A fair number of companies are leaning toward the latter view. While they might embrace the underlying concept of the IoT, they’re dubious about their ability to manage the resulting flood of data in a meaningful way.
How, for example, can they distinguish between information that’s relevant to the organization, and that which is useless? How can they respond in a timely manner to the rapid and unrelenting flow of data from countless devices hooked up to the internet? What kind of technology do they need to make that possible? And, just as important, what’s the cost of doing it?
The biggest concern that companies are voicing today centers on security, says Suneil Sastri, director of product marketing with SOTI, a provider of products for mobile and IoT device management. With so many devices “talking” to one another and accessing multiple platforms, how can the information they’re conveying be shielded from unauthorized parties? What’s to stop hackers and cybercriminals from exploiting a multitude of access points as a means of gaining entry into a company’s private data?
There are solutions available to shoring up the security of IoT devices, Sastri notes. First and foremost is the simplest: ensuring the use of strong passwords. Many devices come from the factory with easily guessable default passwords that users never bother to change. The 2016 cyberattack on domain-name system provider Dyn, Inc. took advantage of a failure to change defaults on IoT cameras and other devices.
Companies need to implement end-to-end encryption between IoT endpoint and backend systems, Sastri says. “But many organizations are simply not aware of these types of solutions.” Time to get educated.
Because IoT devices are so varied and numerous, a company’s I.T. department might not even know that they’ve been introduced into the organization. Sastri says it’s essential for businesses to achieve total visibility over their devices. In the process, they can better manage software updates, patch gaps, lock down systems and prevent remote on-site access by various types of malware. The old adage, he says, holds true: “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”
No system can be completely secured against cyberthieves, at least given the state of today’s IoT technology. Sastri says additional standards are needed to secure, manage and update mobile devices, many of which begin life with relatively weak security controls and are only now being shored up against attacks. He expects the IoT to undergo a similar evolution.
Cost is another obvious concern of organizations attempting to cope with the IoT. They’re assuming that adoption requires the wholesale disposal of old technology and the acquisition of a raft of new devices.
That’s not necessarily a requirement for entering the world of the IoT. “We’re seeing a shift toward organizations looking at retrofitting their devices,” says Sastri. Contrary to the belief that existing equipment must be “ripped and replaced,” certain sensors and actuators can be added to augment the connective capabilities of older devices. They can allow users to engage in preventive maintenance, through acquiring a better understanding of the units’ productivity records and levels of wear and tear.
A company’s size and level of resources are not a major barrier to the adoption of IoT technology, Sastri says. Inexpensive devices such as the tiny computer Raspberry Pi can be deployed to achieve initial proof of concept. In addition, solutions exist for prospective users that lack the skills for the necessary coding, at least at the beginning of the IoT journey. A plentitude of open-source communities is also available to offer assistance.
However a company begins to adopt IoT devices, they will need to be integrated into the organization’s existing I.T. structure, including its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. “Integration can often be a challenge,” notes Sastri. “But more and more solutions are coming onto the market that can help bridge that gap.”
By definition, the IoT means access to a wealth of data — along with the possibility of being inundated with it. Sastri recommends the use of edge computing technology to manage the flow of traffic from IoT devices and enable meaningful analyses based on that information. It can weed out redundant data and only pass on the most critical bits of information, he says.
“Without breaking the bank or flooding existing storage solutions, you’re able to get the right data from IoT endpoints to make informed decisions,” Sastri says.
As with any new technology, the IoT will take time to become fully integrated into business operations. And reservations about its initial adoption will gradually fade.
In the end, he says, the IoT will prove essential to meeting the rising expectations of customers and business partners, while breaking down the organizational silos that hamper cooperation between various functions.
“You need to create visibility across the entire supply chain,” Sastri says. “This is where the IoT is fitting in. Like it or not, IoT devices are making their way into the business.”