Can Consumers Place Their Trust in IoT?

June 11, 2019
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Alpha Edison Investors, Britt Danneman and Dr. Fen Zhao debate technology and trust for “Women Securing the Future with TIPPSS for IoT” (ed: F. Hudson; Springer, July 19, 2019.

Consumers’ relationships with tech companies are changing - live microphones in your home, venture-backed companies knowing your heart rhythm, and DMs that are no longer so direct when they are hacked. As more personal data drives technology, companies building cyber-physical systems - also known as Internet of Things (IoT) products and services - need to address a whole new set of issues around customer interaction, notably how they manage trust. Alpha Edison investors, Britt Danneman and Dr. Fen Zhao, address how trust is established, communicated, upheld and broken, in a new book from Springer.    

Women Securing the Future with TIPPSS for IoT” presents IoT experts in academia, research, government and industry discussing the challenges and opportunities around Trust, Identity, Privacy, Protection, Safety, and Security (TIPPSS). Topics range from advances and applications, to threats in the growing field of cybersecurity, as well as hacking of IoT devices and systems; identity; access management; privacy and civil rights.

Britt Danneman and Dr. Fen Zhao, both investors at Alpha Edison, co-authored the chapter “A Business Framework for Evaluating Trust in IoT Technology". This examines the rapid marketplace adoption of cyber-physical systems, and how trust factors into the customer/company relationship, and what that means for financial health of the business.

“Understanding the changing role of trust between companies and consumers is a theme we have been investing behind for some time. There are large opportunities to understand where trust has been established in unique ways or where trust has been previously violated but can be reshaped as the basis of a company,” explained Danneman. “In our chapter for this new book, we examine how IoT companies face specific challenges and opportunities around trust. In our view, companies that deploy trust as a core asset don’t just stand to build stronger customer relationships and edge incumbents out of existing markets — they can set consumer expectations for entirely new markets by unlocking latent demand”.  

“In contrast to purely digital-only spaces, cyber-physical IoT systems contain double the impact, and threat, of trust violations,” added Dr. Zhao. “People have been bad about assessing trust in purely digital realms because gut instinct goes out of the window. Now, when digital pairs with physical, consumers may become more discerning.”

In the chapter the authors examine a long tradition of research into the four distinct “trust” identity pillars: ability, integrity, repeat/time, and benevolence to monitor the evolution of trust within cyber-physical environments.

“Trust is a concept that founders inherently understand but has been broadly undervalued by the investment community - largely because there aren’t clear metrics in place to measure it.” said Danneman. “Companies that focus on cyber physical systems have increased challenges to measure trust as consumers must consider the framework around trust in both the physical and digital worlds,” she concluded.  

In the chapter the co-authors highlight how tracking data and building out useful models will enable startups to verify this broader thesis with more quantifiable numbers as they grow.  

“We hope our framework will be useful to researchers across disciplines interested in looking at trust in IoT technology in a more holistic way,” added Zhao. “As part of this on-going discussion, we will both be appearing on a panel, alongside other contributors to the book Women Securing the Future with TIPPSS for IoT, at WE19 in Anaheim (Nov 7 - 9, 2019), the world’s largest conference and career fair for women in engineering and technology.”/ENDS

Women Securing the Future with TIPPSS for IoT” can be ordered online at Springer’s site. Individual chapters will be available for purchase shortly. Dr. Fen Zhao and Britt Danneman will be appearing on a panel at WE19 in Anaheim, CA Nov 7 - 9, 2019: details here.

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