IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 5/22/2014 | 35 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
You're about to know precisely where your customers are and what they're doing. Are you ready for Big Data Advertising Everywhere?

The combination of the Internet of Things and big data has the potential to allow pinpoint advertising on a scale that most consumers have never considered. Google, for example, has already been forced to deny that it has plans underway to put ads on your thermostat. That doesn't mean, of course, that it will never happen -- just that there hasn't yet been a document containing the idea appear on the Google campus with "Plan" on the title page.

Futurists have for years talked about the possibility of a refrigerator that keeps track of your groceries and builds a shopping list based on perishables that have been used. LG has even demonstrated a smart fridge that does just that. How big a leap is it, really, from a refrigerator that keeps track of your shopping list to a refrigerator that shows you ads for the best deals on your next bottle of ketchup, or a coupon for a nice bottle of chardonnay to go with the fish you just added to the list?

From IT's point of view this is, in many ways, simply an extension of the sort of big-data opportunity that already fills corporate planning sessions with visions of predictive insight on customer (and potential customer!) behavior. The technology, while still evolving, is practically old-hat by now. The real challenge for the IT department is going to come in the very sensitive areas of security and privacy.

Anyone who doesn't believe that privacy now sits at the top of public consciousness need only look as far as Target for an alternate view. The POS data breach has already cost the retail giant a CIO, CEO, and millions of dollars in lost shareholder value. The fact is, no one knows what the final cost of the breach will be. What is known is that customers saw the loss of their credit card data as an enormous breach of their privacy, and they're quite willing to punish Target for its perceived sins.

Now, imagine how the public would feel if the privacy breach included financial information along with behavioral data. It's fair to say that the reaction of consumers would be dramatic -- and the actions taken on their behalf by regulators and attorneys would likely be just as dramatic.

This isn't to say that there's no value, either to the enterprise or its customers, in collecting and analyzing the data that will be generated by a growing number of "smart" things around our houses and places of business. The key for IT is understanding just how valuable that information is -- and being a representative of the consumer in helping the rest of the enterprise understand the information is valuable. Anything so valuable must be treated with the utmost care and kept under the most strict sort of security. That just makes sense.

So before you allow the marketing department and Chief Digital Officer to get ahead of the organization on big data and the Internet of Things, start thinking about how you're going to secure all the data as it comes and goes and gets pushed around the analytical engines of your enterprise. Be ready. Somewhere out there, a refrigerator and a thermostat are waiting to talk to you.

— Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor, Enterprise Efficiency Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn pageFriend me on Facebook

View Comments: Threaded | Newest First | Oldest First
Rich Krajewski   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/22/2014 11:56:44 AM
I think
I think the refrigerator has been the target of the IT department for a long time now.
SunitaT   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/23/2014 9:05:15 AM
Re: I think
People are not really ready for a big drastic change. Off course people will want to find out where there customers are and what they are doing but not at the expense of breaching their privacy. This is a very delicate issue that should further be put into consideration. They should carry out test balloons to see whether this concept will work and whether it will be accepted by the people. Change is good but drastic change may be the total opposite.
Pedro Gonzales   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/23/2014 9:58:02 AM
Re: I think
@ sunitaT.  I agree. I woudn't feel comfortable for my fridge and my thermostat telling a company my behavioral patterns.  How would I be assure that the company is protecting all the information they have about me?  I think they should do a focus group and a usability test on people' home to see whether this project is as effective as marketed.  Although, I do like the idea of having a shopping list available.
jastro   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/23/2014 10:59:00 AM
Re: I think
>> How big a leap is it, really, from a refrigerator that keeps track of your shopping list to a refrigerator that shows you ads

Good point @curtis. No leap at all.

>> start thinking about how you're going to secure all the data as it comes and goes and gets pushed around the analytical engines of your enterprise.

So as CIOs continue thinking outside of the IT box, what path do you (CIOs and others) recommend? Any examples? What are the keys to making it happen?

When we talk about "the future" we always tend to glamorize it, i.e., just the good stuff, like a fridge that indicates "more juice" for breakfast.

Except it's always a bit bleaker, like a fridge that locks itself and tells you when you need to stop eating now to lose those calories. How's that for >> predictive insight on customer (and potential customer!) behavior. More Stephen King than Louisa May Alcott.
stotheco   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/25/2014 1:25:12 PM
Re: I think
Refrigerators have come a long way since their debut. I honestly would not want my fridge to stream ads while I'm trying to find some leftovers to heat up for dinner or whatever it is I'm looking for in there. Grocery lists, yes. Food inventory, yes. Ads, no.
Umair Ahmed   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/25/2014 2:16:33 PM
Re: I think
Grocery lists, yes. Food inventory, yes. Ads, no.

