IoT: Changing the Foundation of Your IT Strategy
IoT is changing the face of business in a dramatic outside-in sweep. Like mobile phones in the 1990s, many businesses see IoT as a novelty, but this ever-growing matrix of wearable tech is now vital to business solutions. Many CIOs are rethinking central systems to accommodate IoT into their operations. It’s time to stop fixing old technologies and join this third wave of internet tech.
Discover Consumer Roles in IoT
At its core, IoT is about the collection, diversification, and distribution of data. The consumer plays a vital role in this process. The marketplace drive to put mobile, fast, efficient technology in people’s hands has led to an estimated 207 million smartphone users last year. App companies quickly saw immense potential in these devices, tapping into the various capabilities of built-in sensors. Suddenly, people could play real-time games that detect users’ movements, monitor their sleep apnea, or keep an exact record of their heart rates throughout the day.
These are fine ways to embrace such technology, but to see IoT solely as a consumer engagement tool misses the bigger picture. Last year, I explained how crucial IoT would be for managed service providers—but that really was just a starting point. IT strategies must encompass the big data wave or miss out on a big opportunity.
Understand the Business Outlook for IoT
It seems to me that businesses must look to IoT beyond simply collecting data from sensors. Consider the small example of what IoT can do by monitoring spikes on the energy grid. Translating data into correlations with weather patterns—by which you can alter your distribution schedules each time a storm comes in—can save your business wasted time, money, and aggravation.
Harley Davidson is an example of a company that has employed IoT to increase both sales and overall efficiency. Every piece of equipment in its York, PA plant is now connected to the internet. Its software allows for both reactive and predictive analytics so that if a machine begins to overheat, the system can make real-time adjustments to compensate. At the same time, cost efficiencies are constantly updating, allowing for increases in the speed of production and delivery.
Some experts are estimating that between 2013 and 2020, this growing business trend will result in a 25 percent decrease in connectivity costs. Businesses that operate with IoT-focused philosophies can expect to not only lower operating costs and increase productivity but also to expand their markets and develop new products. This is the powerful crossroads of personal sensor tech, business integration of IoT, and the updated systems to support them. With a predicted 24 billion active IoT devices by 2020, leveraging this trend may be a make-or-break decision for some companies.
Upgrade the Foundation to Support IoT
To make this transition run smoothly and to efficiently invest in IoT, companies must upgrade five aspects of their business:
- Things. As we look forward to the industrialized internet, companies must reassess their central systems. Each of the “things” in your sphere needs to be managed to some degree. That is, diagnostics and information collection must occur at a rapid pace. This requires a new approach to every aspect along the pathway—from your central system to your sensors.
- Security. While the data from these external devices is precious, it can also represent a security risk. Many worry that these outlying sensors will become a series of backdoors to predators. The result is an increase in the security budget to help guard both the “things”—most importantly their data—and the pathways from them.
- Analytics. Whether processing user information to streamline services or machine feedback to expedite production, data needs to be analyzed. Data analytics experts, new algorithms, and tools of presentation will be necessary to make sense of the influx of information. Without this step, the influx loses its efficacy.
- Storage. Time-series data collected from sensors can prove unwieldy. However, it is an important benefit of the IoT world. By storing time-series data long term, companies reap the benefits of more comprehensive analytics. I think upgrading to dedicated, specialized databases to ingest and organize this information is a wise move. Some scenarios are best served with updated on-site processing, while others are suited to the cloud or a hybrid.
- Systems. New systems must be adopted to allow for high levels of agility and responsiveness. The system must not only tap into data streams, but also process and act on them quickly. Workloads require separation into components that can be more easily managed. Doing so de-centralizes processing, allowing for a greater number of processes to occur at any given time.
The CIO’s Role in Implementation
IoT is creating a revolution from the outside in. As exterior devices are developed, CIOs must incorporate them inward, reorganizing and redeveloping their base systems to accommodate.
Companies that adopt and streamline these technologies will have the advantage of a near 360-degree view of their environments. It is incumbent upon CIOs to adopt this view and use it to the company’s benefit. Large initiatives, such as “smarter cities,” are evidence of both the growing demand and the all-encompassing future of IoT.
Businesses that survive the long haul have always been forward-looking, and that inclination is even more important at this phase of the tech revolution. IoT represents a new wave of change. Though it necessitates a new process, expect the benefits to far outweigh the difficulties inherent in implementation. CIOs: it may be time to rethink your foundation.