It is a great time to be an entrepreneur. The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution has spawned an infinite number of opportunities for innovative self-starters. The tools available to help entrepreneurs create new and amazing IoT devices and services are ubiquitous. Your imagination and a basic sense of business are really the only limits. The key to being successful is being able to avoid the surprise backend hidden costs, like a baseless patent lawsuit or a cybersecurity breach.
The revolution is just beginning
While IoT products have been in the marketplace for some time, we are actually at the very beginning of the revolution. This is because not until recently have IoT devices been able to take full advantage of the power and scale of the cloud.
Early IoT devices could be controlled remotely through the Internet but that was about the extent of their interdependencies. Today, cloud providers have platforms that facilitate the ability of an IoT device to share data back to the cloud.
Google, Amazon and Microsoft have all begun offering turnkey IoT development platforms, such as Microsoft’s Azure Sphere and Amazon’s FreeRTOS. These offerings are specifically designed to help developers:
- Create products that manage power efficiently (e.g. automatically entering a low power state when inactive)
- Effectively connect to the Internet, and
- Integrate with displays, cameras and audio interfaces.
More importantly, these products enable an IoT device to effectively connect with the cloud. In addition to the connection to the cloud, the ever-expanding bandwidth send data is changing how IoT devices are utilized.
Along with the ability to be controlled through the Internet, IoT devices are now able to effectively serve as sensors, accumulating massive amounts of data that is then sent to the cloud where it can be processed. This ability to crunch this data in real-time has created a seismic shift in the landscape. From sensors that help farmers track animals to devices that monitor and improve manufacturing processes, IoT has changed how every industry operates. New IoT devices are being invented by entrepreneurs daily because virtually anyone can jump into the fray. That is why 90% of the worlds data that exists in the world has been generated within the last two years. And in two years’ time, we will undoubtedly be able to make the same assertion.
But this isn’t without risk
As I have previously written, developing software for the cloud comes with inherent risks. Developing IoT products that harness the cloud are no different. Developers need to ensure their products are secure and they need to mitigate the risk of putting a product on the market only to then be sued for patent or copyright infringement. Both a security breach and an infringement suit can paralyze a company innovating with IoT. Moreover, the trendlines for both cyber-attacks and patent lawsuits in the IoT field are growing exponentially. In fact, between 2013-2018, the number of litigated patents in the IoT space increased more than 400%, including a sharp spike last year. This trend is not going to change for some time, and it would be foolish to ignore this fact. In an instant, a company can go from being a shooting star to filing for bankruptcy.
Solutions do exist
These risks are not insurmountable. With regard to cybersecurity, solutions are available. It is just a matter of finding the right provider. As a starter, CIOs and CLOs should investigate the inherent offerings of the cloud platform where the IoT device is going to run. Various cloud providers have services and offerings to enhance cybersecurity. Some of them even extend these offerings to the IoT device. It only makes sense. Service providers with scale have the resources to invest in securing their network, as well as the devices that are connected to their network. It has become a selling point.
The same is true for intellectual property issues. Services providers aren’t all the same, and a little research can go a long way. Some do not provide any protection whatsoever while others go out of their way to indemnify you and give you additional tools fight back both types of attacks. Unless you are a phenomenally well-resourced start up (an oxymoron in virtually all instances), partnering with a provider that uses its scale to mitigate its customers’ risk is incredibly important.
Remember, the goal is not to eliminate the risk, but rather it is to manage it. Having the foresight to look around the corner and see potential risks before they become emergencies is key. Accompanying this planning with finding the right partners at the beginning of the development process will certainly foster success.