This Industry Spotlight was contributed by Prabhu Ramachandran, who directs WebNMS, the service provider division of Zoho Corporation
According to Gartner, Inc., 25 billion connected “things” will be in use in 2020. As companies race to the IoT market, here are a few reasons to be cautious about IoT.
Reason No. 1: Security risks can outweigh business and operational advantages
All components of an Internet of Things (IoT) solution — including sensor networks, wireless/wired communication networks, IoT platforms and gateways — are susceptible to threat. The high number of vendors building the IoT ecosystem aggravates the risk of network break-ins and hacking.
No doubt, an IoT implementation opens up more endpoints to attack, and the complexity multiplies exponentially when tens of thousands of connected things have to be secured. Businesses need to ensure that adequate security measures are in place for IoT devices, endpoints and data traffic by including authentication and encryption and by limiting access to devices.
Only an integrated security approach with end-to-end security across the IoT chain can alleviate the security risks. Data sent from and received by IoT modules should be encrypted. A deep-rooted transport encryption algorithm in the endpoints and data transfer through a virtual private network (VPN) will protect the integrity of the data traffic.
Reason No. 2: Integration roadblocks
The IoT value chain is all about integration of different things, from sensors to edge devices, gateways, enterprise systems and beyond. The complexity of building and maintaining an IoT system, which includes sensors and communication protocols, poses unique challenges. All components of an IoT ecosystem have to integrate in one platform.
But unlocking the potential from tens of thousands of intelligent things is not easy due to divergent protocols and communication standards. The interoperability among heterogeneous things from different vendors poses a multi-faceted challenge.
Companies need to avoid technology lock-in and ensure that the deployment can adapt and scale to meet changing needs. While choosing the right IoT platform, it is wise to benchmark against the guidelines of open APIs that facilitate integration with third-party systems, big data and analytics capabilities, tools that enable seamless application development, and integrated security. There are a large and growing number of IoT platform and solution vendors. So before settling on an IoT platform, it is vital to identify the key features, including:
- Open architecture and comprehensive development tools
- Highly scalable framework that supports large-scale deployments without adding complexity
- Rich set of APIs that enables ready integration with the existing enterprise systems
Reason No. 3: Succeeding in the connected world requires a long-term focus
While the Internet of Things has the potential to create economic value of $1.9 trillion, it poses challenges for organizations to monetize the inflating market. Look beyond the buzz and define your business goals and articulate the value propositions.
First, decide which model best fits the company’s vision and ROI objectives — both tangible (e.g., direct cost savings) and intangible (e.g., improved customer experience). Secondly, start to build a long-term strategic plan (two to four years) with products or services that will take advantage when things are connected.
Machine data harnessed from different sources (devices and sensors) will shrink OPEX, redefine the customer experience, improve efficiency and create insights for timely decisions. For instance, a manufacturer of elevators, generators or any other industrial machinery should prioritize IoT investments to automatically monitor the health of the remote assets without the need to send an engineer to the site. Striking a balance between delivering outstanding customer service and bringing down the engineering time is key. Obviously, the upfront investment and time to enable IoT will be outweighed by efficiency. Economic benefits are enormous when an effective long-term IoT strategy is in place.
Reason No. 4: Getting drowned in data deluge
Gartner predicts that by 2020, IoT will include 26 billion connected devices, and this will generate incremental revenue of over $300 billion.
The massive IoT deployments will generate large volumes of data that need to be processed and analyzed in real time. Processing huge volumes of IoT data in real time will in turn accelerate the workload of data center sprouting challenges, particularly in the areas of data storage, security and server management. Therefore, to capture value from big data, businesses need to address technology challenges by adopting advanced capacity management and data analytics tools.
A key consideration in monetizing IoT is that the large pools of data have to be aggregated, analyzed and stored. Specifically, connect insights with value propositions to ensure that they drive business advantages. For instance, as a manufacturer, the data from the usage of products can be used to create innovative after-sales service offerings and improved customer satisfaction. Similarly, as a retailer, the data from customers, suppliers and inventory can be used to segment the customers and manage the supply chain.
With over 14 years of experience delivering service provider software solutions, Prabhu Ramachandran directs WebNMS, the service provider division of Zoho Corporation. Prabhu leads strategic marketing, product management, customer support, partnerships and professional services for WebNMS. Leveraging the technology of the corporation’s flagship WebNMS Framework, Prabhu has expanded the business from its longstanding leadership position in multi-vendor network and element management software into vertical solutions for Carrier Ethernet, MPLS, broadband, LTE and satellite networks. In 2012, Prabhu began driving WebNMS into network orchestration, SDN, NFV and IoT/M2M platforms, all critical enablers for service providers to grow profitable businesses. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Communication from Madras University, Chennai, India.