The Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay and will only continue to grow in importance in the coming years. This internet-enabled network of connected devices is being embraced by industries around the world who seek to create a new strategy for their operations, including retail organizations. According to Gartner, at least 25 billion IoT-connected devices will be in existence by the year 2020, with other organizations predicting an even greater amount.
While each individual retailer will need to determine the role that IoT plays in their long-term strategy, both in how they reach customers and how they operate internally, the growing trend of connected devices shows that companies everywhere would be well advised to prepare. However, there are multiple areas of friction that can arise within the process of integrating the use of IoT devices within daily business processes and leveraging IoT-generated analytics within larger strategies. These complications can affect everything from pleasing customer experiences to important issues of security.
Retail companies will need to consider and plan for the four following areas of IoT friction. Planning will not only help attain a greater chance of success but keep employees safe and supported their everyday work needs.
1. Information Security
With the number of devices connecting at any given moment in order to create a fluid and effective IoT experience, retail companies must be aware of the potential security risks. Should an IoT-enabled device that is connected to a company’s internal data be illegally accessed, data can be compromised. This means that strong, reliable security measures will be of great benefit to your company’s long-term strategy. These measures include password protection, consistent firmware updates, strong gateways within IoT networks to prevent obsolete devices from compromising the security of other devices and protocols that lock down local area networks.
People are still becoming accustomed to the Internet of Things, including employees who are encouraged to connect their personal devices, such as smartphones, and leverage other IoT-enabled devices within their daily work lives, such as in-store sensors. By implementing strong security measures, your IoT network can encourage consistent employee usage through trust. Strong security measures should be implemented to not only protect ecosystems today, but prepare for your company’s future IoT evolution.
2. Privacy Management
Privacy is often cited as an area of concern in IoT equal to security. However, the issue of privacy centers on how companies legally use the data collected from audiences. But being unable to collect any amount of data from your users means that your IoT ecosystem will lose a great deal of value in your marketing and software development strategy. As such, the question becomes a matter of just how much data your company should collect and how much privacy should be determined by users. As greater and more specific data becomes collected, companies can better understand the behavior of both employees and potential customers. But how specific is too specific?
Wired points out that the patterns discerned from IoT-generated Big Data are helping companies better understand individual user behavior, but data collection and usage can quickly cause resentment from audiences. Companies leveraging IoT technology will need to put some amount of power in the hands of target audiences in order to have their consent and continued willingness to participate in the technological ecosystem that is developing around them. Without consent, distrust can build, leading to resentment of what was once deemed an exciting and helpful technological development. But with consent, useful data pulled from each device can provide a business with a better understanding of their customers and employees.
3. Ecosystem Compatibility
The Internet of Things wouldn’t exist without proper connectivity between the many devices that comprise its network. However, an ideal IoT system may run into issues due to the many different operating systems powering the devices trying to connect, with Apple and Google software competing against one another for the largest share of the IoT market. This leads to different devices communicating with each other in a complex network, causing interrelated issues and friction during the integration process. Retailers should make sure that the networks they build are comprised of devices that can connect smoothly with one another, but should also consider the wide variety of software that will enter their networks due to customers arriving in stores.
If the IoT ecosystem established within a store is incompatible with devices that customers bring into it, then retailers will be unable to provide audiences with the complete experience they intended to provide. As a result, stores will not have the ability to collect data from customers. While there will never be a complete end to integration complications, an IT department that is ready and able to diagnose and solve these issues will be a major factor in ensuring a healthy and growing IoT ecosystem. In addition, some modern devices can send signals that connect with different types of software in order to overcome incompatibilities and provide an IoT experience for the broadest audience possible.
4. Storing Data and Optimizing Performance
As discussed in the context of privacy, devices incorporated into the Internet of Things will yield large amounts of data that can be used by a company to better understand daily operations and the interests of customers who are connecting to devices while in stores. But will your company be ready to receive, store and analyze such a vast amount of data?
IEEE points out that the large amounts of data collected from IoT-enabled devices will be best met with cognitive technologies that can analyze information at a faster rate than typical data procedures. However, IoT software users will need to prepare for complications regarding data analysis, including limited data or outliers that cause false positives or negatives, the difficulties in handling large amounts of unstructured data and managing real-time data rather than batch-oriented data processing. The fast generation of large amounts of data is what gives IoT ecosystems their value when it comes to better understanding customers and retail operations, but it also means companies will need to rethink how they approach data analysis.
Preventing IoT Friction
Being aware of these areas of friction within Internet of Things ecosystem development will help you prepare for and avoid them in order to prevent their negative effects. Like every software strategy, it is important that you have long-term goals in mind regarding your ability to use IoT and leverage its advantages in ways that will properly benefit your retail company. By avoiding data issues, compatibility complications, privacy problems and security breaches, you can create effective industrial IoT ecosystems.