The Internet of Things is moving — quickly — from big idea to real big deal, thanks to technology catching up to the vision.
Things like inexpensive semiconductors, telecom operators with excess capacity, and a new generation of open source data infrastructure mean developers are moving forward to make IoT — the connectivity and communication among objects, users, and the Internet — a reality. And it’s a big reality: By 2020, IoT will include 26 billion units installed and incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, Gartner estimates.
But like any technological progress, there are potential pitfalls. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges enterprises should heed, particularly when it comes to networks, data, and security — and what enterprises can do to be ready.
Networks and Data
It’s simple, really. Exponentially more devices connecting and creating data means that much more traffic and strain on networks. Whether objects and devices are communicating via short-range wireless, Wi-Fi and cellular networks, wired networks, special sensor networks, or RFID, IP networks will be inundated — we’re talking zettabytes.
This increase will have an impact on both wireless service providers and on enterprise private networks. For service providers, this may mean a shift in how they price data plans. For enterprises, it may mean changes in how they scale, as well as how routers, switches, and software are designed.
To keep up, business and IT leaders will have to “deploy more forward-looking capacity management … to be able to proactively meet the business priorities associated with IoT,” says Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Joe Skorupa.
With this increase in connected devices also comes an increase in security concerns. Many more access points means many more possible gaps and many more ways for data to be breached.
Some examples of how IoT may be used in the enterprises — and thus, examples of how enterprises may be attacked — are smart heating and lighting systems, intelligent meters, equipment monitoring and maintenance sensors, industrial robots, asset tracking systems, smart retail shelves, and plant control systems.
Enterprise strategies for anti-spam, anti-virus, and anti-malware infrastructures should include these potentially billions of insecure endpoints. For those companies that fail to do so, the threat is real. Amit Yoran, former director of the National Cyber Security Division at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, explains it to ComputerWorld: “If you can hack into a Web-enabled device which also happens to have connectivity to the corporate network or infrastructure, you can create a bridge to pass traffic back and forth.”
So what can business and IT leaders do to prepare for this IoT onslaught? Learn as much as possible about all the possibilities, both good and bad, that come with connecting myriad devices.
One place to do that is at the O’Reilly Solid Conference in San Francisco this month. The conference is slated to bring together leaders — from business, engineering, innovation, and design — in both the hardware and software worlds for the sole purpose of exploring the Internet of Things and its reverberations.
Even if you can’t attend, it’d be worthwhile to follow along on the conference site and social media. Some big themes to be covered include:
- How the intersection of software and hardware is creating a networked physical world.
- How the characteristics that make the Web accessible and robust are coming to the physical world.
- How data will revolutionize business models in every industry as service contracts replace straightforward equipment sales.
How are you seeing the Internet of Things already making its way into the enterprise?