IoT Evolution Demands a Change in Conversation in 2022

IoT is coming of age, with Cellular IoT particularly maturing and gearing up to enable comprehensive solutions.

By Jimmy Jones, Head of Security, ZARIOT

Originally Published on Spiceworks

The first six months of 2022 have felt like a return to normalcy with face-to-face interactions at both events and meetings. These exchanges always seem more open and productive than online discussions. They have reinforced for me that IoT is coming of age, with Cellular IoT particularly maturing and gearing up to enable comprehensive solutions. 

A Realization of True Value 

Historically IoT solutions were predominantly machine-to-machine deployments, with devices simply reporting data. This took the market on an immensely price-driven trajectory. More maturity in the market, especially among those players who are the most experienced, for instance, high volume metering companies, are more than ever appreciating the value of enhanced services. Business models recognize and understand that maximizing connectivity reliability, more detailed analytics, and other insights improve service quality and avoid ineffective troubleshooting or worse onsite interventions.

While price points will always be sensitive in an industry that works in vast volumes, this change in commercial attitude is encouraging, particularly as it would seem to support a more encompassing approach to IoT solution design.

Security Focus from Compelling Events

Secure by design has been an industry mantra for some time, but it could be reasonably argued that it is woefully disregarded sometimes. This cannot continue, primarily because of the exposure it subjects the enterprises’ customers and reputation to, but also because regulation is looming. 

We are seeing certification companies building out their testing capabilities by engaging more third-party labs to support the expected tsunami of testing that will greet new IoT legislation from the EU, UK, US, and other regions across the globe. 

Much of the additional load will be consumer IoT cybersecurity certification, which is less than two years away, but these certification bodies also support medical, industrial, and other industry vertical standards, so the knock-on effects and potential delays to market should be considered and assessed as a risk in any IoT project currently under consideration.     

Identity, Personal Data Ownership, and the Future of IoT Data Privacy

In my role, I comment extensively on IoT security, and earlier this year, it led to one of the most exciting conversations I have had for some time. Until this point, I confess, I had considered identity and privacy in very narrow terms. 

Identity in my IoT field of vision was all about data integrity. Ensuring the device was as it appeared to the network and vice versa. All information exchanged is also accurate and reliable. So, protecting the overall data purity allows users, ML, or AI to make precise, well-informed decisions.   

Privacy I saw primarily as a GDPR/CCPA issue. The multitude of sensors and meters potentially combines information in vast data lakes to the point where even the most insignificant data could be combined to derive personally identifiable data.

Privacy and identity also drive obvious benefits by removing the friction of use and increasing security for the individual, and we see the biometrics industry making huge inroads there.

What I hadn’t considered were the personal and commercial aspects. I had heard of monetizing your private data as an individual but had not thought about it in depth or combination with the expanding IoT landscape. 

We have all heard data is valuable, but as the number of devices able to collect data that we all buy, operate, service and support increases exponentially, do we realize how valuable it is? 

An example is a new car you’re thinking about. On average, it will report data worth approximately $40,000 over the time you own it, and you will see nothing. In 2025, Forbes predicts you will interact with IoT every 18 seconds producing 90 ZB of data, but even now, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties reports Google’s Real-Time Bidding process provides marketers with 178 Trillion private data points for residents in just the U.S. & Europe every year.

The situation is unsustainable and, as an IoT Enterprise and individual, it needs consideration. 

We must consider how we can support users’ privacy, giving them control over the devices they buy or utilize if and when public opinion changes. These devices couldn’t be impacted. At the same time, we still need to support a commercial model that allows revenue generation and tailoring services based on the same data.

There are options. Enabling a device consumer to explicitly share data rather than implicitly having to interpret data points means the user has control, but also, the data, when shared, is a more valuable asset when assessing an enterprise’s net worth. 

It is a complex and relatively niche discussion at present, but something that, when exposed and entering the public psyche, could very well fundamentally change the way we interact online. 

Michael Becker, an expert in this field, quantified the potential impact succinctly: “If we get this wrong, George Orwell was an optimist.” You can watch his excellent “Meeting of the Waters​” presentation for more insight on this subject.

Recognizing the Value of Collaboration 

A clear theme in almost all conversations this year seems to be the willingness to embrace collaboration and work together to enable IoT solutions to get to market. Again, I see this as a maturing of the market and a natural progression when solutions become more multifaceted and complex. 

The only way to effectively deliver on these more far-reaching IoT projects is to collaborate and use the combined expertise of a trusted ecosystem. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  

We are seeing much closer collaboration between device manufacturers, connectivity providers, and solution owners. An example of this in the cellular industry is the opening up of eSIM functionality to support more than just network connectivity, to add more security, Quality of Service analytics, and other applications. When combined with working closely with device makers and application and management vendors, the eSIM can bring real tangible benefits to the final solution. This is a clear sign of forward-thinkers in the industry looking to engage more actively with the ecosystem in delivering a shared final goal. 

However, it is undoubtedly not just cellular. System integrators and solution owners are adopting a hybrid approach in elements of IoT to create optimum deployment. 

Technology is finally starting to become the enabler for the solution vision rather than the dictator of what is achievable. IoT technology is slowly moving from being solutions looking for a problem to solving actual real-world challenges. 

If that continues, IoT in 2022 can look forward bullishly to the future.   

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