The ‘Wild West’ of Data in the Internet of Things Era

Wild westby David Cockrell

I will be carrying the metaphor of the Wild West throughout this piece when surveying the data landscape, so please forgive me in advance!

I felt compelled to write this article after attending a few conferences, webinars and following a few client meetings. The Internet of Things provides a great set of opportunities to capture data and monetise it with sales to other third parties as either second or third party data.

Let’s rewind a little and start my story from a mid to late-90s perspective of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. At this point I was working in the logistics and telematics arena, and the focus was on the limited flow of useful (critical) information from devices back to bases, such as location and status.

This was the era of local, on-premise tracking systems and not the ubiquitous web-accessed Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms of today. At the time, this was being dictated by a low data transmission rate, caused by the high cost of SMS messaging back then. Typically, not much was done with this ‘real-time’ data. It would often be used to update a map display to understand if it was in a geofence, or populate an exception report, archive in a database for a weekly report, and then let the data gather metaphorical dust. Obvious exceptions to this norm included cash in transit applications provided by the likes of Datatrak and other security and emergency focused solutions.

In the noughties, innovative businesses such as ITIS Holdings (who later became INRIX) started collecting and repurposing data from a wide range of vehicle fleets to provide real-time traffic and road congestion information to local authorities from their large pool of tracked fleet customers. This was the first time I was aware of this type of remonetisation of M2M data in that industry.

Fast forward to the 2010’s, and Peter Allen, President at Digital Management, Inc., publishes the following in his article ‘How to Monetize the Internet of Things’:

Today we have the Internet of Things (IoT) movement. At its heart, IoT is about leveraging our ability to control and measure devices, sensors, and virtually any living or inorganic item. In this realm, data exhaust is gold.

Thus it seems panning for gold in the data exhaust or your Data Lake is becoming a central business pre-occupation, and not just with Big Business. ‘Collect all and analyse later’ is a view of many business intelligence strategists – which is laudable – but businesses need actionable insight right now. Knowing where to start your data mining quest can be quite a challenge given the volume, variety, velocity and veracity of big data.

Allen goes on to write:

Remember this old adage?  “If it’s measured, it can be managed.” With IoT, “if it’s measured, it can be monetized.”

I agree with Peter on these points. From the perspective of a business that receives and transmits information with lots of M2M devices out in the field that might include device side (edge node) processing; there is a flow, likely a torrent of data being transmitted to the cloud for processing and storage. This data has to get there somehow, traditionally using a SIM card and SMS or GPRS, and more latterly with IP addresses of each device and using Wi-Fi, LoRa etc.


Who owns this M2M data and who has the right to access it, use it and monetize it?

The most immediate and obvious answer would be that the data is owned solely by the business who pays for the service. That said, the OEM vehicle manufacturer may also monitor the vehicle separately for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Wear and tear on an engine
  • Adjusting the air to fuel mix based on altitude
  • Compensating for differing grades of fuel available in a given country etc.
  • Residual value calculations and
  • Mileage checks against leasing contract.


But what of the business that provides the data gateway between device and the cloud, private cloud or in-house servers, and what rights, if any, do they have? Does your contract with them restrict them from accessing, mining, utilising and/or reselling derivatives of your data? When did you check your contracts? Does your contract explicitly restrict this? Was this even an issue and on your legal teams’ radar when you initially signed a contract that may have been renewed but not heavily reviewed? Who ultimately has the right to monetize data collected by your fleet of trucks, sensors etc., paid for by you?

As telecommunications network contracts become more and more commoditised, and the price and reseller margins appear to decrease, these businesses will need to seek new revenue streams elsewhere within their spheres of expertise – so where better to look than what flows through there communication gateways?

The big telecommuincations players already provide consumer insights based on consumer mobile phone data, such as the Telefónica Smart Steps product from Telefónica’s Digital division or Vodafone’s customer movement data via Citi Logik. But what of all that other data that will flow from the global expansion of the IoT ecosystem? If done correctly, all parties should be well placed to benefit financially.

If you would like to discuss how you can monetise your data, call us now on +44 (0)20 8568 7000