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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
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3/27/2015
08:05 AM
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané
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IoT Revolution: Is The Enterprise Ready?

In the connected future, the Internet of Things is expected to play a huge role in everyday life. Are enterprises ready to handle IoT, and what does it mean for security?

11 IoT Programming Languages Worth Knowing
11 IoT Programming Languages Worth Knowing
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There is little doubt the Internet of Things revolution is coming, and it will fundamentally change the way people interact with different devices. Still, for the last several years, most of the focus has been on the consumer market, with questions raised about the feasibility of low-level IoT devices such as Google's Nest smart thermostat and other basic housewares.

Where does this leave enterprises, especially when it comes to issues such as security, and what to do with all the data that IoT sensors can collect? After all, if there are privacy and security concerns about what a smart TV or thermostat can collect in a suburban home, what happens when IoT goes industrial, and critical systems are connected to the Internet and uploading terabytes of data into the cloud?

These issues regarding how business will respond to IoT were center stage at this month's Mobile World Congress. Although mainly a consumer show focused on mobile, MWC 2015 provided some critical insights into how enterprises should approach IoT, and what it means for IT departments and the CIOs tasked with overseeing this technology.

However, let's first start with popcorn.

At the MWC show, Niall Murphy, founder and CEO of Evrythng, an IoT cloud platform that connects consumer products to the Web and manages real-time data to drive applications, talked about how the 3.5 trillion products that are manufactured every year are becoming more and more digital. When it comes to IoT specifically, he estimates that there will be about one trillion of these connected products by 2020.

In his view, Murphy believes that businesses should not only focus on how things get connected, but also on how things become connectable.

"Smart does not mean that something is connected -- or if something is connected, it doesn't mean it is smart. Something becomes smart when it is connectable," he explained.

Niall Murphy demonstrates how a connected popcorn machine works during his presentation at MWC in Barcelona.

(Image: Susan Fourtane)

Niall Murphy demonstrates how a connected popcorn machine works during his presentation at MWC in Barcelona.

(Image: Susan Fourtané)

As a way of illustrating this point, he used a popcorn demonstration. With help from the audience, he showed how a Web-based system can pop popcorn -- thus during an old-fashioned, unconnected activity into a new, IoT-based function.

Cloud And Security Matter

Within the sphere of IoT, Murphy emphasized the importance of the cloud with this new ecosystem, and how the technology is needed to operate and manage these trillion or so connected products. In addition, the product themselves become data-collection nodes, and these products are now nodes in a giant, global network.

There is a consumer approach with business implications, as well as a fundamental business transformation.

After his presentation, he took part in panel discussion on how different objects and different languages connected through the IoT are going to change businesses over the course of the next five years, as a vast array of products become connected by different methods.

Murphy was joined by several executives working with IoT, including David Friedman, CEO of Ayla Networks; David del Val Latorre, who oversees research and development at Telefonica; and Thomas Svensson, a senior vice president at ThingWorx.

What are these executives thinking about when it comes to IoT? One word: Security.

Murphy addressed the concern by saying that the enterprises are now in the role of almost representing the types of services IoT provides. In turn, they are responsible for protecting the security of the consumer.

[Read about the IoT driving the future of cars.]

"Product manufacturing brands have the pressure to assess the security of the product," Murphy said. However, a lot of this depends on what data these devices capture and the relationship with the consumer. The paradox appears when trying to deliver a customized experience.

IoT's Message In A Bottle

In addition, IoT-connectable products radically change the relationship between consumers, products, and brands. Take alcoholic beverages for example.

Murphy presented an NFC-enabled, smart tag for whiskey bottles that grew out of a partnership between Evrythng and Thinfilm.

The NFC tag makes it possible to track the bottles. With the help of a smartphone, the manufacturer can see whether the bottle's seal has been broken. This helps keep tabs on the stock control -- a futuristic type of anti-counterfeiting measure. According to Thinfilm, its smart labels are impossible to copy or modify. These smart labels use OpenSense, a new wireless technology for enhanced IoT product security.

Think about that the next time you walk down the aisle of your favorite liquor store or step up to the bar after a long day at the office. The question then becomes one of whether the same technology be used to measure whether people are actually drinking the whisky? Is it times to change the way the drinks are distilled? If a person likes this particular brand, would they also enjoy a different type of alcohol made by the same company?

As products become connectable, the enterprise needs to be ready for the connected revolution. There's a lot of promise here, as well as some warning signs.

