The best way to describe the Internet of Things (IoT) is to say it's the internet of everything transmitted online from objects, tools, apps and devices. Whether your trade is making gourmet chocolates or mining for minerals, the IoT allows you to receive real-time information on the barometric pressure, the price of cocoa beans and the current market conditions for industrial stones.
As the IoT grows in importance and volume, you should be aware of the benefits and the risks involved in accessing and collecting the steady stream of data affecting your business and being created by it.
The benefits of joining the IoT
Let's say you want to build a smart pair of shoes that light up, puff out and lace themselves with the use of a phone or android app. The IoT allows you to access other shoe manufacturers' methods, university research on the sustainability of glue and comparable prices of similar shoes in your target market. The IoT helps you source vendors, factories and retail outlets. It helps you develop marketing strategies and study competitors' ad campaigns.
If your shoes can be monitored by your company as one of the product features, you can study your customers' product usage to streamline features of the shoes. Perhaps a scant few consumers use the lace-up feature, so you can offer a value-version of your special smart shoes without automatic lacing. Your consumer gets what they want, while you increase sales.
Being logged into your consumers' product usage also allows you to easily issue recalls, keep track of maintenance of your products and target advertising for future sales. Most importantly, the IoT allows you to collect data on your own operations to identify ideal production conditions and cost-cutting targets.
Be aware of liabilities
Security researchers proved hackers can gain access to your private Wi-fi network with a lowly light bulb. Do any of your devices have weak or completely vulnerable access points? You need to have double and triple security built in to any data-sharing products you develop or use in your business.
Depending on where your business is located, there are strict legal ramifications for sharing, selling or allowing any compromise of personal data. Your business may also be held liable for security breaches that ultimately lead to identity theft or other crimes against your clients or customers.
Your own corporate and operations data is subject to hacking and complete shutdown if your operating, data-collecting and IT systems are not scrupulously protected and routinely backed up. You must also have a plan for culling the enormous amount of data you collect from your operations and your research.
Protect yourself from IoT risks
The positive influence that the IoT will have on your operations and earnings make it worthwhile to join in and be part of the data stream. You'll receive input, ideas and inspiration yourself from the various ways people solve problems and grow their operations. But protecting your business from harm or liability must be at the forefront of any IoT business plan.
Make it a key part of your business strategy to hire the best IT security people you can afford. Have a dedicated manager for your IoT data to help sort and maintain the vast new information streams that your various departments access routinely. Invest in advanced training of your IT security team several times per year to ensure they are up-to-date on IoT issues and risk management. Meet with all staff on at least a monthly basis to review safe internet habits and protocols.
Most importantly, consult with a business law attorney (like Souders Law Group and other firms) who is familiar with the latest rulings on IoT data. Laws concerning the IoT are emerging and evolving, so you must have ready access to legal counsel that understands and studies this complex new side of business data collection.