CIOs: Now Is The Time To Prepare For The Internet Of Things – Part 1 of 2

July 15, 2015 Bob Nilsson

The best way to understand the impact that the Internet of Things will have on IT is to set up a small IoT pilot. An IoT pilot can benefit not just IT, but the entire business as well.

Our survey, What’s Keeping Higher Education CIOs Up At Night showed that tech-savvy higher education IT executives may be on top of many of the changes looming in technology, but the Internet of Things is not yet one of them. They are fully aware it is coming, but as of now, the Internet of Things is not yet a major focus. This finding is also confirmed by other surveys. However, given the wide-ranging security, bandwidth, legal, and business implications involved, IT really needs a wake-up call to get busy planning, if not acting. Even one of the inventors of the Internet of Things is worried about IT preparedness.

Remind Me Again, What Is The Internet Of Things (IoT)?

Everyone has had some exposure or experience with the IoT now, although you may not realize it. According to Altimeter’s Customer IoT Experience report 87% say they are still unfamiliar with the term “Internet of Things”. Credit for coining the term goes to Kevin Ashton, who used it as the title of a presentation at Proctor and Gamble in 1999. The phrase refers to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications involving network-based remote sensors and actuators. Network-based sensors generate data (often Big Data) which is stored and analyzed either on site or in the cloud. Gartner defines the Internet of Things as, “The network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and interact with their internal states or the external environment.”

Today, there are already smart cities, smart schools, smart hospitals, and smart homes with sensors tracking the critical moving parts and actuators providing controls. Smart phones typically provide the control panels and display the analyzed data.

Why Should I Be Concerned?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the Internet of Things is just another overhyped Y2K-type fear. There have already been some IoT calamities. One example of what can happen when M2M connections go awry was the run-away 2010 trillion dollar stock market flash crash.

Along with the Internet of Things come tremendous opportunities as well as risks. Planning needs to simultaneously be defensive, insuring that IT infrastructure is ready, and offensive, that is, encouraging and leading groups outside of the IT department to take full advantage of the promise of the IoT. Managing the threat includes preparing to support IoT devices with sufficient bandwidth and addressing the new security concerns. The opportunity goes beyond the short-term benefits of specific designed-for-IoT products, to whole new business opportunities. The newly-available data that can be generated by the IoT offers heretofore not possible real-time insights that can lead to new efficiencies, new services, and new revenue-generating opportunities. All these opportunities will make the foresighted CIO a true hero within the business.

New Devices Will Be Joining Your Network at Increasing and Alarming Rates

With the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, wireless gadgets have been appearing on your network at the rate of 2-5 devices per person, just counting the smart phones, fitbits, games, smart TVs, and smart watches. New breakthroughs in prototyping, fundraising, and manufacturing, collectively referred to as “the new hardware movement” by Jon Bruner of O’Reilly Media, are opening a floodgate of new Internet-ready, low-cost devices. These emerging networked products include everything from light bulbs, temperature and light sensors, and locks, to virtual reality headsets and low-cost robots.

Thanks to readily-available standardized, low-power IoT platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, it is now easy to quickly give Internet access to all conceivable devices at low cost. This is fueling exponential growth of IoT devices. Estimates for the number of connected devices by 2020 range from 26 billion (Gartner) and 212 billion (IDC) to as high as 1.5 trillion (SingularityHUB).

Defensive Preparation and Planning

Is your infrastructure ready for an onslaught of devices? Gartner is calling this era the “Wild West” moment in IoT adoption. Due to the lack of standards, IoT device vendors are advancing their own agendas and points of view as they pump devices onto consumers and into businesses. Although the data demands of many of these devices start out light weight, they grow as product vendors find how easy and low cost it is to add constant monitoring and even streaming HD video to their devices. Since these are smart devices, they require periodic online software updates. Remember how your network seemed to go down whenever Apple released a new version of iOS? Think what could happen when thousands of devices start requesting software updates during working hours.