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Susan Fourtané is a Science & Technology journalist, writer, and philosopher with a life-long interest in science and technology -- and all things interesting. She has been a technology journalist for nearly 10 years writing and reporting for global print and online ... View Full Bio
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Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
3/27/2015 | 6:26:30 PM
Security
Right now, if someone hacks your account, you could be in for an unpleasant time. The resuslts can be identity theft, or outright theft of cash. Unpleasant, but not the end of the world, and certainly rectifiable. If the IOT is hacked, that popcorn machine can be programmed to start a fire, or some other kind of mayhem. I think before we go too far down this IOT road, much, much more thought must be given to security.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
3/27/2015 | 11:50:48 PM
Re: Security
Certainly rectifiable but that kind of a stain on IOT's image that soon would be a deal breaker for most people, including me. I have high hopes for IOT and Drone delivery system and only the current business models and the corresponding technical advancements that those business models allow, would be responsible for IOT's fall or rise.
yalanand
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yalanand,
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3/27/2015 | 11:53:52 PM
The Future
Suddenly the IOT fever seems to have died down, although more and more IOT devices are coming into the market, what is the cause of such a decreased interest over IOT? There is so much potential for IOT yet people (including me, I won't lie) are skeptical about its future developments.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
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3/28/2015 | 12:19:16 PM
Re: The Future
Well, there isn't that much use for your refrigerator to know what my stove has been cookling lately. Nor will it do anyone any good to know the details of which lights I have turned on at what time. But, on the other hand, it would be very helpful if the manufacturer of your car is informed of any out-of-spec readings on all of its customer's vehicle's oil pressure. So, I think it's very much like Google Glass - this new science must concentrate on solid commercial and industrial uses, and not rely on less useful private applications. And, while I'm on the subject, IOT's eventual deployment does have serious implication for everyone's privacy.
zerox203
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zerox203,
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3/28/2015 | 6:55:49 PM
Re: IoT Revolution: Is The Enterprise Ready?
There's definitely a sort of confluence here for the Enterprise - on the one hand, we have Enterprise cases for IoT and devices specifically made for all kinds of industries. The article you linked of Chris' about monitoring giant mining shovels is a perfect example. On the other hand, it seems people are forgetting that all the consumer devices are an Enterprise use case. It's enterprises who are going to be building these devices, maintaining these protocols, mining all the data, handling the cloud operations, and building their next generations of products based upon that data.  When you say it will affect the relationship between users and brands, you're right - users can be enticed to buy products from the same family with the promise of smooth interoperability, but there's a limit. Companies will be expected to build interoperability across brands - which is where an org like the OIC comes in.

The smart liquor bottle actually makes a pretty strong use case. We have subclasses of consumer items that are very expensive given their frivolity - buying a nice bottle of liquor is supposed to be an experience, not just a drink, so that smart label can add some value while not bothering those who could care less about it. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn't want my deodorant to do it, so companies need to be careful about what makes sense. I think the popcorn machine is by comparison a relatively weak example - the link given points to a simple web gui with one button. While this is technically a connected popcorn machine, it's hard to say what's really running under the hood from something so simple. I think this is partly what invites consumer skepticism. On that note, I too am glad to hear these IoT execs harping on security. It's an issue that won't and shouldn't go away for IoT.

 
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/28/2015 | 10:49:02 PM
Re: The Future
"Suddenly the IOT fever seems to have died down, although more and more IOT devices are coming into the market, what is the cause of such a decreased interest over IOT? There is so much potential for IOT yet people (including me, I won't lie) are skeptical about its future developments."

@yalanand: I don't think the fever has died down. I think we're moving in the stage where concrete applications are coming out of it and the concept is no longer in the air. A few years earlier people had all kinds of fancy notions about IoT but the technology is becoming more structured and people can see what the boundaries are.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/28/2015 | 11:21:30 PM
Re: IoT Revolution: Is The Enterprise Ready?
"On the other hand, it seems people are forgetting that all the consumer devices are an Enterprise use case. It's enterprises who are going to be building these devices, maintaining these protocols, mining all the data, handling the cloud operations, and building their next generations of products based upon that data"

@zerox203: I think what people in the industry are referring to, when they seggregate between enterprise and consumer devices, is who the end-user would be. Consumer devices would primarily be used at home for different purposes while enterprise ones may be used as work tools to directly or indirectly assist in day-to-day work activities.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/28/2015 | 11:32:40 PM
Re: Security
"If the IOT is hacked, that popcorn machine can be programmed to start a fire, or some other kind of mayhem. I think before we go too far down this IOT road, much, much more thought must be given to security."

@Gary: I completely agree with you. The security risks will increase considerably as IoT becomes widespread. I think the security would also be needed to be upgraded. You'd need better anti-viruses and anti-malware systems to ensure no one is able to penetrate into your network. Network monitoring will also become essential.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 1:19:18 AM
IoT is here already!
Whether enterprises like it not, IoT is here already.  I think just like cloud & smart phones it will be one of those areas where consumers adopt earlier than enterprise and then IT departments will have challenges catering to users who try to control their connected devices in home and office from the office network! Rough times ahead for enterprise IT.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
3/29/2015 | 5:37:40 PM
Re: Security
Gary,, instead of starting a fire, what about making non-stop popcorn? :) -Susan
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