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A privacy standard for Internet of Things suppliers

Jay Cline | Dec. 2, 2015
Setting up a common privacy standard now will earn user trust.

Internet of Things IoT stock

The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to generate the next economic big bang. But the expected boom will go bust if people worry about losing their privacy in the IoT ecosystem. The time is right for the stakeholders who stand to gain billions from the IoT to rally behind a common privacy standard that earns user trust.

IoT gold rush

Industry analysts agree on one thing: An explosion of Internet-enabled consumer products, connected cars, smart homes and wearables will generate a global economic boom over the next five years. One third of enterprise respondents to Computerworld’s Forecast Study 2015 last November said they were initiating IoT initiatives this year. Forbes reported in July that the pace had dramatically accelerated, with over three-quarters now jumping onto the IoT bandwagon.

The result? Twenty-four billion Internet-connected devices — over three per person on the planet — before the decade is up, by some estimates.

Whether this explosion amounts to the $1.7 trillion annual spend that IDC predicts depends on two factors: the value this IoT delivers to users and user trust in its privacy and security.

User fears

In a May analysis, Gartner said cybersecurity and privacy concerns are the main obstacles to IoT adoption. A January report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission enumerated the risks of a standard-less IoT: enabling unauthorized access and use of personal information, facilitating attacks on other systems and endangering personal safety.

What are the specific IoT risks people worry about?

  • Prospective buyers of connected cars have heard the reports of hackers taking over control of the vehicle, putting passengers at risk of an accident. They also worry about others being able to remotely monitor conversations inside the vehicle, monitor compliance with traffic regulations and predict when and where they will be.
  • Future consumers of smart homes — houses containing interconnected appliances, smart meters and smart TVs — similarly worry about outside parties being able to assume remote control of their living space, monitor activity, predict whereabouts and also draw conclusions about what type of people they are based on their living patterns.
  • As wearables expand beyond tracking the number of steps per day into more comprehensive health and wellness profiles integrated with smartphones and social networks, users’ commentary and concern about the use and disclosure of their data dossiers are increasing.

Vendors of IoT components should expect that researchers and movie scriptwriters will capitalize on these scenarios and other perceived vulnerabilities of the IoT ecosystem and stoke user fears of the unknown.

How can IoT stakeholders own the narrative and write a lucrative future for the world economy?


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