Designing and Building a Viable IoT Framework
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The internet of things is moving rapidly into the mainstream of the enterprise, and it's critical for CIOs to play an active role in any IoT initiative.
PwC's Blanter says that CIOs must also focus on an IT infrastructure that supports real-time connectivity. An IoT architecture typically has a data source layer, a connectivity layer and a data messaging integration layer.
"You have to have an overall platform in place, but each layer has multiple components comprised of tools, processes and methodologies in place," he explains. Of course, there's also a need for security controls, which can become fairly complex in the IoT world. This may encompass everything from firmware and authentication protocols to patches and encryption. "There must be a set of standards and methodologies in place, whether they are company-specific or part of an industry standard," Blanter adds.
CIO + IoT = ROI
The role of the CIO is at the center of an IoT initiative. Although the task may vary from one organization to another—and depending on the scope of the project—it's critical to recognize that the IoT isn't just another digital initiative.
"It's at the center of moving from a fundamentally stationary digital environment to a widely distributed framework that encompasses both physical and digital things," Blanter says. "This means that the CIO must serve in an advisory role for line-of-business leaders, development engineers, software developers and others. There's a strong need to understand the business and the IoT in a deep and broad way."
The CIO must also oversee the entire portfolio and ecosystem of IoT projects and ensure that there are IT and governance frameworks in place to support the expansion of the technology.
Capgemini's Krupitzer says that the IoT ultimately has the ability to disrupt and transform myriad things, from product lifecycles to consumer interactions. Yet any step forward will introduce new challenges.
The IoT expands a business and IT framework by introducing real-time touchpoints that can fundamentally change business and IT processes. "Sensors operate 24 by 7," she says. "That requires the business to operate the same way."
Consequently, an organization may need to re-examine and rethink its IT infrastructure, sensors, APIs and operating schedules for plants and stores, business relationships and more.
Organizations that get the IoT right will achieve competitive gains and cost savings that lead to a competitive advantage, Krupitzer explains. Yet, in order to achieve a best practice approach, a CIO must understand and define the business case to the organization—preferably before an enterprise launches a major IoT initiative.
"You really have to understand the business case behind any project," Krupitzer points out. "This includes where the value lies, what the costs will be, and what benefits and returns will result. Only then is it possible to make wise decisions about how to proceed with the IoT."
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).