by Sunil Maulik, March 2014
Sunil Maulik runs workshops on problem-solving using design and innovation thinking, behavior change, and habit formation. His recent article for Profit Online covered one of the biggest technology trends in 2014: the Internet of Things, or IoT.
We asked members of Profit’s LinkedIn group to ask Maulik their question about IoT. Many readers had concerns about privacy. Others wanted to know about the practical applications of this new trend.
Here are Maulik’s answers to a selection of their questions. To participate in future Q&As with Profit contributors, join our LinkedIn group.
Q: What are some specific examples of the way IoT could change the way we work, the way we travel, or our lifestyle?
A: On a simple, practical level, IoT will help us with our commutes, optimize the use of office and meeting space, and encourage us to live healthier lives by walking or biking to work. IoT will act as a load-balancer, effectively enabling us to leverage resources in a more sustainable manner. Cities will be able to do more with less, energy consumption should stabilize, and the full benefits of the collaborative, sharing economy will emerge as communities band together to more effectively share the resources at their disposal. Companies like Uber, SolarCity and Airbnb are leading the way in this direction.
IoT will act as a load-balancer, effectively enabling us to leverage resources in a more sustainable manner.
Q: With IoT, people and objects will be traceable through the environment around them. How will privacy be a concern?
A: Privacy is already a major concern for most people today. The recent revelations that both private companies and the government are monitoring phone calls, text messages, and even webcam chats have alerted the public to the potential for overreach by both the private and the public sectors. A combination of watchdogs, policies, and internal self-governance will be required to prevent other countries from setting up onerous demands on companies and governments they suspect may be using IoT devices to spy on them, for either private gain or public security reasons.
Q: With the hundreds of companies chomping at the bit in the IoT space, what will separate the winners from the losers?
A: It is still unclear whether major technology companies today will gain substantial market share of the IoT, or if unknown start-ups will grow and scale to dominate the landscape. Most likely, some combination of the two will occur. In my opinion, the eBay, Cisco or Google of the IoT has yet to emerge. However, there is no doubt that the economies of scale the titans of tech have today give them a significant advantage to exploit the massive data streams expected from IoT.
Q: IoT would bring in many user interfaces via which the various devices are accessed. Different industries would demand different criteria on these web applications or user interfaces – for example, some industries would need data accuracy while others would need UI simplicity as their main criteria. Is there research being done in the area of determining these industry-specific criteria so that the framework that IoT would use could meet these criteria?
A: Universities, research organizations, and design consultancies are already scrambling to develop new interfaces and design considerations around voluminous data. User interfaces will need to become flexible and dynamic, allowing different representations and visualizations of the same data by different users with different end goals. Creating frameworks and standards around these different interfaces will be highly challenging. However, there is already some interesting work being done combining big data with augmented reality, enabling users to manipulate the data in very interesting ways. Companies like Ayasdi, Autodesk, and Palantir are visualizing very large data sets in ways that enable new insights to be made by non-expert users.
Sunil Maulik is managing partner at SunilM1.
Q: How does IoT change the way that companies are dealing with security?
A: Companies are leveraging the latest standards in security to ensure the integrity of the data they collect from IoT devices, both during transmission and subsequent storage. Governments will weigh in, with new standards expected from organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Companies will have to deal with security in three broad areas: confidentiality (not disclosing information to people who shouldn't have access), availability (ensuring access is available 24x7), and integrity (ensuring the data is not being messed up). Specific areas where companies will need to be particularly careful about security include health, transportation, utilities, and of course, defense.