium discounts could be earned by healthy behaviors – tracked by fitness watches.

Welcome home, “Alexa”

There are countless IoT use cases where ethical dilemmas will present themselves.

Not to be generalized entirely, it’s predominantly retail and government uses of IoT that will potentially face the strictest scrutiny. Now an issue for federal and state lawmakers, these are the same internet-enabled devices that consumers are inviting into their homes.

Referred to as so-called “killer apps,” smart speakers, and digital assistants, from leading tech giants (Amazon Echo/Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana) are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Equally, the “Ring” and “Nest” series of products, owned by Amazon and Alphabet respectively, are another set of goods experiencing rapid adoption.

As consumers accept more internet-enabled devices into their homes, they not only welcome the novel benefits, but also new concerns regarding the data collected.

What was once unregulated, significant enforcement activities have taken place since the start of 2019. Several U.S. states, following GDPR’s passage last May, have proposed their own data protection laws that provide certain GDPR-like consumer rights.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), passed last June in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is slated to become the most comprehensive data privacy law in the U.S. (and the first of its kind). And just this April, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a bill for the “Privacy Bill Of Rights Act” that would require companies to “protect and secure” personal information they have.

The total impact of this and other proposed privacy protection legislation remains to be seen, but safeguards for user data should be one of the top risks managed by organizations, no matter the industry.

Governing data is driven by people and process

A multi-faceted problem, enterprises engaged in IoT use cases need a proper data framework in place. Such an infrastructure requires board-level sponsorship along with grassroots engagement across the entire corporate and IT ecosystems, with individuals taking responsibility and accountability for the way data is used.

Collectively, an enterprise will need to keep a constant handle on exactly which data sets are being collected. Further, they will need to know where that data is stored, how it’s secured, and what restrictions are placed on its internal use, including retention policies and any rules relating to data sovereignty.

While the IoT trend still has a long way to play out, getting data governance practices in order will be a key factor in determining which firms succeed at the highest level.

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