Who Can You Trust with Your IoT Data?

No single entity can install enough IoT devices, systems, and applications to cover everything needed. As a result, entities must collaborate in two areas. The first area is interoperability. You would have never been able to enjoy Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and many other technologies if equipment, connectivity, and service providers would not have put the effort to establish interoperability among their products and communication protocols. But it is the second area that this article focuses on: TRUST.
Can one provider trust another provider with your data?
The consequences of your data falling to the wrong hands could be devastating, and in some cases, could even pose threat to life and business viability. The level of trust you must have in another entity correlates, and must compensate for your perception of the risk that you might incur if that entity mishandles your data.
My definition of trust helps here: trust is your willingness to accept the potential negative consequences of giving control over something you have to someone (or something) else.
So, how do you know if you can trust another entity with your data?
To answer this question, I would turn to my model of trustworthiness, and the 6 components of it.
First, is the other organization competent in handling your data? Have they shown the ability to maintain data security in the past? Do they have the capability and the skills to continue and do that? If applicable, are they, their products, or their services appropriated certified to maintain data security?
Second, does the other organization share your values? What is their motivation for collaborating and interoperating with you? Are they driven by the same values and motivations as your organization, or are they driven by values that oppose those of your organization? “Marriage of convenience” could blow up in your face, when conflicting motivations rise to the surface. You must assure that your values are aligned with those you wish to trust.
Third, is the relationship symmetrical? Data that flows only in one direction is asymmetrical and may lead to breaches in trust. On the other hand, if data flow between the two organizations is symmetrical, trust will be maintained at a higher level. Keep my information safe and I’ll keep your information safe. Symmetry is a powerful motivator for trustworthiness.
Once you analyzed the other organization through these first three components, you would be able to determine whether you can (or cannot) fundamentally trust them. Don’t share information if the other organization cannot be trusted through the analysis of those three components.
The next three components come to play through the ongoing relationship with the other organization, because trust is dynamic. It increases (or declines) with every interaction and, although not as fast, in between interactions. In fact, it will decline faster with negative interactions than it would increase with positive ones. Just like people are much more inclined to post negative reviews if they had negative experiences than they are to post positive reviews if they had positive experiences. Bad is much stronger than good.
The other organization is made of people, and people are (or are not) trustworthy, which would make their entire organization trustworthy (or not). How they interact with you would allow you to determine their trustworthiness. The three components of every interaction are the positivity of the interaction, the length and frequency of interactions, and the intimacy of those interactions. The more direct, transparent, no-BS your interaction counterpart is, the more you can trust them. The more frequently you meet with them, and the longer you meet with them, the more you can tell if you can trust them or not. In a similar way, the higher the intimacy of your interactions are (more face-to-face, less email), the more you can tell if you can trust them.
While there is almost nothing you can do beyond judging the competence or values of the other organization, or the symmetry of your relationship, there is a lot you can do to determine their trustworthiness and build trust between you and them through interacting with them more frequently, for longer time, and more intimately.
Finally, remember that as much as you may need to trust them with your data, they must trust you with theirs. Building trust does not happen when you demand another person (or organization) to behave in a way that will earn your trust. It happens when you behave in a way that will earn theirs.

The author is the CEO of the Innovation Culture Institute LLC and the author of The Book of Trust and twelve other books and 300 articles. He was named one of the top 20 thought leaders on organizational culture by Thinkers 360. Find out more at www.yoramsolomon.com

The State of Our Connected World

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently released the report “The State of the Connected World.”  In that report, the WEF reflects the growing importance of IoT technologies in a data driven world, a technology that links the digital and physical world into a cohesive fabric.  The cumulative effect of these systems is the creation of a digital twin that reflects current conditions.  Such systems allow data analytics processes to drive operational processes in real-time.  This represents a significant shift from today’s world where analytics are largely used to identify historic trends and forecast future needs.  While the potential benefits of systems are breathtaking in their ability to redefine even the most basic business processes, they also open the door to new scenarios that may arise if these technologies are not provided with proper guide rails.  

The report makes clear that the IoT space is still in its infancy and is expected to grow and even accelerate after the COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside.  The rate of technical evolution in this space is already outpacing our ability to establish laws, policy, and standards.  Despite efforts of marketing professionals to describe products as future-proof, it is impossible to predict how these guiding principles will evolve over time.  Therefore, existing systems must be constructed so that adaptability is a foundational requirement.  Current generation systems should anticipate that upgrades and retrofits are expected operational costs.  This observation can be compounded by the fact that operational costs of such systems are often significantly underestimated. 

Another point raised by the report relates to the potential for IoT systems to worsen the digital divide.  COVID-19 has served to highlight that we live in a world where there are marked differences between the digital-haves and the digital-have nots.  In affluent areas, access to high-quality, high speed internet is primarily a question of choice.  However, in many areas access to the internet is severely limited by speed, choice, and quality.  This creates a digital caste system.  Those in areas where the internet has improved education, economics, information access, and consumer choice while others are being left behind in a digital world.  The introduction of IoT technology could raise the ante even further by making targeted environments ripe for accelerated growth while other areas are left behind.

Privacy and security continue to be noted as key concerns.  Companies struggle to provide sufficient protection for their systems which are facing a growing onslaught of external threats (e.g. hacking) and societal expectations (e.g. CPRA).   At the same time, government authorities struggle to find the proper balance between the protection of personal freedoms without hindering the economic growth that arises from increased collaboration and data sharing.  Tied to such deliberations are issues linked to artificial intelligence and automation, two technologies that while being independent of IoT technologies, depend on the growth of IoT technologies in order to achieve their long-term market potential.

A key point which is outlined in the report but bears further examination, is the fact that a significant portion of the value that IoT systems creates is derived by linking disparate systems together.  For example, a manufacturing company can see immediate productivity gains by deploying IoT technologies to automate a factory floor.  Those base level gains can be exponentially increased when an automated factory is linked to supply chain distribution companies that have also automated their delivery resources.  Similarly, a smart home can make lives easier for individual residents but the composite value of such systems dramatically increases when the data from these systems are linked with the power-grid and other city services.

Despite the fact that IoT systems remain in their infancy, they have already become an indispensable part of the way we live our lives and conduct business.  While we face many challenges with these first generation systems, the benefits are so significant that there are many examples where the technology is being enthusiastically embraced.  As the challenges outlined in the WEF report are addressed, the benefits of IoT technologies will rise and costs will decline.  Together, these factors are poised to accelerate deploymnet of IOT systems, data networks, data analytics, and artificial intelligence.