Addressing IoT’s Biggest Communications Challenges

2018 is shaping up to be a big year for IoT. A technology that continues to gain momentum entering homes, factories, retail stores, and city infrastructures in ways we haven’t seen before. Although it’s an exciting time for those of us working in this space, bringing a new technology to market always has its challenges and IoT is no different. We’ve put together a list of the top IoT trend predictions and the potential PR messaging challenges that could come with them.

IoT + Blockchain

A large focus for many in the IoT sphere is keeping data secure. It’s imperative that IoT devices protect sensitive data from potential attacks. Many have suggested the use of blockchain to keep the information held on IoT devices safe. Blockchain is built for decentralized control, making a security system based on it more scalable.

So what does this mean for PR professionals working with IoT tech? Blockchain can be a difficult subject to understand and, across industries, there is confusion on how or whether to implement it. This year, companies should be nailing down their messaging in relation to the use of blockchain. And, simplifying the language so that executives can discuss a technology that’s unfamiliar to many and sell its benefits to customers in an easily digestible way.

Artificial Intelligence

Along with blockchain, IoT technology is frequently being paired with AI in order to accurately analyze the data that can be stored in IoT systems. Oracle’s Amit Zavery has said that the “central tenet of artificial intelligence – to replicate and exceed the way humans perceive and react to the world around us – is set to become the cornerstone of innovation.” IoT has the ability to store huge amounts of data – more than humans can aggregate efficiently. AI, specifically machine learning, recognizes patterns, similarities and abnormalities in data at a much faster rate than humans.

While AI can benefit IoT, some are trying to approach the combination more rationally. Christian Beedgen, CTO at Sumo Logic, says “AI will not transform the enterprise in the near future.” He adds, “Previous predictions and claims about the direct impact of AI on enterprises have been overblown.” Knowing there isn’t a consensus about the impact of AI, communication professionals should proceed with caution, crafting nuanced messaging about the speed of AI implementation in any particular business or industry.

Retail data

Retailers are realizing the extent to which they can gather and store important customer information through IoT. Having more data is great for companies wanting to create tailored shopping experiences based on their consumers habits and preferences. Connecting to IoT devices also gives retailers another opportunity to promote their brand.

While retailers having access to this data can end up benefiting the consumer, they may be reluctant to share their information with retailers given the security risk. We have already seen multiple attacks on consumer IoT devices. Even seemingly innocent items like a smart fish tank and a Fisher-Price teddy bear have been hacked in order to access the owner’s private information. Companies must be direct and clear in their communication about the security measures they’ve taken and their privacy policies to ease customer fears about using IoT products in the home.

Spread of smart cities

As IoT technology continues to evolve, so does the interest in creating smart cities. These cities use IoT technology to address the needs of their citizens in innovative ways. For example, Seoul’s “Smart Seoul 2015” campaign focused on providing access to medical services for the elderly and disabled through tablets and smartphones, integrating smart technology into their transportation services, and allowing access to public service announcements through mobile devices. The city also plans to have the first commercial 5G network in 2019.

Though some elements of smart cities are already being put in place, there are a few obstacles we have to overcome before the ideal smart city can exist. Firstly, powering the sensors needed will be difficult as large quantities of batteries need to be created for the devices. The disposal of those batteries could be complicated and potentially detrimental to the environment. Using traditional wires and cables would be even more impractical and expensive.

Power isn’t the only problem. Implementing IoT sensors in cities will be time-consuming and costly; keeping citizens’ data secure will be complex but imperative for success, and the current layout of roads and intersections are not yet fit for autonomous “smart” vehicles. We as PR professionals need to get people to look past these obstacles to continue focusing on a brighter future that the continual evolution of IoT technology could bring. The messaging should be focused on the potentials of IoT and the success stories that are already in place, like using predictive policing to reduce crime or New York City’s smart LinkNYC kiosks, a project that includes 7,500 kiosks, the gigabit internet infrastructure connecting them and the free Wi-Fi, national VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calling and USB charging – all at no cost to the city.

IoT is an interesting and rapidly growing new technology with an ever-expanding list of potential applications. As it continues to face challenges in various industries, communications professionals have to be flexible and creative as we craft and distribute messaging about IoT. Knowing the upcoming trends and the problems they pose help us prepare an approach that is informed and drives business impact.