Here s a quick checklist for preparing your infrastructure for the Internet of Things:

The Network. Start with basic coverage and bandwidth capacity. IoT devices will be located throughout your buildings, including equipment mezzanines, maintenance rooms, even outdoor areas and parking lots. In the past, you probably concentrated your Wi-Fi coverage on locations where people work and congregate. Now you need to be sure there is coverage everywhere devices and other things may not only be bolted down, but slide, float, roll or fly to.

Your network security will need to be ready. Prepare the capacity of your Network Access Control to securely bring lots of new devices onto the network. You’ll need an easy means to monitor and track all the devices, and see which apps are accessing the devices and vice versa.

What types of networking will be required? Many IoT devices are controlled with Wi-Fi, but very low power devices may require Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or near field communication (NFC). Be sure you have trouble-shooting capabilities ready to go for the network. Since something will be likely to go wrong with early implementations, you’ll need to be able to determine where the trouble is located. Network analytics are vital for this.

Servers. Although many IoT devices are operated from the cloud, you’ll need to understand the local data storage and processing demands they place on your servers. Is data cached or stored locally? What database management software will be required? Do you need a contingency plan capable of running locally if you become disconnected from the Internet?

Displays and Dashboards. What devices will you need for displaying your IoT data? Smartphones have become the IoT remote control of convenience if not default, but specialized displays are often required for commercial and process applications.

Custom Software. One of the reasons that the IoT has progressed so quickly is that so much of it runs without expensive customization. Often a standard Android or iOS smart phone sits at the center as the controller and display. New sites and apps like IFTTT have enabled custom configurations without traditional software development or coding. But don’t be surprised if some of your network users come to you with requests for tweaking, tuning, or outright software development. You’ll need to be prepared with a response. Getting to know all the key components in advance will help. API gateways, integration platforms as a service (iPaaS), and enterprise service buses (ESBs) enter the mix here. Ultimately all of your IoT projects will need to be tied into your corporate systems and databases, which may be far from automatic.

Policy, IP, and Legal Preparedness. As with all BYOD employee and student devices, you will need a clear policy regarding what is allowed on the network in terms of both devices and data. Provision needs to be made to prevent the network from becoming overwhelmed with streaming data and video. Just as some campuses restrict Wi-Fi access to gaming consoles and bandwidth-consuming apps like Netflix, special provisions or restrictions may be appropriate for streaming IoT devices.

It is important to understand who owns the data that originates at the IoT devices and travels across your network. Product vendors assert a varying level of ownership over the software, the data and even the product you may believe you have purchased. As a harbinger of data, software, and product ownership trends, John Deere asserts that “the vehicle owner receives an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle”, but may not actually own the vehicle.

Gartner points out another example that deals with digital environmental control systems in office buildings. Is the data created by these systems owned by the HVAC system manufacturer, the real estate company that owns the office building, the tenants who lease space, or do individual workers whose presence is monitored to optimize the lighting, heating and cooling systems have rights to it?

Here are more IoT-related regulation issues to prepare for:

  • Protecting IoT user and data privacy. This Forrester report includes an IoT data protection checklist for CIOs. This FTC report suggests the need for new cloud data privacy regulations.
  • Preserving your patent rights for new combinations and mash-ups of IoT devices on your network.
  • Understanding how IoT data may be used. For example, can it be used to help set health insurance rates or make hiring decisions?
  • Complying with licensing restrictions involving how you configure IoT devices and apps.
  • Adapting to emerging laws and regulations. For example, European Union: General Data Protection Regulation

End of part one. In part two of the Impact of IoT for CIOs, I’ll cover these topics:

  • Internet of Things Security
  • People and Training
  • New IoT-Related Business Opportunities
  • Now give it a try!

The post CIOs: Now Is The Time To Prepare For The Internet Of Things – Part 1 of 2 appeared first on Extreme Networks.

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