@ Stotheco: Since it will be the smart fridge, I guess, we will be able to download some apps, free version with irritating ads but the premium version 'ads free' :)
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 1:58:53 PM
Re: I think
@Umair:

Most of the fridges will likely be equipped with recommendation systems that may recommend"optimized" buying choices, based on live information collected from online ads and commercials. So if somebody wants their frigdes to recommend best grocecy deals, they will have to allow these ads on their systems.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 2:26:09 PM
Re: I think
@stotheco:

I think we should keep options open. For instance Google may team up with supermarkets to sell groceries at a discount to users who don't mind an occasional ad popping up on their fridges.
Hammad Masood   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 3:11:00 PM
Re: I think
I would like to see ads about the items in my fridge that are about to end and I would have to buy them soon. Some best buy stores would be preferred in such scenario.
Zaius   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/23/2014 10:01:35 PM
Re: I think
Gone are the days when fogetting something at grocery makes us feel stupid! Now, I will never forget tthe milk is finished, and I will need to buy a dozen eggs tomorrow.
Rich Krajewski   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/23/2014 10:20:43 PM
Re: I think
"will need to buy a dozen eggs tomorrow."

And when your refrigerator tells you that, it could also tell your health insurance company and your employer that you are eating too much cholesterol, and are therefore incurring a health risk, even if genetically you and your family do not suffer health risks from high levels of dietary cholesterol. Your insurance rate will go up, or you might simply be fired.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 2:40:45 PM
Re: I think
@Rich:

" it could also tell your health insurance company and your employer that you are eating too much cholesterol, and are therefore incurring a health risk,....Your insurance rate will go up, or you might simply be fired."

You may have a point here, but I think that will not happen in most cases as there will still be laws and regulations to protect user data and private information.
Hammad Masood   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 3:19:33 PM
Re: I think
Privacy and security is a grave issue with Ubiquitous computing and smart devices. Laws need to be strict and should also be followed strictly rather than being there in name only.
stotheco   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/25/2014 1:26:09 PM
Re: I think
I agree with Pedro. Sure, it might only be food information or eating habits, but it's still information that I wouldn't want to share with a bigwig company that might use it to sell me stuff or something. Just not something I would be interested in.
stotheco   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/25/2014 1:17:00 PM
Re: I think
You have a point. There's no bigger turn off to consumers than retailers and companies that don't respect their privacy. This is a very sensitive subject matter and if you do cross that line, then you'd better prepare for losses all around.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 2:57:02 PM
Re: I think
@SunitaT:

"Off course people will want to find out where there customers are and what they are doing but not at the expense of breaching their privacy."


I agree! The IoT may have the potential to make users more vulnerable on the internet, but I think that most of the legal and ethical questions it raises will be addressed by experts and lawmakers in order to protect user privacy.
SunitaT   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/24/2014 2:10:15 PM
Re : IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling
Coming up with a refrigerator that keeps track of groceries is an awesome idea! The best part of it is that it even goes further and comes up with a shopping list based on used products. The main aim of IT is to make work easier by improving technology.  By coming up with such a fridge, they will have made work much easier. I think the next invention after a smart phone should be the smart fridge. This will mark an upgraded level of technology.
Hammad Masood   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 3:13:39 PM
Re: Re : IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling
Think about the fridge speaking up, 'You open my door at same part of night each day and you still find nothing to eat. Get your self some snacks from the nearest XYZ store'
Umair Ahmed   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/25/2014 2:23:28 PM
Financial data vs Behavioral data
Now, imagine how the public would feel if the privacy breach included financial information along with behavioral data.

@ Curtis: Do you feel that the public would be as cautious about the security of behavioral data as much as it is concerned about the security of financial data. I think with most IoT, largely behavioral data would be involved. 
zerox203   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 6:54:44 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
I'm glad some people in here are pointing out the obvious dependency between the free shopping list and food tracking, and the ads that will be served to them by the same process. Sure, it's easy to say we would like one and not the other, but that's not really how it works, is it? We don't 'want' any ads, but we certainly have plenty of them already. There's an expression in business that fits perfectly here - if you're not the (paying) customer, then you're the product being sold (I think I first heard this here on E2). If you expect your fridge to do all this without paying a monthly fee, then you'd better believe the people who sold it to your are paying for it some other way (even if it doesn't cost them a dime, they'll say this while they turn a profit). Like Curt says, though, there's no doubt this will cause a surge of consumer reaction, tons of talking heads on TV completely misunderstanding the technology, and, eventually, some regulatory action will come into the picture. Someone in the thread said lawmakers and regulatory bodied will get out ahead of this to protect our interests. I think we have enough past evidence to say that's not *quite* going to be the case, but I think eventually it will become to big of an issue for them to ignore. Like all things, we're probably looking at mixed bag someone between that and the doomsday scenario Rich describes. Of course, we have a role here as consumers in being vocal about our concerns, and voting (with our wallets and our ballots) responsibly.
SaneIT   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/27/2014 7:36:31 AM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
I've brought this up a couple times on E2, when you're using a free service it is important to know that it is you who is actually the product being sold.  We've heard recently about Gmail scanning mail for keywords to push advertising why would a smart refrigerator be different?  Why would a smart thermostat be different?  If it knows when you leave and when you come home and it can extrapolate where you work and roughly what you are doing while you are home that data becomes valuable to advertisers.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/27/2014 12:50:56 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
@SaneIT: 

