A crisis is developing in the IOT-world of customer data as governments, companies and individuals wrestle over who should own it. Irene CL Ng says a new methodology is emerging that will resolve the issue to everyone’s benefit.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a world of connections between things and connected people.
Increasing amounts of data will flow through us and just about every device we touch – communication devices, vehicles, smart buildings, hospitals, even our fridges – data that firms can harvest in real-time as the IoT gradually turns into the Internet of Everything.
This means that a great many disparate companies are gaining access to personal data about the way we live.
There are two ways of look at this: companies are better able to understand their customers and therefore can create more relevant offerings, which is a positive outcome. Equally, it can be seen as negative, with individuals becoming increasingly concerned about the security and confidentiality of their own data.
The face-off between Apple and the FBI over the unlocking of an iPhone used by one of the terrorists responsible for the December 2015 San Bernadino attack, perfectly frames the conflict between society’s demands for protection from crime and terrorism against its need to retain some measure of personal privacy in our digital lives.
With both the US and UK Governments looking at new legislation that would require companies to provide greater access to customer information for the sake of national safety and security, this has given rise to an increasingly complex debate over possession, use, and disposition for personal data.
Therefore, as industries begin to wake up to the internet ‘jumping out of the box’ into the physical realm through the Internet of Everything, there is an urgent need to better deal with customer data, a burning platform fueled by the growth of the IoT.
The goal must be a framework that respects privacy and ownership of personal data, while encouraging the creation of new markets and greater growth in the digital economy.
In a rapidly expanding IoT world, where it’s estimated there will be some 6.4 billion connected devices with embedded sensors communicating directly with one another by the end of this year, the market is likely to be pluralistic in terms of who has ‘custody’ of personal data.
Large corporations such as Google and Facebook will always want to retain this custody, but many small companies making IoT devices might prefer not to take the privacy or reputational risk that comes with it.
Instead, they may opt for a container model, giving access back to the customer. This suggests a way forward in which firms, and the customers that they rely on for data, can better align their objectives for everyone’s benefit.
A personal internet data container such as the Hub of all Things (HAT) that I am involved in developing, would enable individuals to set the terms for precisely how businesses, websites, and other online services can contribute to, and access, their personal data.
It could also provide individuals with the ability to collect their own data through IoT enabled objects, and to be creative by recombining or mixing up that data, then sharing it in a manner that preserves their privacy, while simultaneously allowing for more informed decision making.
Better still, by returning control of personal data to customers, firms can build a better relationship with them, creating trust, goodwill and loyalty.
Such a multi-sided personal data platform could resolve the tension between our understandable concerns over personal data privacy and our abilities to tap into innovative services and products in today’s connected world.
It allows for a new social and business contract to be forged between individuals and firms in the context of the IoT, one that could potentially spur even more innovation, since individuals could be private and secure, while still allowing firms access to the data that will enable them to offer better, more personal service.
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