The Internet of Things, called the IoT for short, is a new interconnection of technology heralded as the next industrial revolution—implying radical change, disruption, and an entirely new paradigm for the planet. Specifically, the Internet of Things is an extension of the existing connections between people and computers to include digitally-connected “things.”
These things measure and report data. This data can be simple numbers from a stationary or mobile sensor (such as a temperature sensor), or more complex findings from devices that measure and report multiple data streams at once. These advanced devices can even actuate or effect the data they’re measuring (a connected thermostat is an easy example.).
That translates to 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data over 18,200,000,000 connections.
The IoT is advancing exponentially. Some even say we’re in the “knee of the curve,” which is the point where advancement happens so rapidly that its potential uses are beyond the reach of speculation. Even so, many organizations hesitate to experiment and invest in IoT technology. With these concerns in mind, here are three IoT threats, three IoT benefits, and a path to realizing the potential the IoT brings.
Threat 1: Security and Privacy
If you’ve paid attention to major news stories about companies being hacked, identities stolen, and even app-connected cars being hijacked, you’ll understand digitally-connected things have definite security risks. Often, default device settings equate to “wide open.” Even when access controls are present, many organizations don’t have strong security protocols in place. This is the IoT equivalent of having a username/password combo of “admin” and “password”.
Even if you’re savvy enough to properly configure the connected device, other gaps exist. Connected device manufacturers are often slow to update firmware or release patches. These companies may not provide support at all, favoring to resolve security issues with the next version of the “thing”. In short, both security and privacy on your network of things has to be your responsibility as the user implementing the tech.
Threat 2: Data and Complexity
The IoT generates countless bytes of data—but business value is measured not in bytes, but in the analysis of trends and patterns. For example, if you have a single sensor reporting one of ten possible values every week. In one year, you’d collect 52 points of data. However, the number of possible combinations of those 52 points is 1×1052. To put that in perspective, the number of atoms on the entire planet is estimated at 1×1050, which is 100 times fewer.
Now, imagine the complexity of thousands of sensors collecting data each hour across a single organization. If you don’t have a plan to process and analyze these huge quantities of data, you won’t be able to translate any of these findings to better business practices.
Threat 3: Business and IT Buy-in
Given the above concerns about security and complexity, persuading stakeholders to buy into the IoT can be difficult. The perceived costs and risks to simply lay a foundation or run a single experiment can hold back progress. Even the abundance of consumer-focused, cloud-managed IoT products does little to comfort those looking to introduce an IoT strategy to their enterprise.
In short, the scale of change that IoT technology offers can be scary. At the same time, the benefits of a well-executed IoT strategy can be a “Holy Grail” for an organization:
Benefit 1: Safety, Comfort, Efficiency
Imagine measuring and managing hazardous environments without putting people at risk, and optimizing all physical environments for comfort and productivity while controlling energy costs. Now imagine monotonous tasks being automated and done by machines. For example, smart assembly lines could report misconfigurations and errors in real time, producing higher yields and less downtime.
The result is more time for productive and rewarding work. This would drive higher employee satisfaction and retention, while dramatically improving profit margins.
Benefit 2: Better Decision Making
If you can analyze larger trends from empirical data, you can make smarter decisions. This takes assumptions out of the equation, giving you data-backed visibility into every aspect of your business. For example, testing cycles would radically shorten—lowering the costs to optimize a process. Additionally, the visibility into system behaviors can yield new insights and ideas, guiding your business like never before.
Benefit 3: Revenue Generation
At first, the above benefits from the IoT will impact your bottom line simply by reducing expenses and improving efficiency. However, it’s only a matter of time before IoT data analysis helps you realize new business functions—and thus new revenue opportunities. The IoT may be the “X factor” that gives many organizations a strategic advantage over the competitors in the next decade.
2 Keys to Begin Using the Internet of Things
With these threats and benefits in mind, how can you help your organization take advantage of the Internet of Things without excessive risk?
First, start small. A small project is most likely to gain buy-in and succeed. Save the unexplored potential of long-term interconnected devices for later. A natural starting place is to take steps toward making your workplace a “Smart Office” by implementing:
- Automated conference room reservations and management
- Digital asset tracking of equipment or parts
- Monitoring energy or water consumption and then optimizing usage
Second, assemble the right team. Not only do you need some technological expertise, you need forward-thinkers who are excited to bring innovation into your organization. You’ll need to make it through three primary phases:
- Build a Business Case and Kick Off a Project
- Select, Analyze, and Prioritize IoT Tech for the Project
- Plan, Execute, and Support
Atlantic BT would love to help you along the way. Our Digital Problem Solvers have worked with global enterprises to unleash innovation and realize the potential that technologies like IoT bring. Atlantic BT, through our partnership with InfoTech, created the following DIY guide to help you get started with the Internet of Things: