Last week, I attended the MassTLC’s #IOTRobotics event, which gathered the region’s foremost technologists, marketers and thought leaders doing work at the intersection of the Internet of Things and Robotics.
Regardless of their specific expertise (which spanned consumer products, health, fitness and agricultural technology, among others), speakers returned to the topic of trust. Connected “things” offer tremendous capabilities for consumers and likewise, provide brands with incredible insights about their customers. Numerous speakers were asked about how companies can reassure their customers that their intimate, personal data is safe, and the answer was largely the same: “It’s up to the brand to ensure that consumers trust them with their information.”
In a recent Forbes op-ed, InkHouse CEO Beth Monaghan called 2017 “the year we unearthed all the dirt and eroded all the trust,” and looked to trust as “the PR theme of 2018.” We have entered an era where technology companies will “compete on trust,” and this is particularly true in our increasingly-connected world.
Trust Is Paramount
From smart thermometers to fitness wearables, the volume of data we each share with major brands is truly mind-boggling (according to Fitbit’s Ted Plummer, the company has tracked more than 4 billion nights of its customers’ sleep). Greater value will come with advances in cognitive computing, and the ability to draw insights from unstructured data hidden in videos and in sensors.
Yet the entire relationship falls apart the minute consumers feel like they can’t trust brands with their information, or if the value they get from their connected devices no longer outweighs the perceived risks of sharing this information. Balancing our willingness to share personal data with personal privacy requires a strong foundation of trust. Securing multiple IoT devices, whether it's a smart watch, healthcare devices or a smart TV in a home, is fundamental to the success of the IoT.
The “Things” Are Amazing
Let’s remember the IoT’s incredibly awesome capabilities. At the MassTLC event, IBM engineer and author Lisa Seacat DeLuca shared her infectious excitement and curiosity about the capabilities of the IoT. An IBM “Distinguished Engineer,” she introduced her children’s book The Internet of Mysterious Things and shared stories of the all-nighters she pulled building connected apps for laundry or holiday decorations, simply because she was curious.
That sort of intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm is driving what’s next for the connected world. But DeLuca acknowledged that it all starts with trust.
From Hollywood to Washington to Silicon Valley, and everywhere in between, trust has taken a beating in 2017. With connected devices, we’re extending that trust into our homes and onto our bodies, trusting consumer brands with some of our most personal, intimate information—what we eat, what we watch, what excites us. There is no ability to self-edit; the data goes right from my watch to corporate America. It’s up to corporate America to build, earn and maintain that trust.