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Connected Things 2015

I came to the MIT Enterprise Forums Connected Things 2015 conference to talk about AllJoyn and Interoperability; but through a series of humorous mishaps I ended up getting upgraded to sitting on a panel about IoT and Retail.

My co-panelists were Mark Hill and the event keynote speaker Alan Messer. Our moderator was Michael Liard, whom served the event and the panelists very well. After introductions by the three of us we fielded some interesting questions about trends in IoT, how they relate to retail, and our thoughts on BLE locations.

Myself, Mark and Alan on a panel moderated by Michael Liard about IoT in Retail

It was a great opportunity for me to communicate two messages:

  1. Our team (Strategic Engagements) is here to help solve problems. If anyone has a problem that needs solving, we'd love to hear from them.

  2. [On a more personal note]: I strongly (hope and) believe we will see a trend to invert the data ownership model to a more user centric data privacy model.

To be specific, I believe we need to approach the problem of data from a different perspective. Take these scenarios as examples of what I mean:

  1. As a patient I have multiple medical care situations I can be in, with my GP, seeing a specialist, going to Urgent Care, etc. Currently the way the the data relating to me is managed it's "owned" - that is housed and guarded by the professional who collects it. As a patient I can give permission for that data to be communicated to another medical professional, however, even upon demand, it's often difficult (in my experience impossible) to actually obtain the raw data and notes about myself as a patient. This is crazy. We should be asking patients for their permission to put that data in the patients private cloud (think of the savings for the Doctors) and when I see a new Doctor they can ask for permission to read the data in my private cloud storage. Ideally, with fine grained access control I can give them permission to only the subset of data I want them to have.

    In this world there's no need for complex legislation ensuring Doctors, Insurers and Billing don't collude to manipulate the system by sharing data because all data sharing has to involve the patient. There are many details that would need to be worked out to make this work, but I think it's safe to say we have the technology and the intelligence to figure out a more user centric model for data management.

  2. More general identity and data privacy. In the retail scenario I described the current state of the art of "trying to identify where customers are and what they're doing". Heatmaps - ugh - seem to be the current solution to understanding customer behavior in retail spaces. Well, it turns out our startup weekend idea, last year, was to solve this problem much more creatively. We did a fair amount of research into tech, trends, problems, etc. Ironically, we won the weekend, but it's a messy space I'm not keen to jump into and here's why:

    Retailers collect tons of information about customers, usually through video based heatmaps, "boundary counters" (a device that counts the number of times a beam of light is broken, a door is opened, etc, and loyalty programs (which can tie in online purchases, etc). This is a huge amount of information for the retailers to use to figure out how to more effectively sell products to us as consumers. But you know what, I credit the head of Nordstrom's Seattle store during our interview with him for saying, "I have data. Don't sell me another system that collects data. Help me figure out how to use the data from the 15 systems we have to help our sales people do a better job." (this is paraphrased).

    Here's my suggestion: Let's instrument every retail location with good data that customers smart phones can collect, QR code receipts so they can easily inventory purchases, provide Great Customer Service by people who can help expediate the return and/or exchange of products, and then once the customers have a rich pile of data on their phone (which we use to improve their search and purchase experience) we ask them for access to it. You know, that data that's all about them, their shopping, their experiences. Why don't we just ask if it's ok if we can have some of that data so we can improve their experience.

Well, today was a great day. I had an excellent time meeting with folks at the ConnectedThings Event and I look forward to collaborations that stem from this opportunity.

Oh, and I had a fabulous dinner at Hungry Mothers; I highly recommend it.