Enterprise IoT: The Future is Here, Now What?

by | Jun 2, 2017 | Technology Featured

Today’s network of interconnected devices continues to grow in both size and scale. With everything from refrigerators to security cameras to baby monitors being developed with a wireless internet connection, these IoT (Internet of Things) devices are quickly bringing science fiction to reality. While the majority of these IoT applications have thus far been developed for the consumer market, businesses will soon find the adoption of this technology plays a key role in the continued innovation of the technology sector. This world of always-on, always-connected devices presents a wealth of new possibilities and very real dangers to the future of managing technology assets.

More Science, Less Fiction

The number of IoT devices is exploding at an unprecedented ratewith estimates placing as many as 30 billion devices being connected into the IoT ecosystem by 2020. Business applications are many and varied, from the obvious advantages of IoT-connected medical equipment to the simple yet cost-effective smart light bulb. The responsibility of managing these devices doesn’t clearly fall into the realm of IT management, but it doesn’t rest solely with traditional building maintenance either. Due to the interconnected nature of these IoT devices, a symbiosis will need to be struck between the two structures, which obfuscates the line between the two. When the building’s thermostat can be used to remotely access the company’s network or hacked for other malicious uses, their security and integration into the company’s technology department is warranted. On a positive note, these IoT connected appliances can streamline asset management, lower operating costs, and provide huge benefits throughout a business’s infrastructure.

Consider smart lighting, which is already a very real and practical use of IoT technology in the workplace. These enhanced light bulbs could adjust their light levels based on time of day, ambient light, or current number of employees engaged in the workplace. They could easily be controlled and monitored remotely by a facility manager without the need for physical proximity. The amount of energy they are using could be compiled and reported back via their network connection. When a light goes out, its status could immediately be relayed for replacement, while other lights are adjusted to compensate for the outage. These energy savings go far beyond simple, on-or-off motion sensing lights, and could save companies huge amounts of money on operating costs. Similarly, a smart climate control system could account for ambient temperature, changes in interior heat produced by large gatherings of employees, and report cost-savings data back directly to the server with which they are connected. Even more critical is the use of IoT devices for data mining and reporting, like those making their way to airplane engines and automobiles. These powerful devices are inevitably coming to the workplace, and technology asset managers will need to account for their use in the near future.

How Many Managers Are Needed to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Businesses are looking to adopt IoT devices into their technology infrastructure face some very real risks and unique challenges. The easiest concern to address is their inclusion into traditional asset management. However, with companies already working to innovate ways to include BYOD policies into current systems, the introduction of IoT devices throws another complicated wrench into technology management. When the aforementioned smart light bulb decides to stop communicating with the network, who is called in for the repair? Does facility management simply come and replace the bulb, or is troubleshooting performed on the device’s connection? Is an IT ticketing system used to report the outage? What if an entire section of devices goes down with no explanation? As more technology is introduced, even simple appliances can become troubleshooting nightmares and necessitate a firm outline for their inclusion into a CIO’s already existing ITAM strategy.

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Even more concerning and difficult to address are security concerns. Anyone familiar with recent high-profile DDoS attacks will be no stranger to IoT’s role in those shutdowns. Consumer level IoT devices are notoriously lax in security, often having publicly available default passwords that can’t be modified, or worse, no security at all. This leaves them wide open to being hijacked. Enterprise IoT devices are sure to have a much higher level of security, but even that needs to be carefully vetted before they are allowed onto a company network. A system left vulnerable due to a lapse in IoT device security could easily have its bandwidth and resources commandeered for a high-level DDoS attack, which results in both internal and external losses. Much like everything that ends up connected to the network, the security of these devices needs to be thoroughly planned and accounted for prior to plugging them in and turning them on.

Moving Forward With Tomorrow

The arrival of IoT devices in the workplace is quickly approaching, and businesses will need to continue to adapt and evolve to include their use in everyday operations. The benefits provided by these devices are undeniable but so are the complications they bring with them. Companies looking to reduce costs and maximize output will soon find a technology-centric answer to a wide range of problems as long as they are able to account for these little wonders of innovation in their ITAM strategies.

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