When a type of project consistently exceeds expectations, you’ve got to sit up and pay attention. That’s exactly where we are now with the Internet of Things. In the survey, “IoT Today and Tomorrow,” only 16% of business leaders projected a large profit gain from their IoT investment. Yet post adoption, twice as many -- 32% -- of executives realized those gains.
Many organizations are catching on. The Aruba-sponsored study of 3,100 business and IT decision makers across 20 countries found that in 2019, 85% of businesses will implement an IoT strategy driven by the need for innovation and business efficiency. Here’s a link to the study.
But there are some potholes on the path to profits. Many IT and business leaders lack an understanding of what IoT is and how it could impact their organization, according to the survey. They just don’t know how they can benefit, what the ROI might be, and how IoT could transform their business. And equally important, they don’t understand the risks.
So, before we go any further, let’s determine what we mean by IoT. Technology visionary Kevin Ashton, who coined the term, defines it this way: “The Internet of Things means sensors connected to the Internet and behaving in an Internet-like way: making open, ad-hoc connections, sharing data freely, allowing unexpected applications, and creating a nervous system for the planet that enables computers to understand the things in the world around them.”
While the planet’s nervous system may still be in formation, IoT is having a real-world impact on five industry sectors:
- Enterprise -- smarter workplaces. 72% of enterprises have introduced IoT devices into the workplace. The predominant use case is remote monitoring of functions like energy usage; indoor location-based services is the second most promising. 78% say IoT has improved the effectiveness of their IT team, and 75% say it has increased profitability.
- Industrial -- cutting risk and downtime. 62% have adopted IoT and monitoring and maintenance is the most impactful implementation. 55% believe IoT will reduce operational risk; 44% believe it will cut downtime.
- Healthcare -- cutting costs and fostering innovation. 60% are using IoT; monitoring and maintenance is the number one use. Approximately 80% say innovation has increased and 73% report cost savings.
- Retail -- engaging customers with location technology. 49% of retailers are using IoT and over 80% of IoT adopters confirmed it has enhanced the customer experience. In-store location services are delivering personalized offers and product information to shoppers.
- Municipalities -- reducing costs. 42% of governments have deployed IoT, but 35% of executives have little to no understanding of IoT, putting them behind other sectors. Monitoring and maintenance are the dominant use case. Even though 49% say they are struggling with legacy technology, 71% report improved visibility across their organization.
Despite these impressive findings, there is plenty of room for improvement. While 98% of organizations that have adopted IoT claim to be able to analyze data, 97% of these businesses reported that they are not extracting and analyzing data within corporate networks and using those insights to improve business decisions. And a troubling statistic: 84% of respondents reported an IoT-related security breach.
For IoT to deliver on its promise, both security and the ability to extract insights will have to get better. I’ll save the topic of insights for another time. As far as IoT security is concerned, there needs to be a change in mindset. For a long time, IT security focused on the user. Now, the focus must be on things.
Visibility is critical. Why? Because good devices can go bad. And some devices are bad to begin with. A device might connect innocently enough and at first, you may notice nothing odd. Over time, however, that device could turn against your organization and you need to see what’s going on. We encountered a case of that at one customer location where an e-cigarette containing malicious code was plugged into a USB port and was sending sensitive corporate information to a foreign country.
Policies are also very important. For example, are printers connected to the Internet? Are they allowed access to financial information? If you answered yes and yes, you’ve got to take preventive measures or you could be exposing your organization to a catastrophic data breach.
With thousands and thousands of connected IoT devices, the possibilities for compromise are mind-boggling. For that reason, a solution like Niara (recently acquired by Aruba) is particularly valuable. It applies machine learning to behavioral analytics to detect compromised users and hosts, negligent employees and malicious insiders.
It isn’t often that results significantly exceed expectations. IoT represents a new frontier that is full of both opportunities and risks. Those who are able to step up to the plate and make the most of IoT will find themselves at a significant competitive advantage.
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