eDiscovery and the unique challenges posed by the Internet of Things (IoT)

An overview of the potential inter-play of eDiscovery and the Internet of Things

8 December 2015

The Internet of Things (IoT) is predicted to be one of the most important developments in the eDiscovery space over the coming years. Although the IoT is a complex and multi-faceted concept, to provide a simple summary, it is in essence the idea of connecting all and any electronic devices to the internet, and to each other, and for these devices to communicate with each other instantaneously and independently of human input. This includes a wider variety of machines and tools: from household items (such as televisions and fridges), to components of machines (such as car engines), to sensors measuring a variety of things (such as water quality, traffic congestion and shopping trends). Gartner, the technology analyst, estimates that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices (with some less conservative estimates upping this figure considerably). These estimates suggest that the IoT will become part of our daily lives. 

In the eDiscovery context, the most significant development will be data, and the sheer volume of it. The IoT will lead to an exponential rise in the volume and type of data that needs to be stored and then processed and analysed in real time, in the form of both personal data and the more general ‘Big Data’.  When businesses need to deal with such electronically stored information (ESI), whether for disclosure exercises, investigations or effective data management, the volume of data that will be generated means that a fast and efficient way of managing and reviewing this data is vital. 

The IoT has distinctive characteristics that make traditional document review methods unfeasible. A massive volume of heterogeneous, live-streaming and geographically-dispersed real-time data will be created by millions of disparate devices. On top of the data generated by the devices, there is the metadata that describes the devices: object identification data, location data, and data around processes and services, for example. 

There are various technical difficulties in collecting and processing such a vast and diverse collection of data, including how it is identified, obtained and then stored, and what format the data is in, especially considering many products and services in the IoT space are not designed with litigation hold, preservation and collection in mind. 

Despite these new challenges that companies may face in light of the IoT ‘revolution’, the technologies available to them provide an effective solution to overcome the issue.  Although, due to the volume of information, the costs for preservation and collection may be higher, the data collected will likely be particularly suited to eDiscovery methods as it is highly standardised, lacks the sophisticated intricacies inherent in human-generated documents and, depending on the source of the information, is unlikely to contain privileged information. This means that eDiscovery techniques can be used to quickly and accurately gather, process and review the data for relevancy. 

Given the almost inevitable increase of IoT devices, it will be important for companies that are likely to be affected by such changes to consider the impact of the resulting IoT data.  If you would like any further information, or if we can help with any of the issues raised, please contact John Mackenzie, Guy Harvey or Nicola Perry