is a shareholder in the IP law firm of Hanley, Flight & Zimmerman. Mr. George has experience in patent prosecution, litigation, and counseling, focusing recently on strategic patent prosecution and portfolio development for a range of clients from large international corporations to universities to startups. He holds a BS, MS, and JD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mr. George may be reached at [email protected].
The IoT presents a challenge to IP practitioners to adapt existing IP protection strategies by developing new approaches better suited to the rapidly changing, connected-yet-disconnected network of innovations forming the IoT. By opening communications and application programming interfaces (APIs) to more and more collaborator-yet-competitor devices, innovators (i.e., clients) must carefully guard their IP while at the same time facilitating interoperability and security among connected devices. Below, we present the adaptation of some existing strategies as well as thoughts on new strategies for IP protection in the interoperable world of the IoT.
As more things (or “smart objects”) are connected to the IoT, more data is collected from them in order to perform analytics to determine trends and associations that lead to insights. For example, an oil well equipped with 20-30 sensors can generate 500,000 data points every 15 seconds20, a jetliner with 6,000 sensors generates 2.5 terabytes of data per day , and the more than 46 million smart utility meters installed in the U.S. generate more than 1 billion data points each day.  Thus, the term “big data” refers to these large data sets that need to be collected, stored, queried, analyzed and generally managed in order to deliver on the promise of the IoT — insight!
The promise of the Internet of Things is the ability to perform analytics on data collected from the smart objects connected to the IoT in order to lead to new knowledge and provide insights to owners, users and servicers of the objects. Thus, simply put, the “digital transformation” being experienced by several industries involves companies shifting away from selling only hardware (e.g., household appliances, jet engines, locomotives, turbines, compressors, motors, etc.), to selling solutions — a suite of hardware equipped with sensors and wireless communications generating valuable data, coupled with analytics software solutions that enable users to monitor, control, diagnose and generally operate such hardware more e ciently (e.g., via remote diagnostics and scheduling preventative maintenance).
Over the last decade, there has been a movement among the software developer community to employ some form of “agile development” rather than the traditional software development methodology. The belief is that these agile methodologies lead to higher quality software and faster development cycles. More recently, the implementation of agile software development has transitioned not only from small startups to large companies, but also from enterprises developing noncritical, consumer apps to those developing software for medical, aviation, military, and financial systems, where the presence of errors pose high human or economic risk. With these transitions, intellectual property (IP) law practitioners must adopt their traditional lawyering approaches to capturing and securing IP (especially patent) rights. A failure to recognize and adapt to the agile software development environment will result in a failure of IP law practitioners’ essential job function—helping to create or sustain client profitability and enable long-term business growth.