What is IoT?
A Guide to the Internet of Things
For many of us, understanding advances in technology can feel intimidating. While these new technologies are intended to make business, healthcare, communications and many other aspects of our lives easier, they are sometimes simply too complicated to understand.
We hear phrases such as, “The blockchain is going to revolutionize how monetary transactions are made by utilizing a decentralized and encrypted means of communication…” and really have no idea what they mean. While it all sounds quite impressive, and like the world is on the verge of some sort of cutting-edge technology that will improve all of our lives, it’s easy to simply sit back and think that it’s not for you.
However, this mindset, while understandable due the sheer volume and pace of new technology, can actually have negative consequences for your business and personal life. We have compiled a simple and clear overview of how a relatively new type of technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), is rapidly changing our lives. We hope this primer will serve as a useful resource for developing a basic understanding of IoT and show that while this new technology can seem complex, it is well worth the effort it takes to understand.
The Internet of Things, or IoT for those in the know, simply refers to the increasingly prevalent electronic technology that is becoming part of everyday items, such as watches, home thermostats, health monitoring devices and smart cars. The IoT technology provides these devices with data and other types of real-time information so that the device itself, or person using the device, can modify its behavior.
IoT, essentially, is meant to enable these various devices to make decisions based on the information they receive. As a simple example, smart cars have begun to utilize IoT technology to provide real-time monitoring of cars’ functions while they are in motion and to help predict when they will require maintenance.
Another example, this time from the medical field, is the hope that “wearables” such as smartwatches can begin to detect people’s vital signs and monitor their individual health concerns, alerting them before an emergency occurs.
In short, IoT is simply a way of connecting people, machines, appliances, etc. to other devices in order to optimize decision-making and the rapid processing of information. IoT is especially helpful because it mitigates, and often eliminates, the need for human interaction to send information, process details, and make decisions.
“IoT is really just a name for the next big wave of economy.”
—Tom Snyder, NC RIoT
Executive Director “We’re discovering ways to gather information in places we’ve never gathered it before because of advanced and low-power sensing capabilities. We’re at a point where innovation and creativity don’t have any bounds right now. What’s super exciting about all of this is that the advances are coming at a price point that is so low cost anyone can be an innovator right now. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a business, it’s key to recognize that an IoT solution requires many different elements to be robust and powerful. It’s best to not try to do that on your own. If you’re interested in the industry, find organizations like NC RIoT where you can find others to help. If you’re looking to really create a solution and drive business impact, partnership and collaboration is the big trend right now. Partnership is key.”
Like most areas of new technology, legal trends and directives as they relate to IoT are less developed than more mature technologies. Because the United States, like most other Western democracies, is a common law jurisdiction, society relies on outcomes of legal cases, which may be guided by administrative policies and legislative action, to determine where the law stands on certain issues. As a result, many legal issues concerning privacy rights, intellectual property, data ownership, scope of usage, and many others force those in the legal community to confront new challenges derived from cutting edge technology.
As legislation and litigation around IoT become further developed, we will get a better sense of how to iron out some of the legal ambiguity relating to this new technology. In the meantime, at Fourscore Business Law, we’re staying up to speed on how the nuances of IoT and the potential legal impacts it will have for our clients.
For entrepreneurs in the IoT space, there are some important considerations you should take when hiring an attorney to help with your IoT-related startup. For one, it will be vital to find an attorney who has experience in tech and is an expert in business-based areas of law. While IoT is quite new and unique, it will have a good bit of commonality with other types of technology and business law.
Make sure your attorney is continually updated on emerging trends both in the news and in the courts regarding issues that may impact IoT. Especially while IoT is in its relative infancy, it is important to partner with an attorney who is willing to put in the effort to be as up-to-date as possible with new developments in the field.
“We became an IoT business by accident.”
—Steve Guido, Co-Founder and CEO of Aeva
Labs “Originally we were creating solely a hardware product. About halfway through the development process we realized we could create much more value for our customers with an IoT-based product. It turns out that’s something we’re banking on now as both a value add and a competitive advantage. In many cases, integration of IoT technology opens up opportunities to deploy features that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I believe that connected technology will permeate most every industry, impacting everything from consumer to enterprise level products. Interacting with IoT products is becoming a mainstream part of daily life. We’re in the infancy of the movement now, which is incredibly exciting.” “
Utilizing IoT is not just for tech-savvy millennials. Everyone from middle school students to senior citizens can benefit from the remarkable, varied ways IoT is improving our lives. Here are some obvious, and not-so-obvious ways that IoT is already impacting our lives.
1. IoT tech can enable your smart watch or tablet to receive automatic updates from your bank or other accounts when someone logs in or transfers money from your account. With this information, you will be better prepared to shut down the account in the event of fraud, notify the bank or police, or cancel your credit card before significant damage is done.
