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Interview: Businesses must embrace the exciting potential of IoT

If you were looking to collate all of the key technology buzzwords from the last year or so, 'Internet of Things' would undoubtedly be on the list.

The IoT revolution is taking hold, with more and more companies doing all they can to get a head-start on the competition in what will be - and already is - a hugely lucrative industry.

We recently had the chance to speak to Quentyn Taylor, director of information security at Canon Europe, about the importance of IoT for businesses, the big issues to avoid and its potential impact in the future.

The full interview can be found below.

Why should organisations pay attention to the IoT in the first place?

I often compare the IoT to old wine in a new bottle. The concept has been around for quite a while – the 1992 McLaren F1 street car had a modem which allowed customers to remotely exchange information with the manufacturer - but a new sophisticated technical infrastructure, driven by superfast 4G mobile broadband and cheaper and more powerful mobile devices, means just about everyone and everything now seems to be connected.

This means the IoT is now front of mind for most organisations, and naturally many of them are currently trying to weigh its potential risks against the benefits.

I recently listened to a radio feature about a company that had installed dash cams into its vehicle fleet. At first the drivers were sceptical about being monitored, but within three months of use, the dash cam footage proved that most of the drivers were innocent when involved in road accidents. As a result, the majority of the drivers proactively asked for a dash cam to be installed.

This is a good example of how a company could overcome internal privacy concerns around the IoT by clearly showing when and how collected data will be used.

What are the big issues surrounding IoT technology?

If one single Boeing 737 engine creates 10 terabytes of data every thirty minutes in flight, imagine the data that could be generated by the 25 billion things that will be connected to the internet – that’s three for every person on the planet – by the end of 2020.

While just about every organisation is jumping on the IoT bandwagon, only a few really think about how to handle the vast data lakes they are creating. This is not only a huge security issue which could easily eradicate the consumer trust and brand image on which any organisation relies on, but also a missed business opportunity if the data is not leveraged.

How can organisations tackle these security issues?

To tackle this problem, organisations need to remember that not all data is equal and that it’s not feasible to apply a one-size-fits-all security layer across the entire data set. This wouldn’t allow the organisation and its customers to achieve maximum protection.

Handling less-sensitive or publicly available data, such as company addresses or billing information, requires a different security approach than more sensitive data – personally identifiable information such as passwords, credit card details or purchase histories.

Organisations must work with government regulators, auditors and customers themselves to understand the data and the associated risks, and identify the best measured approach to that risk.

Employees can also be a source of risk when it comes to protecting sensitive data. Our recent Inside Track: CIO study, which surveyed 3,200 office workers, found that almost half of them don’t know how to properly use the business technology that’s available to them, which might open up potential data leaks due to human error.

Organisations must remember that every IT investment also requires investments into training, and the good news is that 52 per cent of workers see training as the secret to being more productive.

What else should organisations do with IoT data, apart from protecting it?

Too often, organisations focus on the risk but not the opportunity surrounding customer data, and would miss a trick if they would only protect it.

Customer information is the new currency in today’s data-driven world, and analysing it to extract customer insights could benefit various parts of the business, from hyper-personalised marketing campaigns to showcasing the capabilities of its products. Jawbone is an excellent example of the latter. It quantified the effect of the South Napa earthquake last year on sleep and found that, once awaken, it took the residents a long time to go back to sleep, especially in the areas that felt the shaking the strongest.

This analysis generated widespread positive media coverage, demonstrating the value of information to both the company and its customers.

Do you see IoT having a greater impact in the business or consumer worlds?

Gartner predicts that about 25 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the end of 2020. Consumer applications will unsurprisingly drive this number, because the penetration in this market is higher.

IoT technology is now often available to consumers first, as the products become cheaper and easier to use. While the business world is playing catch up as it decides what IoT components it will take and use – simply look at the hesitations towards wearable tech – there is no doubt that enterprises will account for most of the revenue of the IoT as they create new business models and value propositions around these connected devices, rather than simply digitising a product or service.

Google has entered the utilities sector with Nest, British Gas has created an IoT subsidiary called Hive and a Tesla car is essentially a giant smartphone on wheels. We can be sure to see the business world reaping the benefits of the IoT and big data going forward.

What progress do you see the industry making by the end of 2015?

The IoT space is changing very quickly, which makes it extremely difficult to predict where we will be by the end of 2015.

To quote Amara’s Law, ‘we tend to overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.’ I’m thrilled to see what technology will arrive and how we will use it in our personal and professional lives. It’s an exciting time that we live in.