IoT – from theory to application
Moving towards an IoT solution is all about the connections you want to make and the data that you want to capture. That may mean investing in a new technology mix to gather new data, or using what’s already available to improve your processes.
A relatively cheap RFID chip solution on a commercial product can give you tracking information about products in transit and your factory-to-store sales time. This means you can use that data to work out more effective means of transit over long distance, or have sales numbers as they happen to get ahead of the next shipment.
This relatively simple solution gives a comparatively small amount of data to help you understand the products and their movements. However, understanding your customers and making the most of their data can be more complicated than working with products.
This could mean building an app or a device that fits into their daily life and gathers data for you to help understand their habits on a deeper level.
Financial industries use banking apps to track customer spending behaviours to pinpoint when they are ready for a better card or plan. Fitness industries use FitBit trackers and apps to remind customers to go to the gym and engage with special offers. Whereas telcos use mobile data and tracking to see where customers use most of their data and highlight more cost effective plans or new devices.
The key to app interaction is utility; the data you’re able to collect is invaluable, but the product needs to have a tangible benefit to the customer in their every day life.
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The security of things
IoT means more connectivity – more connections between you and your business, but also more connections between you and your customers.
As customers connect with your business across a suite of devices, this gives you the potential to create a more complete view of your customers. It also brings with it the added need to protect their data as well as your own.
Speaking at CES 2016 and quoted in CNET, Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the US Federal Trade Commission discussed how businesses and ISP’s should work together to protect customer data. To Ramirez, "The industry needs to address these concerns and be more transparent about how they handle personal data". This is especially true in Australia as security of data is a requirement of the Privacy Act 1988.
As more and more devices are able to connect to The Internet Of Things, protecting vital customer data can be as important as protecting business assets.
In November of last year, a hacker gained access to the customer databases of a Chinese toy production group called VTech, that produce a range of toys each connected to an online store.
The VTech situation shows the importance of securing databases to protect the customer data collected through IoT. The business was filled to the brim with customer data, but the hacker used a very old method (called an SQL injection) to trick the site’s forms into returning almost five million sets of customer email addresses and login information.
In this instance, the hacker claiming responsibility for the breach suggested they didn’t want to do anything with the data, just point out the flaw for VTech to fix themselves.
This kind of unauthorised system access shows just how IoT can be a double-edged sword. The benefits of increased customer data are clear, from the marketing benefits of customer tracking and retargeting, to the business growth projections provided through broader device engagements.
With the obvious benefits of IoT for the business and customers, the clear security risk needs to be addressed as well. When you look at an IoT solution, a simple IT security system might not cut it.
So how do you prepare for the Internet Of Things? Think about your business, what devices you use and how things could work more efficiently. Look to your customers, how they engage with your business and how that could be improved. Think about what data your business actually needs to collect and store. While looking to your security, because all the data in the world is useless if you don’t hold onto it.