Digital Business

3 Steps To Survive The IoT Wild, Wild West

Before you charge into the Internet of Things, focus on these policy and infrastructure considerations.

Despite its gold rush vibe, the Internet of Things is still in its formative stage -- a lawless frontier where IT must think strategically to protect future company interests. Here are three things you can do now to stake a claim as the IoT unfolds:

1. Realize data governance is more important than ever. There are already a lot of voices clamoring for control of your data. Governments and policymakers are going to have their say and swing their weight. As you embark on your IoT journey, it is vital that you document and establish clear policies and procedures around the data your company interacts with and owns. Access control, analytics, retention, and backup policies need to be clear, and these areas must be managed from early on. While some starting points can be put in place today, others will require monitoring and adaptation as you progress. Here are a few examples:

The need to monitor and understand the constraints, standards, and scope of the Internet of Things as it unfolds on a global basis. This includes contemplating naming conventions (such as the Object Naming Service, a derivative of DNS providing structure to the IoT), related security provisions, industry and geopolitical operational guidelines, and legal restrictions.

[For more insight on IoT, see When Internet Of Things Meets Big Data.]

Keep an eye on who is trying to influence standards and what that might mean to your organization. Precursor technologies, like RFID and closed-loop, silo-based sensor monitoring systems, provide lessons. How did those technologies shape your business, and how will that translate into the governance of IoT?

Does the governing body (or bodies) operate centrally, or will there be local controls? Who and what will be the authority for international control? Some have suggested that organizations like the World Trade Organization or the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development could be likely candidates for this role. Keep a close eye on the extent to which state laws, international laws, or industry self-regulation could shape the constraints under which you will have to operate.

2. Make an adaptable infrastructure for changing times. We're entering a technology refresh cycle where many infrastructure, software, and application developers are keen on getting into the IoT ecosystem. It is important to make smart long-term decisions when committing resources -- especially with IoT, as so much is still to be determined. Favor technologies that can tap into your existing infrastructure but that are open and standards-based so they can work with tomorrow's innovations as the IoT matures and new business and data models emerge.

Pay attention to who is "winning" the standards wars. Look not only to specs relating to APIs and data access but those governing wireless and related power considerations (Zigbee, BLE, 6LoWPAN), device hardware considerations, operating systems, and data storage and structures. It's also critical to watch the mega-vendor-backed industry consortiums such as Open Interconnect Consortium (Intel), Thread (Google), and AllJoyn (Qualcomm), as well as the Industrial Internet Consortium. Don't forget about Apple and its ability to singlehandedly create a sea change, at least in certain aspects of the market.

3. Understand the process controls behind the architecture. Security is a big part of the IoT equation and should be baked into your architecture from the outset, as should processes for data retention and ownership. Pay attention to how updates are administered, access is granted, and network interactions are managed. Documentation is key to ensure adherence to policies, and for forensics in the future.

The Internet of Things will become reality. From consumers to the largest organizations in the world, I find it difficult to imagine any company remaining untouched. While it will happen fast, it may not be as fast as some think, and certainly it will not be easy.

It's one thing to understand the various components that comprise emerging standards and have a grasp of the legal considerations around how and where you implement your systems. It's quite another to consider the real-life operational discipline that goes into making it a reality. Think about having a data center and 1,000 network-connected PCs to manage. A full-fledged IoT deployment means you're suddenly dealing with several data centers, which may or may not include third-party-operated public or private clouds, hundreds of thousands of PCs and mobile devices, and billions of sensors and collection points.

This represents a quantum leap in scale where each very tactical consideration of establishing and maintaining the technology stack, from chips to OS to networking, will become a strategic make or break decision. Let's not repeat past mistakes.

If the world wasn't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't, and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)