Why You Need to Grasp the Human Side of the Internet of Things (IoT)

6 minute read
Internet of Things

Editor’s Note: Sirius and Forsythe are now one company. Sirius acquired Forsythe in October 2017 and we are pleased to share their exceptional thought leadership with you. 


The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest IT trends. But IoT isn’t as new as many people think . . . nor is it as human-free as it may sound.

Technology has collected data for decades. But recent innovations – such as cloud, increased bandwidth, and device-friendly APIs – have made connections and data sharing easier.

The technology is there, and thus, the onus is on enterprises to decide how they manage massive volumes of IoT data and use it to gain a business edge.

Some enterprises see IoT as a competitive opportunity to gather insights from their data and take timely action. IoT is the type of technology that can open up revenue generation opportunities with innovative business models that target new customer segments.

Some enterprises see IoT as a way to enhance their customer experience. They use IoT data to understand customers’ interactions and product usage scenarios. The insights that they gather allow them to improve their products and provide a better experience.

Other enterprises see IoT as a path to innovation. The more they leverage emerging technologies, the greater competitive advantage they will achieve. IoT devices can take innovation to the next frontier.

While IT teams see the value of IoT, they must also be aware of its inherent risks and take proactive mitigation measures. How will they manage and secure all their devices and data?

The double-edged sword of IoT

Data is the biggest benefit of IoT, as well as its greatest risk.

To benefit from IoT, you must analyze the data that it produces. If you don’t do this, IoT will be just another toy on your shelf or liability in your closet.

Many enterprises view IoT as a “shiny new object” and thus fail to make use of its data. You can’t collect data for the sake of collecting data. You must have a purpose.

Here are two questions to ask before you get started with IoT:

  • What problem am I trying to solve?
  • Where do I want to use IoT data to drive value in the business?

When you start with these business questions, your IT team will be better prepared to create a solution.

Processing and analyzing IoT data can position your enterprise to change its business model. Things that weren’t possible before are now possible with IoT.

For example, CAT is using IoT data to provide its customers with value-added services. CAT’s equipment captures data and then communicates about its usage. This makes life easier for CAT’s customers, as they can see when their equipment will need servicing – before something breaks.

CAT is reaping the biggest benefit of IoT – deeper connections and increased engagement with customers.

The biggest IoT risk

Security is IoT’s number one challenge.

How can you keep adversaries from accessing your data or using your IoT devices for malicious purposes?

Penetration of an IoT device can be disastrous, as one device likely connects to countless other devices and sensors in your ecosystem. Due to continuous automation, corrupted data can quickly spread across the enterprise.

According to an Altman Vilandrie & Company study, nearly half of U.S. companies that use an IoT network have been hit by a recent security breach. In today’s highly-connected world, even a seemingly inconsequential device can have a dramatic impact on your IT security.

5 Steps to IoT Success

To reap the benefits of IoT without putting your security at risk, you must go in with a plan. Here are five steps to achieving IoT success:

1. Craft a clear enterprise integration strategy.

Cloud and IoT have exponentially increased the need for integration.

Years ago, your first database didn’t need integration.

When you added a second database, you had to integrate it with the first.
With IoT, you multiply these integrations potentially as many times as there are devices and thus need a strategy.

If you already have an integration strategy but didn’t factor in IoT, you’ll ignore critical data. You must factor in IoT data, along with the historical data from your systems of record. Otherwise, you’ll fail to gain critical insights, which can limit your ability to scale.

2. Choose the right analytics engine.

How will you process increasing volumes of data and get value from it?

Just like retail stores staff up before Black Friday to prepare for holiday demand, you must also staff up your IoT data processors to prepare for peak loads.

When you look for technology, find a solution that goes beyond just collecting and analyzing data.

It should also deliver timely information at the “business moment.”

For example, what can it tell you at the exact moment when a customer looks at your product? Can it show you the reasons why a customer purchases it or passes on it? How can these insights impact the way you do business?

If you don’t have insights at the business moment, you could risk losing the sale.

3. Help your workforce think differently about data.

People – not machines – will process all of your data.

For example, your business intelligence software can run a report. But when you give the report to an executive, they have the final say in how you will act on it.

Your leadership may need to think differently to get value from your data and use it drive business results. Executives should prepare to address greater volumes of data at a much faster rate. Competitive enterprises of the future will use such insights to augment their business models and penetrate new market segments proactively.

4. Connect data to virtualize your information.

If your data is in silos, you won’t gain a 360-degree view of your enterprise. Look for technology that gives you a single, seamless picture of your key business entities. It should hide the underlying structure to present a cohesive view – as if a single database drives everything.

Your technology should show only the data that is relevant to the end consumers, so they can find what they need when they need it.

Connecting your data also reduces your risks of duplicating information. When employees input data across multiple sources (a.k.a swivel-chair integration), they waste time and run the risk of errors.

5. Take an open source mindset to IoT.

Collaboration – between both IoT devices and humans – will drive the most innovation.

Enterprises must open up their IoT data instead of keeping it to themselves. The more you share and communicate, the more you will innovate and get value from IoT.

Limiting access to data can cause as many problems as allowing too much access. For example, when healthcare companies fail to share data, they can slow the development of new cures and miss the signs of epidemics until it’s too late.

Beyond the Internet of Things

IoT isn’t just the Internet of Things. It’s the Internet of Intelligent Things.

IoT isn’t just the technology. It’s the human connections behind the technology.

Just because a device can collect data, it doesn’t mean that the data will always be accurate. For example, a device can gather data on your significant other’s purchasing patterns but then recommend a product that they don’t like. If you rely on bad data when you buy their birthday present, you could make a choice that you end up regretting.

That’s why human intuition is critical when analyzing IoT data. It is almost as if the human brain is the most well-knit tapestry of IoT sensors with synapses that serve as APIs!

Accuracy is good, but emotion is priceless.

IoT will accurately do what it is programmed to do. But, you must use the data to make the emotional connections with customers. When you do this, IoT can provide a much-needed human touch.

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