First the Internet of things, next the industrial Internet

An article by Marc Jenkins of Cicayda reminds us that data is not just in Word files and emails, nor even just in smartphones and tablets, but is stored in (literally) industrial quantities by devices which monitor, test and report on heavy industrial equipment. Those who manage this data are skilled at extracting useful information from it. What about the lawyers who might one day need to use it to give discovery?

I wrote recently (eDiscovery lessons from a Russian soldier’s Ukraine Instagram pictures) about the data which exists in photographs and social media which is easily created, stored and distributed, and which may be the source of evidence supporting or undermining your case or the case of opponents in civil as well as criminal matters. My main purpose was to give a reminder to lawyers with pretty ordinary, everyday, cases that eDiscovery / eDisclosure obligations extend beyond emails and Word documents.

We are hearing increasingly about another aspect of this speedy accretion of data under the general heading “the Internet of Things”. In a domestic context, this includes a growing range of devices which are connected to the Internet and have IP addresses. In the home they offer us the convenience of turning lights on and off, setting heating controls and making sure the oven is at the right temperature by the time we get home. Beyond the home, any number of devices in streets, by roads and in offices generate data.

Much of this is useful – I have never tried turning off the wifi-enabled lights in my office from, say, Hong Kong, but I could if I wanted to, to give the impression that I was at home. The usefulness, however, is balanced by a set of issues of which mere volume is only one. All this stuff is generating potentially discoverable evidence and on a grand scale and, of course, privacy considerations are never far behind any extension of our connectivity.

In an article called Planes, Trains and Data Bombs, Marc Jenkins, EVP of Knowledge Strategy at eDiscovery software company Cicayda, moves us on to “the industrial Internet”. His article opens with a brief set of statistics about the fairly routine data likely to be created during the time it takes to read his post, and then goes on to talk about modern industrial devices, including the planes and trains of his title, which generate vast volumes of data every hour.

This is Big Data – not just high in volume, but in variety and volatility. Much of it is used to improve productivity, to detect abnormalities and to guide maintenance decisions; some of it may prove to be discoverable in due course, perhaps in a contact claim to do with specification or performance, or perhaps following an accident or injury.

Marc Jenkins observes that data on this scale produces problems beyond mere volume, not least the privacy and security concerns referred to above. It takes skill and the right technology to control the data in its native home and to extract value for the business. The same applies, Marc says, when it proves necessary to extract subsets from the data for discovery purposes. Lawyers need to know how to find the evidence they need, to find the bits which are useful, and to work with them in support of the litigation or investigation.

The discovery frontier has moved. Not every case will involve the industrial volumes to which Marc Jenkins refers but, for cases of all sizes “Intelligent lawyers are needed more than ever…to..limit the query and provide justice in a speedy and inexpensive manner”.

The lawyers don’t necessarily need deep technical skills to manage all this. They do, however, need to know where to turn to get them when they need them.

About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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