Most of the reports we see about our uber-connected future paint a rosy picture. Internet of Everything (IoE)-related business is booming. Gartner predicts that spending on IoT-connected services will exceed $3 trillion by 2020, and that by that time, IoT devices will outnumber the world population. The challenges to reaching this connected utopia are significant, however, and they are ignored at the peril of the entire industry.
The importance of sharing
Mothers around the world spend a lot of time imbuing the importance of sharing upon their children. But once they grow up and get into the tech innovation race, those lessons are frequently tossed out the window.
Being first to market, owning patents, and offering exclusive products and services is logically seen as the best route to profitability. However, openness can potentially lead to wider-spread innovation, lifting all ships in the tech waters. Establishing industry standards is more relevant than ever in this brave new world where interconnectivity and cross-functionality are so vital. Without complete connectivity — from sources and terminuses undetermined and potentially infinite — the dream of a truly connected world will never be fully realized.
Take, for example, the communication needs of autonomous vehicles. In order for the cars to safely move their passengers around, they must be able to communicate with each other. They will also need to talk to infrastructure on the road across cities, counties, states and countries.
This isn’t to say all IP (intellectual property) needs to be shared — everyone still needs to profit from innovative solutions. However, there needs to be some agreement and collaboration standards, like today’s Onboard Diagnostic System (OBDII) that’s used across the automotive industry.
A worldwide standard, like ODBII, makes sharing logistically and economically feasible. And, it needs to be put in place before billions of dollars are spent building the infrastructure.
A call to arms: Security must be addressed, now
In the quest for IoE dominance, data privacy and security have been largely ignored. Unsecured IoT devices continue to be released to the market, despite the dire implications that doing so carries. This practice is almost like leaving an armored truck full of cash wide open on a busy street. More accurately, it is like leaving everyone’s armored trucks wide open. In front of a bank robbers’ convention. On International Police Take a Vacation Day.
Today, IoT security is being eschewed for the sake of innovation, for being first to market. We have already seen the potential consequences in the Dyn attacks of 2016 that shut down huge swathes of the internet and cost businesses billions of dollars. As we become more and more connected, its impact can also be globally disruptive. This may sound alarmist. It’s not—it’s a call to arms. Data encryption and device security must become a top priority in IoE, or we put nearly everything at risk. Not to mention that secure devices and systems are a great selling point.
This means that every vendor in your back and front office ecosystem must provide enterprise-grade security. It needs to meet or exceed industry standards, be tested regularly, and be backed up by triple-redundant systems. This is what kept Aria, and others, running during the recent Dyn attacks. Even if the rest of the world is leaving its doors unlocked, running a secure ship can assure resilience under fire.
Protecting consumer data
When we think of consumer data protection, it must be taken as equal parts security and privacy rights. On the security front, consumers rightfully have an expectation that a company will protect their sensitive personal information. In the IoE age, there will be lots of it, and it may be shared with many disparate parties. From financial information to health records, to video, audio, location, internet search — the list goes on and on — entire life profiles will need to be protected from evil-doers.
All of this data also must be protected from the very entities that are collecting and using it. It is unknown to what level most people will be willing to share every single detail of their lives for the sake of convenience and connectivity in the future. However, it should be up to the consumer themselves to decide what they share, with whom, and for how long. Today, data equals profit, but we must decide —at what cost? This issue poses an even larger question that will require virtual worldwide participation to answer.
Can we establish a universal Data Privacy Bill of Rights? Can we protect our privacy and stay connected? Privacy and profitability can be balanced. How this will be accomplished has yet to be answered, however, it’s a battle that we do not want to be fighting once the practices of the IoT have been cemented. It’s impossible to “take back” data, and it’s equally difficult to take back your reputation if you have been painted as the bad guy who allowed it to be taken. The IoE will make us more of a community, knit closer together than ever, and that is how we can address these challenges.
The beast in the back office
Many of the challenges facing the IoE are cultural, but there are indeed some technological hurdles to overcome as well. With the emergence of the IoE, there will only be a strengthening of what is now known as “the age of the customer”, where being instantly responsive to the needs of the customer is vital to success.
Development cycles will continue to get shorter, and time to market will become even more important than it is today. Companies will need to launch new products and test new models in hours, not months. To speed this process, the beast in the back office must be addressed — that beast being legacy payment systems that were designed with two-year development cycles and one-time sales in mind. These systems will need to be updated to put the power in the front office. With that done, the business user can bypass IT and quickly respond to the needs of the customer, which currently mirror the needs of the business.
Born-digital cloud monetization platforms not only allow for this speed and flexibility but do it at scale. With a configurable back-end, the front office can rid itself of the need for cumbersome and expensive Excel spreadsheets and the army of support staff that brings it all together. The icing on the cake is that these cloud billing solutions can be used as an agility layer working alongside legacy OSS/BSS or billing and ERP systems, avoiding the expense and disruption of “ripping and replacing” the entire back-office infrastructure.
All for one and one for all
The challenges facing an IoE-connected world are difficult, but not insurmountable. The fact that the IoE impacts us all is exactly what will make it so successful. Solving these issues and addressing the technical challenges will take truly global cooperation. What can and will result is crowdsourced innovation and decision-making on a scale that we have never experienced. Cooperation and combined knowledge at this level can move us all forward and create the strongest and most ideal connected world possible. To make the IoE great, maybe all we have to do is listen to our mothers (for once).