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The Privacy Revolution, IoT and Blockchain

Published on 12/19/2016 | Use Cases

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Alessandra de Paula

Senior Marketing Manager. Dell EMC



It’s not new that human beings generate vast amounts of data: grocery receipts, birth certificates, medical records, parking tickets. However digitalization has transformed the velocity, volume and variety that we generate and consume data. Data is oil, the Holy Grail, the new currency. Or, for some, just an over-used word.

3.5 Billion people (and counting)  have access to the internet at home and, according to Gartner, there are 6.4 billion data sharing devices or connected “things”. The famous IoT.

Internet of Things (IoT) projects are varied and are being introduced at a rapid pace: Smart cities, Smart Cars, Smart Homes, Connected Healthcare.

With all the potential good, there is always the prevailing debate around security. The sheer amount of data that IoT devices can generate is staggering. A Federal Trade Commission report entitled "Internet of Things: Privacy & Security in a Connected World" found that fewer than 10,000 households can generate 150 million discrete data points every day. This creates more entry points for hackers and leaves sensitive information vulnerable.

IoT will only fulfil its potential if we can share our data in a safe and transparent way.

Now, although McKinsey report “ The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype” says that Business-to-business (B2B) applications can generate nearly 70 percent of potential value enabled by IoT, n’t be without the use of personal data because the value in some cases is estimated to be even higher if personal data is combined with B2B data.

Consumers might be reacting favorably to the proliferation of IoT devices but they are also increasingly growing concerned about their privacy. Most people do not have effective mechanisms to protect their own data, and the people with whom we share data are often not effective at providing adequate protection.

Consumers are wary and businesses will suffer tremendous losses if they fail to build their consumers’ trust and confidence in the organization’s ability to protect their privacy.

Privacy-as-a-service (PaaS – yes, it will likely be confused with Platform-as-a-Service) is a service that consumers increasingly view less as a bonus and more as an absolute right. ?).

Wired Magazine has put together a great list of recommendations to help companies build consumers’ confidence in their ability to deal with privacy issues:

Put security measures in place. Hire the right IT people, invest in top-of-the-line equipment, and train your employees to follow protocols. If you haven’t taken the proper precautions, you can’t protect your customers. It’s that simple.

Be transparent. Tell customers how you collect their data and how you plan to use it. Rather than bury your disclosure in some long-form policy that people don’t want to read — or can’t understand — make your language simple, straightforward, and easily viewable. Go a step further and share details about all the measures you are taking to protect customers’ information.

Collect only what you need. You send up a warning flag when you ask for too much information for simple online transactions. Ask consumers to share only the information that is required for them to do business with you.

Offer customers a choice. Verizon, for example, recently announced that it is allowing customers to opt out of its online advertising campaign completely, so even it’s “supercookies” can’t track users’ activity.

Don’t sell customers’ data. If you can’t stand the thought of losing that source of revenue, think about the income you will lose when your current customers defect because they feel you have violated their privacy rights. Imagine the potential customers that won’t do business with you because they don’t trust you.

Another technology that might help address IoT privacy concerns is  Blockchain.

You are probably aware of Bitcoin as a popular (and controversial) cryptocurrency - a form of money that can be transferred securely and anonymously across a widely distributed peer-to-peer network. The process is automatic and fully auditable. That creates a “trustless” system where nobody has to put their faith in anyone else, because the Bitcoin network itself is guaranteed to keep a fair, transparent and accurate record of which bitcoins belong to whom.

Developers quickly realized that the technology behind it -the blockchain – wasn’t restricted to monetary transactions – It could be used to track and verify any kind of digital exchange.

Blockchain technology could provide a way to track the unique history of individual devices, by recording a ledger of data exchanges between it and other devices, web services, and human users. It could also enable smart devices to become independent agents, autonomously conducting a variety of transactions.

Imagine a vending machine that monitors and reports its own stock as well as solicits bids from distributors and pays for the delivery of new items automatically -- based on the purchase history of its customers. Or a group of smart home appliances that can bid with one another for priority so that the laundry machine, dishwasher and robo-vacuum all run at an appropriate time while minimizing the cost of electricity against current grid prices. Or a vehicle that can diagnose, schedule and pay for its own maintenance.

The privacy revolution is just starting and it is exhilarating to see innovating technologies being used to make more innovating technologies possible.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn.

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