Location Tech Can Ease IoT Security Skepticism

Consumers are still unsure that wearables are worth the cost. Security and lifestyle uses are the key to unlocking greater interest in IoT, says Skyhook's David Bairstow.

Geo-data has a role to play in erasing some of the price and security issues that have held back greater adoption of wearables and related products, a study by location analytics provider Skyhook Wireless says.

One recent example that raised widespread concerns occurred last week. Internet of Things devices such as baby monitors and connected cameras were deemed the culprits that allowed hackers to cripple the servers of internet traffic router Dyn that led to massive outages and slowdowns for websites across the U.S.

“The hacks raise awareness of security concerns for consumers which will raise hurdles for adoption and usage,” said David Bairstow, Skyhook’s VP, Product Management. “Consumers may not have been aware of the risks they were facing with the recent hacks, but hopefully they’re a bit savvier. I think it creates an opportunity for wearable/IoT device manufacturers to differentiate by providing more secure solutions.

A Security Tool

“There are several ways that Skyhook and location can contribute to more secure solutions,” Bairstow told GeoMarketing. “First, we encrypt all communication between our embedded client software and our servers minimizing the chance of unwanted actors gaining access to the data.”

Generally speaking, location can often serve as an additional layer of security. Think about an ATM transaction. A geo-data platform (such as Skyhook) can use its software to confirm that a consumer (through a device they are wearing or an app running on their phone) is present at a banking site, offering a layer of identity verification that it is highly likely that the ATM withdrawal from that user is valid.

“Obviously, the converse — an ATM withdrawal request at a location where the consumer is not present is highly likely to be fraudulent,” Bairstow said. “This basic concept can be utilized in many different scenarios to protect consumers.”

Where IoT Owners & Skeptics Converge

The rise of wearables appears set: IDC has forecast that there will be 111.1 million shipments of IoT devices by the end of 2016. But the underlying drawback to that positive prediction is that only 1-in-4 consumers say they’re getting full use of out of their connected devices.

In terms of the most common use cases, the survey of 1,000 consumers commissioned by Skyhook and conducted by Research Now found that 77 percent of wearable owners have only one device, with 67 percent say it’s a fitness tracker that they wear for 12 or more hours per day (64 percent).

Among non-owners, 47 percent of survey respondents are particularly interested in a smartwatch, but battery life, cost, and uncertainty of use cases are what’s holding back that purchase.

Source: Skyhook Wireless
Source: Skyhook Wireless

“I think we’re still in the early days and consumers are still trying to figure out how they take advantage of these relatively new solutions,” Bairstow said.

“Another interesting find is that some consumers think that the device value doesn’t justify the price or that wearables just don’t fit their lifestyle,” he added. “There are millions of fitness conscious people who love the idea of being able to track their activity. There is a smaller number of those people that know how to act on the data collected other than ‘I should take more steps….’ It’s similar to the big data effect. Lots of people collecting data but not everyone knows what to do with it. Some consumers may expect to see more tailored suggestions about their activity come out of a $200 piece of hardware.”

Accuracy Matters

One other point Skyhook’s survey makes about the connection of location data and IoT’s value is that that “accuracy of location data is critical to 88 percent of current non-wearable owners.”

We asked Bairstow: Is it because people are mostly using these devices to navigate from one point to another? Or does location accuracy also provide other useful information?

“Both: wearables that feature things like navigation or weather apps will definitely need accurate location in order to function properly,” he said. “The survey also uncovered the fact that individual and family safety is a big concern for people and location is crucial to that use case. If your location isn’t dead on, what’s the point of having a safety wearable?”

Location also opens up the possibility of apps customizing experiences for consumers based on where they are, Bairstow added. Location allows your device to anticipate your habits and serve as your sidekick in ways your phone may not be able to.

In terms of general examples of “customized experiences based on the user’s location” brands can create, Bairstow provided this list:

  • Gym/Workout mode
  • In-store experiences
  • Mobile Payments (frictionless payment if the brand knows the consumer is in the coffee shop/restaurant and surfaces the mobile wallet for payment)

“I know it’s dreadfully overplayed at this point but Pokemon Go is an example,” he said. “Gamification isn’t new, but more and more people are willing to connect their everyday activities to their devices in order to ‘play.’ It’s fun! What brand wouldn’t want people to have fun while interacting with them?”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.