There has been considerable buzz around the term “Internet of Things” over the past few years. But what exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT)? It is:
[T]he network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity—that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.
Almost everyone uses an IoT device on a daily basis. If you have a FitBit, live in a “SmartHome” or a “SmartCity,” use Amazon Echo, or have a self-starting car, you are part of the IoT. It is estimated there will be 26 billion devices on the IoT by 2020. That figure no doubt includes IoT devices used in the marijuana industry, many of which are already here.
But IoT is not without its big issues. What data do IoT devices garner from you? What of that data do IoT devices get from you without your knowledge? How secure is that data? You may be fine with Google (through its Nest thermostat) knowing when you tend not to be home, but how would you feel about a burglar hacking in and knowing the same thing?
But what about IoT and the cannabis industry? How might interaction with the IoT affect your marijuana business or your marijuana consumption? IoT is already changing how the cannabis industry works by saving time and resources and by opening new opportunities for expansion. But will it also create huge headaches for marijuana businesses and consumers alike?
This article reveals how marijuana grows can easily be geotracked and locatable just by virtue of someone checking into Facebook or posting on Instagram via their SmartPhone. Of course, you can deactivate these settings on your phone, but most people aren’t even aware that this IoT effect exposes them in this way. For cannabis businesses located in states with heavy regulation, security is a main priority. And though these businesses usually use high level security and are heavily monitored by the state in which they are located, they are not beyond being hacked and this is just one more issue you need to worry about if your cannabis and cannabis-infused products are constantly being geotracked. IoT devices are vulnerable to being hacked and exploited.
Overall though, IoT and cannabis will make friendly, in the following ways (among others), according to a 2015 article by PotBotics:
- Solar powered, wi-fi connected garden sensors are streaming data on temperature, light, humidity, and soil acidity to the cloud, to then be analyzed by cannabis cultivators to optimize, regulate, and automate the harvest cycle. This enables growers to breed plants remotely and with predicable outcomes and to tailor plants to benefit specific ailments. One company has launched a hydroponic “countertop ‘SmartPlanter,” for home cultivation.
- Cannabis regulatory bodies are using radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to digitally track cannabis plants from seed to sale to shut out the black market and to ensure product quality and consistency. Each new plant is issued an RFID tag with a unique 24-digit ID number, which is entered into the government’s digital database. When the plant is harvested, the leaves and buds are shipped to cannabis dispensaries with a new RFID tag and a printed label detailing its origins and chemical breakdown. The database is updated at every step – from seed to sale.
- Medical cannabis pharmaceutical companies and testing labs are embracing the concept of personalized medicine from research and development to commercializing. Check out the Syqe Inhaler, an Internet-connected marijuana dispenser developed in Israel that gets dosing down to an exact science. The Syqe is connected to the Internet so doctors can monitor and control dosing. Every device and experiment is supported by online electronic records, decision support systems, and tests analyzing specific biomarkers.
- PotBotics itself has PotBot, a medical cannabis recommendation engine that recommends cannabinoid levels, custom strains, and consumption methods to patients via in-store kiosks, desktop, and mobile apps.
The infiltration of the IoT into marijuana is yet another sign of pot’s normalization. So though it is fine for the cannabis industry and cannabis consumers to welcome IoT, there should be at least some wariness about its risks. The”always-on” connectivity created by IoT and its connected apps and devices constitutes a new set of targets for potential data exposure and for crime, and marijuana businesses and consumers are not going to be exempt from this.
The Internet of Things has come to cannabis and cannabis will likely never be the same.
In part 2 of this series, I will write about the legal issues we cannabis business lawyers face in representing companies involved in the Internet of Things.