Deploying IoT in Enterprises

By CIOReview | Thursday, February 16, 2017
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The notion of machines communicating to each other through sensors would have sounded like science fiction, decades ago. However, in 2017, it forms the basis for understanding the Internet of Things (IoT). What began as machine-to-machine technology (M2M) with embedded hardware modules in machines sharing information with one another has over time evolved into IoT, where connected devices share data over the internet using various communication protocols. This increases digitization in organizations, thereby facilitating more efficient business models resulting in greater revenue inflow. Gartner in a study, estimates the number of IoT connected devices across the globe to be around 25 billion, by 2020, indicating the immense potential held by the field, to cater to domestic users and enterprises.

Impact of IoT in Enterprises

IoT has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in an enterprise by enabling a major digital transformation. All processes and services supported by systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), even Supply Chain Management (SCM) or even back-office operations, could be connected to each other for further improvement in operations by a custom-built IoT module. This essentially allows the integration of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT).

The integration of IT and OT has allowed enterprises to automate several operations that were hitherto performed manually. Enterprises are able to power-off the HVAC infrastructure in empty workstations through the data from sensors or even cameras. IoT’s entry into HVAC has driven up investments by the public utility service providers in the sector. Embedding of sensors within meters (smart meters) to monitor, forecast and streamline power consumption has prevented the pilferage of power, thereby reducing power theft. The technology has allowed the interconnection of electric power generation plants and substations, thereby simplifying the process of monitoring them. In the event of a fire breakout at a power grid, the data from heat sensors alerts the fire-fighting equipment to avert a disaster.

Challenges posed by IoT

While there are numerous use cases of Enterprise IoT, implementing it presents a fair share of challenges; the most common ones pertain to the data. The quantity of data generated by an IoT environment is staggering, in which case storage of data imposes an additional cost on the companies, to meet the additional server or cloud requirements. The analysis of massive data generated in real-time, requires additional personnel, which is another overhead for companies.

Although greater amounts of data help enterprises in making better decisions, the sheer nature of connected devices, increases the vulnerability of enterprise data; with BYOD devices being a trend in most enterprises today, a successful attempt to hack them exposes the personal as well as official data stored in them to grave risk. Instances of hacking attempts—both successful and unsuccessful, have already been reported from companies and domestic users of IoT technology.

Bandwidth is another parameter that could present challenges. The current data center Wide Area Network (WAN) links may not be sufficient to handle the data from the existing applications and the newly commissioned IoT devices; addressing decrease in application performance obviously demands additional bandwidth requirements.

A desirable strategy for Enterprise IoT

While the challenges imposed by IoT require a serious thought, experts in the domain acknowledge that the IoT technology is here to stay and grow. In this connection, it is essential for enterprises to examine ways of mitigating the challenges posed by IoT.

Big Data has proved to be a potential solution for the increase in data. While it may not be an inexpensive proposition, the benefits offered by Big Data by its sheer nature, outweigh nearly all the problems posed by the volume of IoT data; big data analytics help organizations in obtaining meaningful insights into their own data that could be used to identify problems and optimize the processes as required.

Firewall solutions dedicated to IoT are available through companies like Symantec, which addresses the data security concerns. Also, extensive work has been undertaken by Google to make Android devices Enterprise secure; this should calm the fears of IoT connectivity being misused to hack BYOD devices. iOS is already ahead in this area.

Deploying additional bandwidth to accommodate IoT data, would not only allow an enterprise to leverage the benefits of IoT, but also improve the speed of other applications.

Enterprises today tend to view IoT as a promising technology, which is testified by their eagerness to embrace it. The ability to automate a wide range of operations improves efficiency manifold by eliminating the risk of human error completely, thereby reducing the labor cost. Also, the absence of manual operations enhances reliability and productivity to pay a rich dividend to the organizations.