The Internet of Things (IoT) has been hailed as the world’s ‘next great economic disruption’.

In this article, Forbes reports on Jeremy Rifkin’s keynote speech at the recent CeBIT conference, in which he parallels the IoT with the first industrial revolution. For Rifkin, the IoT represents the ‘kernel’ of three broad areas, which collectively shape lives and marketplaces globally – communications, energy and transport or logistics. That is, the IoT is not only a communications platform but also the driver of ‘new forms of smart energy’ with intelligent energy grids managed in real time, and an ‘automated transport and logistics internet’, which will transform the distribution of goods globally. Consequently, Rifkin goes on to argue, the IoT will create an economy that is digitized at all levels – and therefore highly streamlined and efficient, ‘driving down many costs of doing business to virtually zero’.

It’s a highly exciting, inspiring picture. The IoT is undoubtedly going to transform global economies, by affecting the ways in which businesses – and individuals – communicate, collaborate, store and share information and make buying decisions. The IoT will alter the technology used by those businesses and individuals on a day-to-day basis. It will drive the establishment of thousands, if not millions of new organisations capitalising on these technologies, offering new ways of using them. In these ways, the IoT has much in common with a rather more recent revolution – the first internet revolution of the 1990s,and the subsequent vast increase in dotcom businesses.

Of course, we hear ‘dotcom’ and think ‘bubble’. So how can the IoT take the best from this earlier internet boom – the innovation and creativity, the streamlined processes and the greater visibility and dissemination of information – while avoiding the worst – a plethora of businesses with poorly thought-through, ineffectual offerings? How are we going to truly lead this new economic boom?

There are several important lessons to be learnt from the first internet revolution. One relates to data ownership, so hugely disrupted by the likes of Napster two decades ago. In a mature IoT landscape, with data generated and transmitted between millions of different devices, questions over who owns what information and who has access to that information will have to be answered robustly.

Another issue relates to collaboration. Just as the original advent of the internet vastly increased the opportunities for businesses to communicate and learn from each other (and their customers), so the IoT will cause a huge proliferation of opportunities for information-sharing. But taking advantage of these means being open, outward-facing and agile, potentially a challenge for some businesses.

But the major lesson from the first internet revolution to apply to the IoT is the importance of comprehensive, specialist data security measures from the outset. Malicious hacking has become one of the greatest threats faced by corporations, while most of us as individuals know someone who has fallen victim to fraud or worse via the internet. Too many organisations have had to play catch-up with their data security as the information assurance industry catches up with the challenges presented by the internet. Device Authority firmly believes that the real drivers of the IoT economy will be those business that can demonstrate watertight security credentials from day one, which can commit to protecting information created, transmitted and stored via the IoT.

Darron Antill