Key Considerations Before Your Next Connected Device Purchase

There is no denying the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution is well under way.  Gartner expects that there will be 6.4 billion connected devices in use in 2016, and 20 billion by 2020.  As new players enter the field every day, it is important that we focus on customer pain points and products that resolve those pain points, rather than simply creating tech Connected Devices.pngthat is loaded with fantastic features that don’t solve any problems.  As consumers and businesses consider adopting this technology, a few important points should taken into consideration:

How is your data secured?

IoT promises access to a nearly unlimited amount of data analytics including: connected car,  smart home, wearables, and healthcare data.  While there are hundreds (if not thousands) of startups breaking onto the scene offering killer apps to resolve the myriad of issues in each of these spaces, security is increasingly becoming a point of concern.  I call this the “Google problem.”  Google has access to your search data, browsing data, smartphone use and application data, and many other data points.  Some have raised concerns about the amount of data the tech giant collects and how it might be used.  As each company gains insight into driving behavior, health and fitness behavior, and various other IoT applications, the real question becomes–How are these companies safeguarding this information?  Ben Dickson of Tech Crunch outlines some of the security challenges IoT faces in his blog Why IoT Security is So Critical.  Look carefully at the company’s security and privacy policies.  If your information is being shared to partners or advertisers, what specific information is being shared?  How is it being used?

I don’t believe the issue lies in the amount of data being collected, however I do believe it is critically important that companies remain completely transparent so customers understand exactly how their information is being used.  Customers will then be able to make informed, educated decisions about the applications they choose to adopt.

What is the ROI?

For businesses, in particular, this point is critical.  If you are looking into a connected car or fleet tracking solution, consider the potential implications on your insurance premium.  Contact your broker to get an understanding of how much you will save by tracking your connected carvehicles and assets.  This also holds true for consumers, who frequently receive a break in insurance premiums for installing a GPS solution in their vehicle.

Challenge your solution provider to quantify the return on investment in terms of:  fuel savings, overtime reduction, maintenance cost benefits, etc.  Consider ancillary benefits such as the cost of data entry, paper, and other manual processes that many IoT solutions can solve at considerably less cost.

What about the network?

The IoT solution is only as valuable as the network the data travels on.  If you are using a wifi-based connected device, ensure your wifi extends through the entire area you need to collect data and that data speeds are sufficient for your application.  Ensure that your connection is encrypted (VPN, private network, etc.).

If your IoT solution is traveling over a wireless carrier’s network, ask your provider what network they are using.  If the network does not function well in the areas you need your connected device to work, you won’t have access to the data when you need it.  Every carrier has an IoT team, and each has put resources into building out an IoT ecosystem.  Ask questions about the quality of the connection, where you should expect to see connectivity issues, and how the solution provider intends to overcome those challenges.

Final Thoughts

Internet of Things has nearly limitless opportunities to improve our quality of life, however it is important that we ask the right questions.  Large companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, Google, and others have put considerable resources into building out an IoT strategy for bringing these connected devices to the market.  It will be exciting to see how these various players bring ground-breaking technology and must-have killer apps in 2016.

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