How to Conquer Fear of “Things” in “Internet of Things”

By Bimalendu Sinha

Start by addressing misconceptions about what it is and what it can—and cannot—do.

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The Internet of Things has immense possibilities. It’s a world in which devices of every shape and size are manufactured with intelligent capabilities that allow them to communicate and interact with other devices, exchange data, make decisions and perform useful tasks.

Certainly, there has been much hype around the IoT, with politicians and C-level leaders effusive about the potential to transform society and how it uses energy. There is also an understandable fear of the unknown surrounding what these “things” will do. Think back to when the “cloud” concept first appeared on the technology scene. Initially, people had misconceptions about it and questioned what it could do and what it meant for businesses. We’re currently in a similar phase for the IoT.

In acknowledging this fear, it’s best to clear the fog surrounding the IoT by addressing common misconceptions.

Misconception#1: Life will become simpler and better for everybody.
The IoT is all about machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and automation, and though it certainly will make your life smarter and more connected, “simple and better” is perhaps too simplistic a description. IoT-based initiatives can be quite intricate, though companies that deploy the technology well will find ways in which to make customer-facing experiences seamless and intuitive, though the enabling technology architecture might be quite complex. The Internet of Things is also predicted to impact the job landscape, leading to a decrease in certain familiar jobs and the emergence of newer roles using IoT technologies.

Misconception#2: In the IoT world, our data will not be safe.
A common misconception about the IoT is that your data will be floating around for anyone to use. Except in cases when this information is sold to other companies, only the collecting party will have direct access to it. That being said, there is a growing need for robust security standards around the IoT and coordination around best practices, which companies are looking at closely.

Misconception#3: The IoT refers to something happening in the future.
The IoT has been happening for years now. The underlying technology is built, and the infrastructure to allow pervasive connectivity is becoming cheaper and cheaper.

Misconception#4: The IoT is all about consumer devices.
The Internet of Things is much more than smartphones, watches, TVs and other smart consumer electronics. It can also be used in agricultural equipment, fertilizer manufacturing plants and so forth, to ensure that costly machinery is used effectively and appropriately by integrating with other smart IoT devices.

So, how can businesses overcome these misconceptions and fear of “things” to better capitalize on the value the IoT offers? Consider these guideposts:

Focus on Consumer Needs
Similar to adoption of the cloud, consumers are at the forefront of spurring interest in the IoT. The marketplace is abuzz with consumer-facing IoT applications, such as wearable fitness trackers and smart-home devices that control home lighting, HVAC, front door entry, and security systems. Consumers understand the value these connected ecosystems bring, even if they don’t always comprehend the technicalities behind them. By focusing on consumer needs and using the IoT to fill gaps in the customer journey, companies can create valuable and memorable customer experiences.

Be Open and Inclusive
Maximizing revenue around data monetization via IoT technology is also a key factor. Businesses need to marry design (user experience) and software development (engineering) to successfully execute monetization strategies. A clear example of this is hyper-personalization through big-data analytics. Companies can unleash the power of data collected via the IoT by opening it up to the outside world with application programming interfaces (APIs), versus employing closed systems. Contextual data gathered through this open system helps to bridge the gap in the IoT and create new opportunities. In retail, data from sensors placed around a store, as well as from relevant outside sources, can provide useful, complementary information to that store’s transaction data.

For example, during hurricane season, retailers can correlate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with point-of-sale transactions and foot traffic captured by sensors and mapped to the placement of goods on shelves. This can provide valuable insight—by store, by region and by hurricane category level—into the types of products and supplies consumers buy in preparation for a storm. Stores have more information to optimize their supply chains and operations to meet consumer demands, and consumers have more ready access to the supplies they need.

People also want “simplexity” from IoT devices and services—a great user experience that is both seamless and simple, even though each thing has nuances that can create great complexity when aggregated with other things. Connected things need to deliver convenience—which, when delivered, will help reduce fear around what this technology means for businesses and consumers.

Companies should also focus on solving common user problems that impact everyday life, such as how an open garage door can notify a user, after a specified period of time, to close it. Or, how the IoT can be used so owners have the ability to run quick diagnostics on their vehicles, receive automatic alerts and take action when thresholds are reached—for instance, fuel levels, tire pressure and battery condition. Companies that focus on consumer needs in this manner will see any doubts or misconceptions cast over IoT devices increasingly disappear.

Ultimately, businesses can shift away from the IoT’s fear factor by focusing on the real value of the Internet of Things—particularly data monetization and applications that offer consumers new levels of convenience. Like George Addair once said, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” The same mentality should be applied to deploying IoT technology.

Bimalendu Sinha is big-data practice lead at Ness Digital Engineering, where he is heavily involved in the software engineering services company’s efforts to build service offerings that help companies transform in their digital journey. He has more than 20 years in the hi-tech industry and is a graduate of Pune University, where he received his engineering degree in computer engineering.