2. IoT can increase your financial security by mitigating your risk profile to protect against fraud or identity theft based on your purchases. By using algorithms to predict where you are likely to shop and what type of purchases you are likely to make, IoT can help alert you and your bank to unauthorized purchases made through one of your accounts.
3. IoT is revolutionizing the ways we interact with our homes. Many HVAC and thermostat devices are now equipped with sensors that track when you or your family members leave and return home. Modern motion-detection devices can also automatically turn outdoor lights on, and be paired with lights within your home to switch them on or off, making it appear as if someone is active in the home. This technology can be used to make our homes more energy efficient and also mitigate the likelihood that someone will try to break into your home.
4. IoT also applies to mobile pay, allowing you to receive payments from your customer’s cell phones via dozens of mobile pay systems. For example, in China, one of the most popular ways to pay for everything from fast food to clothing to electronics – and almost any other daily purchase – is through the WeChat mobile app. WeChat connects to a user’s bank account and provides a convenient way for Chinese citizens to pay for things without carrying cash or cards.
5. The healthcare industry is ripe for disruption, where IoT is revolutionizing the lives of millions of people around the world and how they think about health. The healthcare industry is currently undertaking a shift from historic reactive forms of healthcare to proactive approaches, due in large part to technology. By providing real-time data to doctors, scientists and computer programs, IoT has the potential to help save lives and increase our understanding of illnesses.
“The ability to get relevant data very quickly, and to then transform that feedback into concrete, prescriptive recommendations, is incredibly exciting…”
—Mike Prorock, CTO and Founder of Mesur.io
“Getting learning from the data into the hands of actual decision makers is huge. Ultimately, IoT data is only as reliable as the code you’re using to run all of the devices. It’s crucial to have a really good understanding of the networks that are involved and all of the pieces that can break down along the way. Having a strong technical background or someone you can tap as a resource is critical. It’s a very exciting industry, but it’s only going to be as useful as the analytics we perform on it. We’re in a phase now of very simple IoT products, but we really need to start thinking toward that level. Solid analytics are everything.”
Like all new technology, IoT not only has the potential to revolutionize the world by improving our lives, but it also raises some serious moral questions. For example, devices like Alexa and Siri cause many people pause (at least) over privacy concerns – like the Oregon family whose conversations were unwittingly recorded and sent to a random person in their contact list.
IoT also represents privacy and financial security risks. Data privacy has become one of the most important areas of law and government regulation in the past decade as we have put increasing amounts of our personal information online. As transactions have become easier with the advent of the internet and mobile devices, they have also become susceptible to scammers and online thieves. One of the major concerns of programmers, designers and inventors in the IoT field involves securing devices and networks so that we can continue to use our technology for financial transactions, healthcare records, and more – securely.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which came into effect on May 25, 2018, provides guidelines and penalties for companies doing business in the European Union with regard to protecting an individual’s personal information.
In the United States, this has caused pressure for business-owners as they do not know how strict enforcement will be and how, exactly, to comply. Regardless of the complexities of complying with GDPR, this new regulation represents the most recent attempt to manage how technology and
IoT devices could adversely affect our lives. Having well trusted professional advisors is integral to ensuring that your business is able to keep up with the times and address whatever issues you may face head on.
One particular concerning scenario, which GDPR attempts to mitigate, is that oftentimes our privacy can be violated without us even knowing it. By mandating informed consent and notification within 72 hours, the GDPR attempts to require transparency and fast remedy for breaches of personal information. This will be of paramount importance in the coming years as IoT becomes increasingly intertwined with our everyday lives. It will be interesting to see how the United States responds to the GDPR at a governmental level. While many suspect that the U.S. will employ a “wait and see” policy to determine the effectiveness and burdens of GDPR, it is likely that we too, will see legislators advocate for more dynamic policies regarding our personal data protection as the technology expands. For a general overview of the GDPR and the top things you need to consider with regard to your business, read more here.
With new challenges come new opportunities for problem solving. Will IoT transform the way we think about data? Maybe data holders will seek to commercialize their personal data if they so choose rather than keep it private? Maybe IoT will be used to help businesses make better-informed decisions in high stress scenarios? There are many questions that one can conjure up when thinking about IoT, but the important thing is to be thinking about it. After all, IoT is coming, whether we like it or not.
As you move forward in business and within our increasingly technological world, we hope that this overview of the Internet of Things (IoT) will serve you well. Whether you are a business person, desire to improve your home or financial security, or simply want to improve the efficiency with which all of your gadgets interact, an understanding of IoT will be a major asset for you. By continuing to read about IoT in various sources, you will come to see that even so-called “experts” are still just imagining how IoT will transform our lives.
Therefore, despite the promise that IoT represents, it is important to take your security, and that of your employees and family very seriously. If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are excited about how this new technology is revolutionizing our world and look forward to continuing to serve our clients as you innovate and grow.