Internet of Things (IoT) is a fast-paced innovation that is ubiquitous, taking over our day-to-day activities and now looking to disrupt the business community. In case you aren’t familiar with IoT, it consists of physical devices that are connected to the internet, to each other and are exchanging data. These devices include your Fitbit, smart TV, smart home appliances, vehicles and so forth. All of this presents unique challenges for organizations as they struggle to stay ahead of advancing smart technology.
Deloitte Consulting is at the forefront of technology consultation, advising businesses around the globe on human capital, strategy and operations and tech. Key to this area of tech is their Consumer and Industrial Products division. After all, when we’re talking about IoT we’re really talking about physical products.
Tim Hanley and Stephen Brown are Deloitte’s point persons for Consumer and Industrial Products, Hanley the global leader, Brown taking the Canadian lead. Hanley and Brown are currently making the rounds, addressing business leaders on IoT best practices. They recently wrote an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun and gave a presentation for the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Power Hour luncheon “to discuss the impact of the IoT and look at strategies that can be leveraged to make the most of this evolving technology.”
Deloitte was in Davos, Switzerland, for the 2018 World Economic Forum. As part of their Davos Insights, the report “Industry 4.0: Are you ready?” was released. The study focuses on Industry 4.0, providing a comprehension into whether governments and industry leaders are ready for IoT technology. Some 1,600 C-level executives across 20 countries were surveyed, showing most of those canvassed aren’t prepared to handle IoT innovation, yet giving a glimmer of hope they’ll soon come around. Highlights from the report include:
• Only 14 per cent of CXOs are highly confident their organizations are ready to fully harness Industry 4.0’s changes;
• A quarter of CXOs surveyed are highly confident they have the right workforce composition and skills needed for the future;
• Executives don’t feel urgency of tackling the challenge of the future of the workforce – radical changes aren’t necessary to ultimately get them where they need to go.
I attended the GVBOT Power Lunch and had a chance to chat with Hanley and Brown about their insights into the Internet of Things, what the future holds and how Deloitte is helping companies prepare for the Industry 4.0 revolution.
Mark Abbott: Considering the speed with which IoT is growing and how much smart technology is taking over our lives, companies are racing each other to get their smart products to consumers. How does this affect supply chain, human-centred design and quality assurance? What are the challenges?
Tim Hanley: A lot of this is around brands and companies protecting their brand. They’re pretty astute when it comes to fully understanding what the consumer wants. The potential growth opportunities are significant, but they’re growing so quickly they have to be careful about their supply chain. Many of these companies are a little bit more virtual, they outsource manufacturing. They may have a product, let’s say it’s an apparel product, and they’re a brand company, a design company and a lifestyle company and not a manufacturer. So they have to be absolutely aware, and this is where we see some companies trip up, if they don’t have the right sort of supply chain, or they have contract manufacturers (think about Apple Inc. and their contract manufacturers). The best companies are really diligent with their supply chains, being sure they can keep up with the growth and demand of constant change. Sometimes you have to change on a dime with what customers are asking you for.
Stephen Brown: I think that in so many instances nowadays the quality bar is more or less table stakes. You think of the evolution of the auto industry and how in the span of a generation we’ve gone from ‘quality is job one’ to ‘of course I expect a 100,000-kilometre warranty and my car to last 10 years’ and so to me the element of human-centred design and putting your customer at the centre of all the things that you do and all the touch-points, that’s where companies are winning the battle.
MA: Perhaps this is out of your purview, but do you work with companies in terms of cybersecurity — data protection, privacy laws and regulations — particularly with regard to IoT? We hear a lot about data breaches.
SB: (Deloitte) has a prominent business around cybersecurity and we’re working with some start-ups who look to us to put a stamp of approval on their regulatory compliance, specifically around privacy. There’s one particular company we’re working with that was founded in Vancouver and they are advancing some amazing technology while being aware of being fully compliant with privacy regulations. And they’re using a technology known as Tokenization to allow that to happen, to connect data; not to lose the mapping but also not to breach privacy protocols.
MA: In your presentation you both mentioned customer data, how they are concerned about their data being sold to unknown third parties. Sometimes I feel like customers are more and more aware but if they’re buying an Amazon Echo they don’t consider what happens to any personal data that may be collected and shared. Any thoughts?
TH: What’s an interesting point about that – if you were there for our comments about ecosystems and companies teaming with others — you have to have a cyber lens on the people you’re teaming with. Because sometimes Company A is exchanging data with Company B and you might as an organization think there’s a really good business purpose for teaming up, and you might think you have all the right cybersecurity controls in your business, but maybe your ecosystem partner doesn’t. So I think that part of it — really shrewd companies are building that thought process into their decisions.
SB: Something that I’ve heard in the last few weeks is the use of Blockchain — and I don’t know exactly how this would work — to allow you and I to both control and meter the use of our personal data when and where we see fit, and to be able to monetize our own data. You start thinking about your health and the use of these (pointing to Fitbit watch), biometrics, all your online shopping and financial information, being able to control and monetize your own data. Think about the value in that, it’s really quite mind-blowing.
MA: What do you make of this relatively new evolution of the public-private partnership with regard to IoT and smart technology? For example, the advances made in self-driving vehicles or Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) Sidewalk Lab teaming up with the city of Toronto to create a “smart neighbourhood.” Is that a challenge?
TH: I think both a challenge and opportunity. In fact, it’s so interesting you raise this question. You may have heard me say I was at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and at the CES Deloitte was selected to host two days’ worth of gatherings at the intersection of smart cities and smart mobility. We had the Sidewalk Lab guys give a presentation as part of our overall endeavour. We hosted a day focused on advances in smart cities and then a second day focused on smart mobility, autonomous car-sharing and so forth. This is such an interesting intersect, and you should be proud Toronto is one of the world’s leading cities. At CES, the guys from Sidewalk talked about the Toronto project. But you may have also heard me say that (Ford Motor Co. CEO) Jim Hackett gave the keynote speech. And his presentation was as much about smart cities and the city of the future and how it would operate as it was about Ford’s solution to smart cities. I think this is a fascinating topic. Deloitte’s clients are really interested in this as well.
SB: To build on the question you asked, in the case of the Toronto example you’ve got a mayor who’s very keen and supportive. You’ve got a federal government that is big on innovation and the need to, as a country, pick our places and go deep. And as I’ve learned more and more about artificial intelligence, Canada has an amazing place in the world in terms of depth of knowledge. Some of the founding members of that technology are Canadian. I think we’re in for some pretty exciting opportunities ahead. It doesn’t cause me any angst regarding public-private partnerships; in this instance it’s going to be essential. I’m optimistic.
Mark Abbott is a contributor to The Province writing on technology and business. His areas of interest include Internet of Things (IoT), data protection, privacy laws and cybersecurity. He lives in Vancouver.
Follow Mark on Twitter: @markabbott604
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