Building Trust in IoT Technology: A Challenge for 2019 and Beyond

Internt of Things (IoT) technology can be powerful, but getting organizations like enterprises and government organizations to trust in the technology -- esp. with all the new developments and tools surrounding the tech -- can be a challenge.

How technologists and organizations can build this trust in IoT was the subject of a recent talk posted online. The talk featured Alex Bedig, vice present of technology at Boston-based OptiRTC Inc. (Opti), provider of storm water management systems. "Getting IoT adoption in storm water management requires building trust," he told an audience at Particle Roadshow 2019, sponsored by Particle, a provider of an IoT platform designed for non-technical organizations. Bedig based his presentation on work Opti is doing on a storm water management system in a major East Coast city.

When major rainstorms hit a city they can overwhelm the flood control system and result in runoff containing pollutants flowing into rivers and streams in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. IoT based monitoring offers a way to track water flowing into storm drains and activate valves to help prevent flooding and hazardous runoff. The Opti Continuous Monitoring and Adaptive Control (CMAC) system, using the Particle IoT platform is designed to do that, Bedig explained.

But working with the engineers in charge of flood control for the city, Bedig needed to show that they could trust the new technology.

"When you put IoT products into a traditional industry, you can't control the whole process of that trust building," he explained during his presentation. "It has to happen organically and you have to be okay with that because visibility is everywhere and the data is what it is … you're not going to be able to choreograph the way people perceive your actions."

He recounted a critical moment during a meeting with the city water management engineers when a city commissioner poked his head in the room and asked how the recently installed IoT system was working. An engineer pulled up the dashboard on his screen that showed it was 99.9 percent online.

"I'm sitting there thinking we want to make this online all the time," Bedig told his audience. "Every single moment matters. But you never know how you're going to be judged or perceived. Being able to stand behind the product – thank you, Particle for making this emphasis – because that continues to be an important aspect of building trust to get water management adopted."

Opti has been working with Particle for more than three years and both organizations have an emphasis on quality and reliability that builds trust in IoT among non-technical organizations.

"We're invested in improving our quality of software development across the process," Bedig explained. "We're working with others across the Particle ecosystem to make sure the quality controls for the firmware are good. We're using Linux system admin tools to understand exactly how much memory our devices are using at various points in their lifecycle in order to make sure connectivity and performance stays as high as necessary. We have an open source project that is a Raspberry Pi hosted test controller that can let you run any kind of integration test on actual Particle hardware. We use it extensively."

This week Particle, a San Francisco-based startup, announced it has raised $40 million in Series C funding led by Qualcomm Ventures and Energy Impact Partners. Particle is focused on providing its end-to-end IoT platform to non-tech companies in traditional industries including environmental engineering, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy as well as other industries.

In announcing the new round of venture funding, Particle said it "increased year-over-year revenue by 150 percent and grew multi-million dollar contracts by 300 percent in 2019." The company said almost 200,000 developers are working with its platform.