If “necessity is the mother of invention” then “innovation waits for no one”.
The latter is probably more truth in the current wave of fintech-led disruption in the financial services community. But even in the more traditional industries such as manufacturing and logistics, we are seeing innovation come up driven in part by developments in the area of Internet of Things (IoT).
Some of the earliest applications of IoT are around wearable technologies that collect information about a user’s habits such as ManulifeMOVE in Hong Kong, and the environment around us like the AirCasting Platform and TZOA. Industrial applications include waste management, smart street lamps by Hello Lamp Post,
Governments themselves are not necessarily holding back their own investments in IoT. Rapid urbanisation is forcing governments to look at technology to solve the problems of accelerating population densities in the urban areas. This is even more imperative in countries with small landmass such as Singapore, which has ambitions to become the first smart nation.
All these developments are happening despite a lack of consistent strategy by industry and regulation by the government to control the use of IoT technologies.
Speaking to FutureIoT, Anne Petterd, principal Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow, commented that “it's often said that that the law is not keeping up with technology. To some extent, there's truth in that. But it doesn't stop businesses from operating. If we all wait for the law to catch up we'd never get anything done.”
So rather than sitting around and mulling what regulation will likely come into play in a not so distant future, she suggests areas organisations can look into proactively so businesses can continue to innovate while recognising legitimate concerns of consumers and regulators.
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She calls for prudent thinking on the part of businesses and developers.
“A business that is more proactive with being transparent, thinking through even though I could make that use of data should I? And how do I communicate with people on that? These strategies will probably put themselves in a better position if regulations come and intervene in that space,” she concluded.
But not everyone thinks strategically.
She believes that businesses need to study, as part of their IoT strategy, how data is being used with the IoT solutions.
“A lot of the IoT devices, particularly in the consumer space, are making a lot of use of personal data and data about people, collecting details about where people go, and what their preferences are. A lot of the time businesses don't spend enough planning time at the beginning of their IoT strategy development how [yet to be defined] privacy laws might influence product development,” she commented.
Another area that's also forgotten is when third-party IoT solutions are brought in as part of the solution. “An example might be a manufacturer who wants to bring in IoT technology to use in its manufacturing plant. The company needs to think through how is that data collected being used? Is it being used just to optimize its own business or is the solution provider using that data to provide services to its entire user base which might include some important corporate information?” suggested Petterd.
IoT and IoT data present significant opportunities for businesses and public sector organisations to enhance how products are developed or services delivered. And despite the early stages of development [and regulation] of the technology, there is amply ways for which organisations can innovate using the technology without being crippled by yet to be defined regulation.
The key is thinking ahead of the possibilities, listening to what customers or users of the technology are saying, what regulators may be concerned about and taking prudent steps to incorporate this intelligence into their IoT strategy.
As someone once quoted: “forewarned is forearmed”. There is a competitive advantage in advance warning.