We have no illusions as to why Google is giving away its services and most of us have already used to targeted ads and have learnt how to circumvent them. The main problem with the IoT is that, the potential for hackning thermostats and other connected devices or household equipments will continue to grow as many people adopt the technology. So the main debate should rather be about how to revolve the security vulnerability issues brought about by the technology, rather than foccusing on how to prevent google's invasive ads from showing up on these devices. 
SaneIT   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/28/2014 7:30:41 AM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
I've had some people look at me with disbelief when I tell them that hacking of automotive systems is just one cheap attack away from taking off so I understand where you're coming from.  I don't doubt that people will try to access other IoT devices but I also think that the concept of security through obscurity will be a big dirver in this fight.  Anyone looking to make me miserable is going to have easier ways to do it than hacking my thermostat and turning up the heat.  Anyone looking to steal personal information would be better served stealing my mail than spending a week trying to access my refridgerator.  The big attacks will come on a much larger scale.
eethtworkz   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/29/2014 1:03:09 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
SaneIT,

You are most definitely not the only one here!

LOL!

Its a most puzzling situation when folks don't realize that anything(and I mean Any device) connected to the Internet is vulnerable for attack.

Just saying Security via obscurity will save you seems a little strange given how many Botnets exists today(and how easy it is to buy one today).

All these connected devices just made it that much easier to not just hack devices but also establish connected botnets today.

 
tekedge   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/30/2014 11:01:03 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
I never thought of this aspect...
eethtworkz   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/29/2014 1:07:56 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
Houngbo,

The Typical way to do this is add encryption(at either the Device layer or on the Data you are transmitting via VPNs).

Problem with either approach is that it will end up consuming more Data as well as reduce Speeds of Transmission of Information.

Not just that it will also add to costs of the Device.

I don't think too many vendors will be eager for these solutions today(as long as there is no Outcry over Privacy Vendors won't change/Adapt).

Regards

Ashish.
eethtworkz   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/29/2014 1:10:36 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
SaneIT,

Yup!

The Whole Shopping experience(for Groceries atleast) is about to get automated and very-very boring!

I most definitely don't want to be there.

I hope I am not the only person who thinks like this.

Think about it-If the whole experience is automated,how will we have any control on the Foods we put in our Stomachs? Everything is run by a machine and its whims and fancies.

 

 
singlemud   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/30/2014 9:38:17 AM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
The auto suggestion for the next shopping list and coupons avaiable/best deals for this shopping list is pretty cool.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/27/2014 12:02:47 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
@zerox203:

"We don't 'want' any ads, but we certainly have plenty of them already."

I wonder if ads on smart fidges will be more invasive than all the unsolicited ads we already recieve on our computers or handheld devices?
eethtworkz   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/29/2014 1:12:09 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling
Houngbo,

That's a very fair argument/Thought to consider.

I won't be surprised if that is definitely how it turns out.

You (& Your preferences) are for Sale here.

 
kstaron   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/27/2014 12:26:27 PM
Keep ads where they belong
And somewhere out there will be that fridge and thermostat ripped from the wall and thrown in the dump. I don't need more advertising thrown at me. The amount of information that tries to 'help' me buy something is already more than I like. I don't need ads in the privacy of my own space on applainces that have no business giving them to me. At least with TV, websites, and magazines the idea is the ads pay for the content, so unless someone want to pay for the items in my fridge or the heat/cooling costs associated with my thermostat, I don't want ads any where near them.
impactnow   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/28/2014 12:58:49 PM
Smart efficiency
It's only matter of time before big data comes to our house literally. There are already smart thermostats you can program from your smartphone and tablet while you're away from home. Security systems also become smart and accessible from our tablets and smartphones. Making smarter appliances and smarter homes could save us money time and prevent headaches. Imagine if your furnace told you I am going to break down or a refrigerator said it's light was burning out. I'm less worried about hacking given the benefits of smart technology.
eethtworkz   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/29/2014 12:46:48 PM
Re: Smart efficiency
ImpactNow,

The way I look at it(with all these connected Devices that are entering our Homes today);we are already on the Internet of Things Super-Highway(whether we like it or not).

Its a different thing that we may chose to not rig these together (by keeping them offline) for Privacy Concerns amongst other reasons.

What I feel is that unless we get very cheap Broadband Internet;I don't see the IoT Picking off in a big way.

Most Data Providers/Cable Companies just throttle your Internet connection if and when they feel you are using too much Data(even on Broadband).

What will happen when there are millions of such IoT Devices all pushing data out and then Recieving Info in return?

And lets not forget so many organizations have'nt yet made the full transistion to IPv6 for their Internal Networks.

What happens then???

Chaos is just the start.

 
eethtworkz   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/29/2014 12:48:05 PM
Re: Smart efficiency
ImpactNow,

As you have very rightly pointed out there are both pluses and minuses to the situation at hand.

Its upto all of us to decide what we take and what we let go!

 
tekedge   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/30/2014 10:57:52 PM
Your thermostat is Calling
For me a smart refrigerator will indicate an overdose of technology. I know it is soon coming but hubby soon we will be ruled by Technology....in every aspect


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