With IoT, trust is fundamental

  • The majority of executives in PwC’s 2019 IoT survey said their business already has IoT projects in the works, but many admit that trust issues have slowed their progress.
  • Yet most also reported that IoT has increased trust in their relationships, and they are investing in measures to address security and privacy concerns.
  • IoT’s key benefits include increased revenue and profits, improved employee productivity and safety, enhanced manufacturing operations, better partnerships and reduced costs.

Trust. It’s the foundation underpinning all relationships, but when it comes to technology, it seems to be in short supply. That’s not surprising considering the dubious activities we’ve seen during the past few years around business’ attempts to protect customers’ privacy and personal data. 

In this year’s PwC 2019 Internet of Things Survey, more than 1,000 US business executives were polled on their use of the Internet of Things (IoT). With its billions of sensors and devices collecting and transmitting an unfathomable amount of data around the world, IoT has upped the ante in the high-stakes game of privacy and security. 

Trust this?

Despite the pervading concerns, the majority of execs polled said IoT has increased trust in their relationships. With customers, they said it increased by 58 percent, with investors by 54 percent, with the workforce by 53 percent, and with suppliers by 54 percent. IoT has even improved trust in relationships with the public and regulatory bodies.

Where IoT is creating stronger relationships

These numbers are certainly encouraging, though they still leave room for improvement. Fortunately, many business executives understand the need for security, privacy, and regulatory enhancements and have already begun tackling these areas in their organisations.

Trust-building efforts already being addressed by those surveyed include developing policies regarding customer and employee privacy (51 percent), as well as ones that address bias, ethics, and responsible tech (44 percent), cybersecurity (61 percent), data integrity (56 percent) and brand reputation (49 percent). These organisations are letting customers and employees know how their AI algorithms work, and they’re urging governments to pass laws to make tech more trustworthy. Notably, companies that are trailblazers in their trust-building efforts are far ahead of organisations that are lagging behind. 

Occupational hazards

Companies also recognise the effect IoT is having on the workforce. Three-quarters of the executives surveyed are extremely (28 percent) or somewhat (47 percent) concerned about the IoT’s impact on job loss or changes in job roles. In fact, workforce issues, including the shortage of relevant tech skills, represent the number-three challenge organisations faced when implementing their current IoT projects.

Taking action to create trust in IoT

Here again, many businesses are stepping up to alleviate these issues: 60 percent of the executives surveyed said they are training their staff to work with IoT, AI, and other advanced technologies, and almost three out of 10 said they plan to do so within two years.

Also encouraging is the fact that only four percent of the executives surveyed plan to reduce headcount as a result of their IoT deployments, and about two-thirds expect to increase the number of jobs. However, this is causing another problem: Close to half of the executives are struggling to find qualified people to fill the new jobs created by technology, indicating that talent is a top priority affecting IoT adoption.

The most effective way to address that priority is through upskilling. But, to fill all the jobs that will be created by IoT, AI, and other advanced technologies, employers need to begin training workers on a massive scale, now. PwC is taking a citizen-led approach to this challenge, focusing on leadership and employee crowd-sourcing. 

Regulation blues

The uncertain regulatory environment is also impacting IoT adoption, with 77 percent of surveyed executives extremely or somewhat concerned about how regulations — or the lack of them — are causing trust issues. An almost equal number (76 percent) are anxious about the potential impact of future laws and regulations, and almost three-quarters of these execs are worried about IoT’s lack of industry standards.

These concerns are warranted. Future standards, regulations and laws covering (and possibly limiting) IoT are expected, as consumers, associations, and governments push for greater control of advanced technologies — which elicit both enthusiasm and concern in individuals and organisations. Society is currently in a regulatory ‘Wild West,’ but, so far, there’s no sheriff on the horizon to bring peace and order to IoT’s world. 

Mixed blessings

Despite concerns about IoT and its potential pitfalls, the executives surveyed remain optimistic about the value of this technology, and many have already benefited from its adoption by operating more efficiently or modernizing their brand with new capabilities.

Most businesses expect incremental gains, not radical change, from IoT

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they have achieved better customer experiences, and another 40 percent expect to gain them with IoT. In addition, 47 percent have enhanced their security with IoT, and 36 percent expect to do the same. But there are many more benefits most of the execs expect IoT to deliver, including increased revenue and profits, improved employee productivity and safety, enhanced manufacturing operations, better partnerships and reduced costs.

How many companies can afford to turn their backs on those opportunities?

Forging a connection

Results from PwC US’ 2019 Internet of Things Survey show that 94 percent of business executives agree that the benefits of IoT outweigh its risks, and 70 percent plan to increase their investments in IoT over the next two years. For that to happen, issues of trust must be addressed: Data needs to be accurate and fair, customers need to feel that their privacy is respected, and employees must be confident that their jobs are not threatened. 

Find out how to tackle trust in your IoT deployments by reading the full report, which includes industry snapshots and key takeaways from organisations at the forefront of implementing IoT in their businesses.