The global business community has a massive opportunity to innovate enterprise and consumer products, platforms and devices connected to the internet of things. Most importantly, we can do so in a more thoughtful, inclusive and efficient way than previous industrial innovation cycles that favored cities over rural areas or one group of people over another. The internet of things, in particular, is quickly becoming an integral data collector and creator fueling automated technologies like artificial intelligence and connecting enterprise platforms to critical information. That’s why I believe the boardroom needs to get involved, take control and establish a practical business solution for ethically and responsibly developing IoT technologies from the beginning.
As web-connected products, like fridges and lighting systems, expand further into mainstream workplaces and homes, the tech and enterprise community will need to ensure fundamental misfires of previous innovation cycles, like leaving the door open to biases and security risks, are not repeated with new IoT-linked things. To avoid doing so, they should consider adopting frameworks that guide development and deployment of IoT-linked systems sending and receiving data signals that inform enterprise operations.
Here are some guiding principles for creating accessible enterprise IoT technologies that places a premium on ethics and inclusion.
New IoT technologies should produce data that reflects the diversity of its users
In order to develop inclusive products that resonate across a global user base, we need IoT-linked technologies that create diverse datasets and sources that connect to the broader digital enterprise. That means that as an industry and tech community we must build effective mechanisms into the fabric of end products and human-driven processes that filter or correct bias in all its forms. We need to eliminate any biases derived from the source data generated by IoT to ensure technologies and platforms do not perpetuate human stereotypes. Any IoT-linked product or platform delivering biased or unchecked datasets to enterprise endpoints could end up becoming socially inappropriate when deployed into the world, or useless to the users it is designed to serve.
IoT-linked workflows must be held accountable for outcomes
Technologies and the platforms that run on them should be held to the same performance standards as people operating in identical sectors. People that interact with innovations running on IoT actually start to trust them after just a few meaningful, seemingly successful interactions. Consequently, IoT-linked systems operating in the enterprise need to be held accountable for the decisions made based on the data signals they generate in a similar fashion to human counterparts. After all, the business world does not accept unruly behavior from human professionals, and we cannot make exceptions for technology.
Businesses — especially enterprises — need to lay the foundation for every new IoT-linked system that hits the market to be transparent and accessible. Companies need to take the lead on educating people about how IoT-linked products and platforms work for every step of customer adoption journey. Further, executives will increasingly need to take ownership of IoT’s impact on humanity — as well as consumer awareness of its potential value to society.
IoT-connected systems should make workplace opportunities more accessible
IoT, along with associated technologies like AI and blockchain, provides a clean sheet to democratize access to data, technology and opportunities in the workplace. Voice technology built as the user interface for IoT-linked systems and other platforms provides newly accessible technologies for achieving workplace productivity and equality — notably for people with sight or hearing impairments, learning challenges and limited mobility. Businesses need to accelerate the development of these technologies in order to level the playing field and broaden previously unattainable career opportunities to wider groups of people.
To fully prepare for an ethical, IoT-connected future, the essence of our success will be education. We need to retrain the human workforce to better understand IoT-connected technology and pivot human skills to embrace new workflows presented by data-driven enterprise systems. We need to develop skills that focus on applying creativity, empathy, judgment and emotional intelligence to technologies — working in perfect harmony with human counterparts in an increasingly automated environment. But the heart of our success in this field will lie with young people, by ensuring that we create and fill the IoT and technology development talent pipeline for the future. We need to educate more young people — as well as current members of the workforce — that IoT-connected platforms and products that generate and run on inclusive data will actually improve our work and personal lives.
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