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Innovating for innovation’s sake: where IoT deployments are going wrong

Businesses are somewhat blindly clambering to be involved in the Internet of Things (IoT) market by deploying IoT solutions that don’t necessarily align with business objectives. The race to quickly generate products and solutions has seen compromised IoT security systems go to market without thorough testing and protocols.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) being heralded as the beginning of the next industrial revolution, businesses are somewhat blindly clambering to be involved in the market by deploying IoT solutions that don’t necessarily align with business objectives.

Advancements in IoT have given tech users the ability to connect servers and edge devices, but in the midst of the competition to produce feature-rich products, at the lowest possible price, two major considerations are often overlooked:

i) Companies are producing and deploying IoT solutions in an attempt to stay current, but these initiatives are not being developed with clear objectives on how to deliver value to the end user and often have no defined purpose or target audience.

ii) Developers aren’t making security a priority. IoT and it’s capabilities are still being explored and developed, but security protocols and testing, in many cases, are not up to technology market standards. If thorough testing in-situ, live and in context of how the technology will be used is not carried out, developers cannot build the solution to protect against all security threats.

IoT solutions and business objectives

While tech giants and consumer-centric businesses are constantly developing innovative products, they are failing to put user needs and business objectives at the centre of their decision-making. In many consumer facing deployments of IoT technology, marketers are so keen to capitalise on the opportunity to engage with customers or collect data on their behaviour, they ignore the primary objective of providing value to the customer.

Burberry had an inspired vision for the future of its flagship Regent Street store and was looking at how technology could help deliver the ultimate brand experience. The 44,000 square foot store was fitted with 500 speakers and 100 screens (including the tallest indoor retail screen in the world), to engage customers through delivering emotive brand content. Live fashion events could also be broadcast live, using satellite technology.

In a basic implementation of IoT Burberry also used RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on many of the items in stock. This meant that when a customer took an item of clothing into the changing room these RFID tags would activate changing room mirrors to display that item on the catwalk and also show how it was made.

Along with the impressive technology used to create an engaging brand experience, Burberry also looked at how technology could be used to help manage the store and stock better. The RFID tags, on selected items, helped staff manage stock and quality in store.

Inarguably, this is an impressive implementation of technologies, and by all rights, it should have inspired technology advancements in other Burberry stores and high street competitors. But it didn’t.

RFID use for inventory management has proven successful with most businesses using the technology. However Burberry’s screens, which livestream fashion events, don’t offer the same significant value to store operations or customers making purchase decisions. The experience may have been novel initially for customers, but ultimately the fashion videos did not help customers make purchase decisions or alter their in store experience significantly.

It is widely agreed that innovative technologies and strategies need to help drive change and shake up the traditional retail model to compete in a digital world. However, rolling out technology, without really understanding how to deliver value for the end consumer is not going to help advance the industry at all.

IoT Security

73 percent of IT professionals consider it likely that a company will be hacked through a connected device, according to the Global IT Association, and they are in consensus that manufacturers are not implementing sufficient security measures in IoT devices. This is reflected by the number of high profile cases where IoT deployment vulnerabilities have been exploited to expose companies’ systems to risk.

One highly publicised example of a major security flaw in an IoT deployment is how Heating Ventilation and Air-Condition (HVAC) systems, which connect to the internet, exposed a gateway for hackers to key corporate systems of user companies. With HVAC systems connected to networks in retail buildings, government buildings and hospitals, there is a significant risk of exposing highly confidential information to hackers. HVAC vendors and other related third parties have access to these ‘secure’ networks for administrative purposes. It is understood that hackers gained access to login credentials belonging to the Target network from a company that provides HVAC services to the retailer. This infiltration earned the hackers entry to Target’s payment systems, which resulted in the theft of data on approximately 40 million credit and debit cards.

This case demonstrates how crucial it is for IoT deployment to be rigorously tested, for every eventuality, before going to market. This is just one example in a potentially dangerous web of IoT security flaws. If large enterprises can be guilty of compromising on security features; then IoT startups and organisations with smaller budgets are likely creating platforms that could pose a serious threat to the security of their users.

Connected technologies have the potential to help drive transformation across industries. However, without the correct approach to defining opportunities and building robust solutions, this potential will never be realised.

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