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The Growth of IoT and the Cloud: Challenges and Opportunities Abound

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about software and the collection of data, but the physical essence of IoT is the billions of connected devices hosting that software and transmitting data.

by George Hinkle, President and Shareholder, ACROA Group

GeorgeHinkleSome researchers have estimated that there could be as many as 50 billion connected devices deployed worldwide by 2020. The great unknown is what impact IoT and the Cloud will have on the member companies of the electronics division and on our members in all divisions of ISRI. The explosive growth of IoT has moved connected devices off of our desks and out of our pockets and into every part of our lives. We have gone from smartphones to smart appliances and from user data residing on a desktop PC to user data being stored in our cars and refrigerators. The growth of IoT and the Cloud has introduced us to technology and companies that a decade ago we would have had difficulty imagining. The rapid growth of IoT and the Cloud present us with significant challenges that we need to be aware of and vigilant in monitoring.

The right to repair and reuse is an issue impacting the entire industry whether a small or large company. ISRI is keenly aware of these issues and has and continues to fight at the state and national level for both our rights and consumer rights including the passage of legislation allowing the unlocking of cell phones. All of these efforts impact not only the recycling division members but members of the other divisions as well.

Software is another challenge we face now and will even more in the future. Issues relating to EULA (End User License Agreements) and abuse of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) by manufacturers can have a significant negative impact on our business models. There are many unknowns facing us with the increase in IoT devices and the software that will be used to run those devices. Who owns the software? When does ownership of the device transfer? Will we see more devices with the capability to be bricked by the user or manufacturer either intentionally or unintentionally?

Miniaturization and planned obsolescence are not new issues but are issues that will continue to impact us. With advances in technology devices have not only gotten smaller, the intrinsic value of materials used in the manufacturing of devices has declined dramatically. This has driven many companies to diversify beyond traditional recycling and expand into services, reuse and repair. With this transition into the reuse markets more recyclers are faced with the negative implications of planned obsolescence and the volatility that it creates in the valuation of used equipment. Planned obsolescence, rapid developments in technology and constantly changing consumer demands have left us with the challenge of recycling small low value devices and the opportunity to create new markets in refurbishing, parts harvesting and component harvesting.

Lithium ion batteries: Whoever thought that our need to connect every part of our lives to the Internet would create such a headache? These things are everywhere and are already a challenge to all of us but we are going to be seeing a lot more of them. The manufacturers have managed to glue them into devices so that you can’t get them out, they have stuck them in devices that you can’t open and have stuck them in devices so small that sometimes you wonder if there really is a battery in there. Whether you are a recycler, refurbisher or auto shredder lithium ion batteries pose a serious safety concern in our facilities.

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