The Internet of Things (IoT) is populated by countless new smart devices that might not have been thought of years ago — smart watches, health monitors, and even washing machines, all connected to the Internet. These devices equip customers with exciting new features while providing businesses with new ways to collect intelligence on how their products are actually being used. The IoT is a concept that will revolutionize contact centers in several ways.
Let’s imagine an organization that makes smart cars. The automobile can collect data such as average speed while driving, required maintenance, and services that are not being used, automatically providing a car dealership with valuable intelligence when a vehicle is brought in for a trade-in or even regular service. Such constant communication gives manufacturers a better understanding of how their products are used so that future sales collateral can focus on known customer preferences. This type of intelligence helps close sales and resolve customer complaints in a way that wasn’t possible before the IoT.
Self-Service Is King
Sometimes technology seems to malfunction. For many years, frustrated customers had to call a company only to have a customer service representative ask seemingly silly questions such as “Is the device plugged in?” Now, an IoT connected device can download system updates, apply fixes, and even report directly to the representative when a call is made, allowing customer service to focus on what is actually wrong with the device.
Calls can be intelligently routed to agents that are subject matter experts in specific aspects of a product. For example, a smart watch manufacturer might have specialists with extensive knowledge of mechanical parts as well as specialists who are experts on the operating system running the smart watch. Call center agents no longer need to develop mastery of every product offered by the organization or even comprehensive knowledge of a single device.
Proactive Customer Service
Since smart devices can “phone home,” it can be clear to a company when a device is experiencing technical issues or simply isn’t being used at all even before a customer calls to complain or attempts to return a product.
Instead, customer service can call the customer preemptively with a full understanding of what is wrong with the product or the knowledge that the customer doesn’t appear satisfied. From there, a conversation can ensue to create a positive customer experience, potentially even creating a brand advocate from a scenario that was simply unheard of prior to the IoT.
The IoT creates a revolutionary channel for customer service that wasn’t possible before. As the technology continues to evolve, even more methods to improve the customer experience will emerge.
The rapid development of the Internet of Things (IoT) has left many companies scrambling, trying to adapt to the explosive volumes of data that just weren’t predicted (or even imagined) 5-10 years ago. Infrastructures that were designed with maximum anticipated load usage back then simply aren’t prepared to meet growing IoT demands.
In fact, many experts now speculate that by the year 2020 there will be more than 50 million connected devices forming the Internet of Things. And although that amount may seem staggering, with constant innovation taking place in the form of wearable mobile technology and smart everything—from cars to coffee pots—that number may end up looking like a mere drop in the ocean.
This situation is especially relevant for network operators in the telecom industry. Surging amounts of data coming in and the various new ways that business users need to analyze and access that information is placing a huge strain on systems. And typically, call centers are valiantly trying to cope with massive CDRs (call data records) from increased device connectivity and usage requirements.
Advantages of Adaptation
A major advantage to the Internet of Things is the capacity to analyze vast quantities of data in relation to patterns and other actionable information. However, this necessitates being able to store huge volumes of historical data for lengthy times frames.
And if database infrastructure and analytics are adapted appropriately, the competitive advantages include a host of customer service improvements such as:
- The inclusion of value-added and customized services through enhanced analytics
- Isolating patterns in archived CDRs to identify service issues and allow alterations in network configurations designed to eliminate them
- Identifying the similarities in usage patterns and service tickets to develop new offers and targeted marketing plans
Strategies for Adaptation
Adapting to the sheer volume of data engendered by the Internet of Things involves strategic planning. Employing innovative approaches to data analytical infrastructure design will help to position telecoms, and their service providers, with the flexibility necessary to meet current and upcoming IoT challenges.
A traditional approach would involve investing in a monolithic relational database, but this type of solution is little more than a temporary fix. Specialized technologies such as cloud-based ad-hoc analytics and real-time investigative database structures (like RAID) offer functional solutions for the hefty network loads present with the IoT. Being able to mine large quantities of records quickly and efficiently will allow operators to identify and react to network issues swiftly, as well as troubleshoot possible situations on an ad-hoc basis.
Possible network issues include:
- Problems with various factors captured in call records such as voice, video, or data transmissions
- Performance functionality of certain device types, operating systems, browsers, or applications
- Communication technology, i.e 4G, LTE
Thinking about database infrastructure and analytics in new ways will help telecoms adapt to the incredible opportunities created by the Internet of Things.
In just a few short years, industry experts predict that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a tremendous growth explosion. By the year 2020, research suggests 30 billion devices will be connected in a $3 trillion marketplace. Assuring that this avalanche of data is protected by layers of security is paramount to the industry’s success.
Soon there will be homes where the front doors unlock with a smartphone, its temperature is controlled remotely, and even the oven is turned on by punching a code. “Smart homes” are already on the technological horizon, but the security features must keep pace for viability.
Consumers own many devices that are not just unencrypted, but with marginal to non-existent security features enabled. Some end users leave the factory-set passwords in place, making illegally accessing a device’s data mere child’s play for the average hacker.
Making IoT Devices Secure
Certain qualities are required in order to make the security on IoT devices effective. The security must:
- Possess cloud capabilities
- Be platform agnostic
- Have the ability to facilitate IoT technological ecosystems
- Be lightweight
The ability to manage security via a cloud platform is a vital component to any implemented system. Cloud management enables manufacturers to patch changes to security configurations once a weak spot is detected – even after consumers purchase the device. The hardware itself can be tethered to private key exchanges to simplify authentication, provisioning, and configuration.
The benefits of utilizing agnostic security platforms are clear. Processing capabilities in IoT devices can enable them to be managed and controlled via the cloud. Transmitting large-scale changes in provisioning, authenticating, and configuring can also be handled at cloud level from a centralized location.
Compact IoT devices with security features embedded at the chip is a practical solution for securing data at the core of the device while still utilizing available space. IoT devices can have private keys already embedded to enhance security. This additional layer of security allows compromised components to be identified as “untrusted” and isolated from the other devices on the network. Default passwords would no longer be necessary once key exchanges are implemented within the hardware to authenticate each device. This also allows them to remain lightweight.
Issues to Overcome with IoT Devices
However, the lightweight, compact size of IoT devices limits the space available for security. Another drawback is the multiple levels of vulnerability when connecting devices or at the data host site of the chip. In addition, the limitations of the processing capabilities on devices manufactured by different companies creates security challenges. At present, consumers must use devices made by the same company in order to link them. Cloud-based connections reduce the necessity of standardizing the processing capabilities of IoT devices.
Most IoT devices aren’t currently enabled for cloud management, which is a potential security pitfall. When devices are all tethered to the cloud, it is a simple fix to patch security vulnerabilities – even when they are in the hands of end users. Devices can communicate more readily with one another when cloud capabilities have been implemented.
The bottom line is that the success of the IoT industry is dependent upon the security that is provided by the technology. To ensure that data protection remains a primary focus in an expanding market, networks and devices must be safeguarded. Enabling cloud management capabilities and security features embedded at the chip level can achieve these results.