You better watch out, You better not pout, IOT is Coming to the Enterprise

John Landwehr, Public Sector CTO, Adobe
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John Landwehr, Public Sector CTO, Adobe

Convenience, wellness, safety, security, efficiency, entertainment – these are some of the most frequently cited benefits from the rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT). It should be noted that while IoT is now becoming mainstream, there has been over 50 years of inter connectivity in sensor and control systems starting with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) in the 1960s. The initial technology was limited to industrial control systems for manufacturing and utilities with proprietary systems and closed networks - not applicable to all enterprises. Now, given the Internet, more powerful semiconductors, standardization, miniaturization, innovation in sensors, all with dramatic cost reduction – fueled by the ongoing consumerization of IT, all enterprises must be mindful of the impact today’s IoT is already having on infrastructure, security, and consumer interaction.

“Initiatives like MDM and BYOD need to contemplate both policy and protection for the growing and interconnected IoT world”

For my family of four, I started counting the interconnected devices we have in our home. We may be a bit of an early adopter when it comes to technology, but I quickly counted over 70 devices in active use. This does not even include the old disconnected electronics headed for recycling. How could we already have over 17 devices per person?

I started with the computers, tablets, and smartphones, but not everyone has all of those devices. Walking around the house, the next category was entertainment. TVs, set top boxes, game consoles, streaming devices – that all added up. Then I saw an eBook reader on a table, next to a VoIP phone for our landline. I walked down the hall by the thermostat – yes, those are now connected too. Then there are the lights, locks, cameras, sensors and smoke detectors tied into home automation systems. The  cars are also online now, too.

Another new category of devices recently invaded our home for health and fitness. Measuring things like steps and motion – these devices are even marketed to know when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake. For goodness sake, could Santa be in on this, too? No doubt the holiday season will drive even more adoption with wearables and other gizmos. Whether it’s encouraging and monitoring our overall fitness, or specialty devices for golf, tennis, baseball, soccer and other sports that include tiny accelerometers and gyroscopes to electronically coach us to be better players.

Not all of these devices directly connect to the Internet, but they are increasingly using standardized communication protocols like WiFi, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave to route through a hub, that is online. Then a combination of web pages and mobile applications are used to control and monitor all these devices and their data. That has caused our house to sometimes feel like it needs its own data center, and I have joked with my family that my personal CTO time required to configure and keep all these devices going may soon require outsourcing to an IT service provider.

With everything directly and indirectly pinging the Internet, our broadband router started acting up. It turns out that it was a combination of network address translation and dynamic IP assignment that were reaching capacity in our consumer equipment. That resulted in some experimentation with deploying IPv6 for our house, but that’s another story. I also noticed that many of the mobile applications installed on our smartphones and tablets started asking for permissions to interconnect even further – with contacts and calendars. Do I really want these things reaching into my entire personal and business address book and calendar? This is certainly one area where enterprise IT intersects with IoT.

As organizations continue to embrace mobile computing through smartphones and tablets, consumers want to carry one device to be productive with work, while staying healthy with fitness devices, and safe and secure with their home automation technologies. Initiatives like Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) need to contemplate both policy and protection for the growing and interconnected IoT world. Then the internal needs of the enterprise systems with more connected sensors and controls for better security and climate control need to considered, too. The underlying infrastructure within an organization ultimately needs to be ready for more business and consumer devices, along with more bandwidth requirements, and appropriate information security measures.

The enterprise intersection with IoT can also go beyond employees and internal systems – supporting the interests of a consumer. Whether you are a business or government, providing efficient digital transactions and services – it’s important to support the most popular devices consumers have. Otherwise, you have an accessibility problem if your website was only designed for large screen desktop browsers, and the majority of your users now have smartphones and tablets. This is where analytics technologies can report how consumers engage with your organization across devices and channels, so you can optimize your digital communication vehicles accordingly.

Statistics are showing that mobile applications are quickly becoming the strong preference over web pages, as they provide richer experiences and more capabilities. This includes opt-in location sharing capabilities that can provider even greater context to digital interactions. As consumers, especially in the busy holiday season, we don’t want to miss out on the best shopping deals – and now iBeacons and other proximity systems are able to recognize our interest standing in the electronics aisle and offer us alerts of what’s in stock and at what special price – saving time and money. As enterprise IT supports sales, marketing, and customer service organizations, the capabilities IoT brings are very important to the overall business.

Hopefully those elves at the North Pole will be delivering us more IPv6 support this holiday season.

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