Connecting to the IoT RealityBy Samuel Greengard
Connected systems and devices are no longer a novelty. Homes, businesses and even lakes and animals are now part of the internet of things (IoT). Yet, any doubt about the technology should be laid to rest by a new study, "Sensor Sensibility: Getting the Most From the Internet of Things," released by Software.org: the BSA Foundation.
The study reports that as many as 50 billion devices—including smartphones, TVs, watches, pipelines, trucks and power meters—will be connected by 2020. What's more, these systems will produce economic gains approaching $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.
Most CIOs are aware that the IoT isn't a passing fad. The ability to slash costs, improve productivity and, in a best-case scenario, innovate and disrupt, is compelling.
For example, the Software.org report points out that 18 percent of U.S. GDP is currently funneled into healthcare each year. Connected devices could reduce costs by upward of $300 billion. The IoT could also improve agricultural productivity by 15 percent by acre, and it could revolutionize numerous other industries.
Yet all these potential gains also introduce a good deal of pain. And there's no guarantee that any organization adopting the IoT will achieve the desired results. The biggest business and IT challenges revolve around a few critical areas.
Building Frameworks and Security
First, most enterprise leaders haven't built a framework to support the IoT in any meaningful way. This includes IT tasks such as virtualizing systems, migrating to the public cloud and adopting a software-defined-everything approach.
But it also involves business needs, including tapping open innovation and designing a comprehensive digital and IoT strategy. Even then, there's a need for new talents and skill sets.
Second, it's critical to address IoT security. News stories and academic papers are rife with tales of hacked devices, including medical equipment and vehicles. The sad reality is that many manufacturers do not build adequate security into devices. and many neglect patches and firmware updates.
Many organizations also fall far short. IT executives do not segregate networks, and device authentication and access controls are weak or MIA. In addition, data isn't encrypted at rest and in motion as it streams thorough the internet. Plus, many organizations are buried under shadow IT—and, increasingly, shadow IoT.
Finally, there's a greater need for well-conceived policies, clear regulations and better standards. These must span companies and countries—and ultimately introduce greater uniformity in technology and data.
The reality is that without a clearly defined strategy, strong security and a better policy framework, the IoT cannot live up to its full potential, and many organizations will find themselves struggling to transform investments into results.