The Internet of Things: 3 Big Risks

The Internet of Things may be the mega trend of the decade, but manufactures must think carefully about how to develop and deploy this new technology.

In the third part of a new four-part video series, PTC’s Jim Heppelmann, coauthor of the recent Harvard Business Review article How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition, gives his perspective on the three big risks businesses face with the IoT.

The first risk is inaction. If manufacturers wait to long to research and implement IoT technology, they will open the door for competitors.

“The risk is that I do nothing and somebody leapfrogs me,” Heppelmann says. “That’s a big problem, and we’ve seen a few examples that have been pretty dramatic.

The second risk is doing something and then failing. This is likely to happen if your business doesn’t invest in the right people and infrastructure to properly deploy and support IoT technology.

“The risk is that I overestimated the capabilities of my internal engineering and IT departments. I invested a lot of money, and it didn’t really produce a successful product. It didn’t scale, it didn’t perform, it didn’t work,” Heppelmann says.

The final risk comes from unintended consequences. “I built something. I began to collect data. That data got hacked and compromised. We’ve all seen examples—when credit-card numbers get stolen and so forth. The company that gets blamed actually was a victim, but the customers say, ‘I’m still going to blame you because if you’re going to take that type of information from me, then you have a duty to protect it, and you failed in that duty.'”

“The mitigation for not doing anything and for being leapfrogged is that you need to move forward with a strategy and a technology investigation and a prototype and then plan what you are going to do,” Heppelmann continues. “And I’d say if you’re not already doing that, you’re already vulnerable because a lot of companies are deep into that process for sure.

“On the risk of doing something and it doesn’t work, it’s like any other big, new-product project you’re trying to do. You have to make sure that you actually have the capabilities to do this and that you understand how you’ll create value by doing it.

“And on the third item—unintended consequences, particularly around security and availability—I think you need to find some good outside partners. Because, to be frank, most manufacturing companies are not really in a position internally to solve these problems,” Heppelmann concludes.