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IoT Platforms: Who Owns the Data?

Author: Forrester Senior Analyst Paul Miller

Software platforms designed to support the industrial internet of things (IoT) are becoming very credible options. But despite their appeal, I constantly hear from clients who are wary. These clients don’t doubt the technical capabilities of the platform, or the pricing strategy, or the industrial nous of their preferred vendor.

But they are confused about who will own the data. Sometimes, they’re terrified about who will own the data.

I’ve had too many conversations over the past 12 months during which I hear that {random big manufacturing firm/ software vendor doing IoT stuff} will be able to see, use, and directly profit from any data their customer uploads to an IoT platform.

You can probably imagine the scenarios just as well as our nervous clients could. Let’s look at just one. Imagine you’re rail operator A. You buy trains from industrial giant 1, and they offer you all sorts of interesting maintenance and efficiency services based on their analysis of how your trains run in the real world. So far, so (mostly) good. But what if rail operator B (your biggest competitor) also buys trains from industrial giant 1? Is industrial giant 1 going to sell both you and rail operator B some smart predictive service that’s based on data pulled from all of your trains? If they are, is that OK? Possibly. Is industrial giant 1 going to tell rail operator B how you operate your trains? If they are, is that OK? Almost certainly not.

Now, the IoT platform providers I’ve spoken with think they’re being perfectly clear and upfront about all of this. But their customers and prospects keep asking the question . . . and often seem to assume the worst, despite all the evidence and messaging to the contrary.

So, in search of clarity, I’m conducting research that should help to explain what’s really going on. I’ll send out a survey to a set of IoT platform vendors in the next week or two. If you think you should get it, please feel free to get in touch. You’re probably on my list, but it’s okay to check if you’re not sure.

Most importantly, I’m keen to hear from customers. If you’ve expressed this fear, why? What — if anything — reassured you? What was your use case? Do you have clear examples where you know a vendor claimed rights to do more than you were comfortable with, using your company’s IoT data? What should I be asking the vendors you’re considering that would help you make informed choices?

All the usual routes are available. I’m pmiller@forrester.com@PaulMiller on Twitter, and reachable through Forrester’s Briefing and Inquiry teams.


Paul Miller is a senior analyst at Forrester Research. Read more Forrester blogs here.

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