Mohammad Jalali, MIT Sloan Research Scientist
From MIT Sloan Management Review
How cybersecurity can affect the market for smart products.
Smart devices, once relegated to science fiction and our imaginations, are now ubiquitous. Today, there’s a market for everything from a Wi-Fi connected refrigerator to a voice-operated speakerthat doubles as a personal assistant. The internet of things (IoT) — the software-operated network of physical devices, appliances, vehicles — grows day by day as these devices become part of our daily lives. A March 2018 survey found that 22% of Americans used IoT appliances in their homes, and this trend is widespread across the globe. Amazon recently announced a plan to expand Amazon Echo services to Italy and Spain.
For consumers, the concept of easily operated, highly adaptable products is great. Smart devices are convenient, useful, and fun. However, many people remain skeptical or anxious about this level of connectivity. News of products leaking private information or being remotely hacked has led customers to fear for their personal safety and reconsider hooking up physical appliances to vulnerable networks.
MIT Sloan Associate Dean of Executive Education Peter Hirst
This spring, I participated in three major IoT-focused events and came away with mixed feelings about the state of the industry. The first was the Internet of Things World in Santa Clara, California. The conference tends to focus on more technological aspects of IoT and draws thousands of attendees. A few days later, I flew to London to take part in the Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF), an invitation-only event that caters to the C-suite audience. The third was a board meeting and strategy workshop for the Internet of Things Talent Consortium, a spinoff from the IoTWF, of which MIT Sloan Executive Education is a founding member. The three events were highly educational, thought provoking and inspirational in their own right, but all shared a common theme—we, the people, are the main barrier to faster and wider IoT adoption. Moreover, it’s the very nature of humanity, our habits and idiosyncrasies that seem to be stalling the robots’ march toward making our lives wonderfully better—or toward total world domination, depending on how you look at it. More seriously, here are some themes that emerged in my mind once the conference excitement wore off.
Stop Resisting Change
People are creatures of habit. We are comfortable with what we know. It’s not laziness—it’s an evolutionary trick we’ve developed to survive as a species. New is scary and we tend to resist it, willfully or subconsciously, but this resistance can hinder progress. For example, as we heard from the main stage at IoT World Forum in London, GE— who is one of the earliest and relatively successful entrants into IoT—sees organizational inertia as one of the biggest problems in digital transformation. Culture clashes between different kinds of businesses within an organization are dragging down the entire enterprise. Traditional engineers and digital engineers are not speaking the same language. Business leaders are not yet adept in the ways of leading required to drive a digitally-enabled transformation. At IoT World, I was on a panel discussing the future leadership needs around IoT. The panel featured professionals in different industries from education to talent recruitment to defense. And what everybody was saying is that when you look at executives, the need to have agility and resilience is just as great as the need for people who can understand both the technology and the business. In the IoT era, leaders need to have awareness of all sorts of business-environment issues, as well as other important concerns, such as privacy and cyber security, regulation and public policy. Whether it’s strictly IoT or not, you could see that in examples like Uber or Airbnb, as they’ve run into public policy, regulatory and other kinds of situations. I think it’s fairly self-evident that it would be hard for those businesses to succeed without having leaders who are able to take on those kinds of aspects as well.
I’ve touched upon this subject previously, and hearing from companies like GE only reinforced my impression that there is an immediate need to not only train the workers who will work on the IoT implementation, but also to educate leaders on how to lead the transformation. In light of this, the IoT Talent Consortium is redoubling its efforts to help organizations understand and analyze that question. The group sees itself as a community where digital-transformation pioneers and people who believe that they need to or want to go through this kind of journey can share experiences and identify successful practices.
MIT Sloan Professor Stuart Madnick
My brother can’t function in the morning until he has a cup of coffee. So I use his daily routine as an example.
Picture my brother stumbling down to the kitchen one morning only to find his internet-enabled coffee maker won’t work. There’s a message on his iPhone: “We have taken control of your coffee pot and unless you pay $5, you won’t have your coffee.” This actually hasn’t happened. At least, not yet.
I have been talking about the security threats to common household items connected to the internet – that is, the Internet of Things (IoT) – for several years now, and unfortunately, every other dire warning has come true so far. Upper management has to take greater notice of risks exposed both in the products they produce and the products that they use and take action to mitigate those risks. Recent events underscore this need.
Two years ago an internet-enabled refrigerator was commandeered and began sending pornographic spam while making ice cubes. Baby monitors have been turned into eavesdropping devices and there are concerns about the security of medical devices, such as computerized insulin pumps. In October, thousands of security cameras were hacked to create a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) against Dyn, a provider of critical Domain Name System (DNS) services to companies like Twitter, AirBnB, etc. Then there is the recent disclosure of CIA tools for hacking IoT devices, such as Samsung SmartTVs, to turn them into listening devices. These are only a few examples highlighting the threats.
Professor of Information Technology,
Director, The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy
We’re in the early stages of a management revolution. The upheaval is based on our unprecedented ability to collect, measure and digitally record information about human and systems activities, particularly with the finely tuned data sets available through IoT. One of the hallmarks of this new era is the acceleration of data-driven decision making within businesses, which has tripled in just five years, according to a recent study I conducted with Kristina McElheren, a professor at University of Toronto.
Accompanying the progress anticipated in this increasingly digital age, however, will be thorny challenges and broader issues for society at large. This is particularly true as organizations begin to feed the large data sets available from IoT into systems that use machine-learning algorithms—at which point they will begin making predictions and decisions in an increasingly automated way, and at large scale.
Machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have advanced greatly in recent years; the implications range much further than the attention they get for winning competitions with “Go” champions and chess masters. The real significance of these technologies will be found in their ability to automate and augment complex decision making.
MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst
I recently attended the second annual Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago, IL. In the opening keynote presentation, Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s EVP of Industry Solutions and Chief Globalization Officer, referenced Gartner’s latest version of its“Hype Cycle,” noted that IoT (the Internet of Things) has climbed over the past year to its peak. Yet, on closer inspection, the enviable place IoT is enjoying within this technology-evolution framework is actually named the “peak of inflated expectations,” a precarious high point where individual dazzling success stories of early adopters and visionary speculation are outshining wider market reticence and slow early adoption. In the model, this magical time is usually followed by a “trough of disillusionment,” then — if the market responds favorably to second and third-generation tech — the “slope of enlightenment,” and finally — if wide market adoption takes place — a “plateau of productivity.”
The conference certainly provided many vivid illustrations of success and the potential of IoT, but will this fledgling industry make it through the inevitable coming trough, and climb “high and right” on the chart with predicted tens of billions of connected devices, as was enthusiastically espoused by Elfrink in his opening remarks?