IoT and Big Data – Who Owns All the Data?


Internet of Things and Big Data – Who Owns All the Data?

We’ve been doing it for years, decades for some. How many websites have you created accounts on? Your bank, your credit card companies, social media sites, hotels and travel sites, online shopping sites, and that’s just the start. We do it often without even thinking about it, quickly entering our personal information, our data, in a plethora of systems. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the information we are providing. It could be very personal information (think of the security questions you provide answers to for protecting your information on these systems), to information about your behavior, your interests (websites visited, internet search topics). While possibly concerning from a privacy perspective, you had some level of control. For the backend systems involved, the volume and variety of the data was a manageable situation. The tradeoff between privacy and convenience is something we, for the most part, found acceptable.

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Not just about personal data This is not a situation unique to consumers and personal data – businesses do the same thing. In order to conduct business with each other, businesses must share key information about themselves and their operations with their partners, such as key contacts within the organization, purchasing trends, locations, and shipping patterns of products. All the information that is needed by the business partners, yet is also an asset subject to privacy concerns within the business. As with our personal data, it is always a delicate balancing act of tradeoffs in order to be able to conduct business.

Then came mobile and Internet of Things The game changed when the mobile revolution started, and continued with the explosion of the Internet of Things. Your mobile apps, along with all your ‘smart’ devices that you wear (e.g., fitbit), are in your home (e.g., smart TVs, nest, smart appliances), or even your car, are sending massive amounts of disparate information out into the cloud. While the data packets for most devices tend to be small, there are a lot of devices. Gartner estimates that there will be over 20 billion ‘things’ by 2020. To the sheer volume of devices, now add in the velocity of the data. These devices can be streaming a large variety information constantly. Your GPS location, house temperature, car speed, even your blood pressure. Sometimes we are aware, many times not.

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The business-to-business side is not without impacts as well. RFID chips in inventory that is shipping between and through partner, smart manufacturing facilities, like smart homes, are providing huge volumes of information about their operation without even potentially realizing it.

Privacy & ownership vs the world This is not a ‘the sky is falling’ or the ‘world has my data’ rant. I raise it to point out the impact of our data usage and consumption is in today’s world of the ‘Internet of Everything.’ I am reminded of a presentation I attended at a Gartner Symposium entitled ‘Privacy vs the World’ presented by Heidi Wachs, a research director at Gartner. She raised the point that “the lines between social culture, corporate culture and regulation are blurred when it comes to privacy’.

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