Shoes telling us that we’re getting slower running our usual route, refrigerators ordering milk automatically and thermostats resetting themselves are applications that are poised to revolutionize the lives of consumers and provide an incredible opportunity for retailers and service providers to serve and build long lasting relationships with them. The key currency of this relationship is data and therein lies one of IoT’s biggest challenge today.
For starters, there is this security concern. A typical house of the future will have 100 to 150 IoT enabled devices connected to their home network up from 5-10 a couple of years ago. Internet enabled devices in a house which were limited to mobile phones, TVs, laptops and an occasional thermostat will in the future be supplemented by 1 or 2 refrigerators, multiple wearable devices (fitness tracker to glasses to watches), shoes, undergarments (think Under Armour’s IoT play), consoles (the play station & Wiis of the world), light bulbs, home security systems, HVAC, sprinkler system, cooking appliances, home theater system, etc. Suddenly, 100 to 150 access points now need to be secured and so does the data being generated and sent across. Apart from the mundane “how many miles did you run today” and that “your light bulb needs a change”, sensitive medical, financial and other private data is also flowing back and forth which of course needs to be secure. And, the complexities only increase at business establishments where the number of IoT enabled devices can run into thousands.
Security at the providers’ end is also a challenge. With all the data coming in, providers also need to reevaluate their security infrastructure, policies and systems. The CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) is today already a harassed individual. The enterprise of the future will have significantly much more data coming from an ever-increasing number of connected devices and the points of breach will continue to challenge the CISOs.
Second, the challenge around network bandwidth and performance. Whether this is home Wi-Fi or the service providers network, the sheer volume of data being generated and consumed is going to explode – exponentially. For example, it is generally understood that Tesla collected 1.3 Billion miles’ worth of data in from autopilot equipped vehicles, in just 2 years. That’s a lot of data! Availability and access to data usually ends up creating demand for more data and that will eventually put a tremendous load on the infrastructure. At all levels – global, service provider, enterprise & home, are we prepared to address bandwidth and performance issues. Whether we like it or not, this will need to be addressed.
Lastly but not the least, is what to do with the data – or the action being taken on the data. Wearable devices (with authentication and permissions) may be generating data for the retailer as to how consumers are shopping in their physical store. But, are they prepared to analyze this data and get some actionable information out of the same? I think not. Or, refrigerators sending orders for replenishing milk might be coming through in thousands, but is the manufacturer prepared to understand what this data means for them? I believe we will eventually get there but right now, we are just not prepared to make sense of the volume of data that’s expected to be generated other than the usual demographic and transactional analysis. It is however, around deeper analysis that we will see the real value. They say data is king. Certainly! And, only if the king delivers.
The solution (or solutions) for the above challenges will eventually be found. Either technology or process (or both) will handle this. Indeed, every day there’s a new announcement regarding technology or a new approach to systems and/or processes (or transformations that an enterprise needs to make). So, it is a matter of time before these get addressed adequately. Till then, whether you are a consumer, an enterprise, a service provider or simply an enthusiast, do spend some time thinking through the data challenges while planning your IoT initiatives.