Contributed by Jeff Fortin, Director of Product Management for Intelligent Platforms at Wind River 

At Wind River, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a very interesting area of focus. Before I became the Product Manager for our IoT products, I was working with our field engineering team and talking with customers about IoT and how it’s affecting their businesses.

When I talk to customers about IoT, I don’t first talk about technology. I want to talk about their business. I want to understand their current and future business objectives. This does depend on the audience. If I’m speaking to the C-Suite or managers, they have a very different perspective about business goals as opposed to engineering managers or chief architects. As these two groups exist within the same company, I try to talk about business goals at the highest possible level for two reasons:

  1. Those at the C-Suite level tend to have a strong strategic vision. Because other teams and departments are so tied up in the day-to-day technical actions, they may lose sight of the strategic vision, so executives must communicate and reinforce concepts to unify the goals of everyone’s daily actions.
  1. No matter if I speak with a C-level executive or engineering manager, the companies I work with are very technically oriented. Tech is in their DNA. By their very nature, they will want to talk about the latest trends and killer tech apps or the new types of protocols or standards that might be out there. But the first thing I do is diffuse that right off the bat. I don’t want them hung up on the technical details, but rather what they want to do with the technology. Let’s get back to the question: “Where you want the business to go?”

We can do practically anything with technology and rather than start off with the “how,” the real question should be around the “why” and “should it be done?”

IoT versus Automation

When talking with businesses, especially with folks in the industrial world, IoT is often confused with industrial automation. Industrial businesses and factories are quite used to the notion of control groups and view IoT technology much like an assembly line. In my view, automation has the mantra of set it and forget it, but IoT is more about understanding the information about computer data systems that can be used to transform a business.

IoT is very dynamic. It changes based on the objectives you have for your business as well as the environment in which you’re operating. The line often gets blurred between automation and IoT, but I’m here to explain to clients that they need to approach IoT as an opportunity to use actionable data for business transformation.

Security and Data: The Caveat

In my mind, security is all about common sense.

If you’re worried about information in the Cloud, then limit the information you upload. But that seems to contradict the whole of IoT: getting all data in the Cloud so someone can do something interesting with it one day.

However, from a business perspective, teams should really think through their needs and objectives. If a team transfers all their data into the Cloud without a real plan, they’ve just expanded their problem about data security concerns.

My suggestion is to worry about encryption algorithms and security patches updates, but more focus on only uploading data that adds value to you and your business instead of uploading data for merely the sake of it.

Please share all your thoughts and questions about IoT in the comments below. Jeff looks forward to answering your questions and continuing the conversation.

Jeff will return next Thursday with his thoughts on the essential business trends you need to know about.

The conversation with Wind River will continue at DocuSign MOMENTUM 2015 in San Francisco from March 10th – March 12th! Please click here to register to meet and learn from leading industry digital business players.