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

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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.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/27/2014 12:50:56 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling

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. 
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.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/27/2014 12:02:47 PM
Re: Your Thermostat Is Calling

"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?
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.
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.
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.
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'
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.
Hospice_Houngbo   IoT: Your Thermostat Is Calling   5/26/2014 2:57:02 PM
Re: I think

"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.
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