Technology innovations and enablement are flourishing, and companies are working quickly to implement relevant systems while allowing their employees to use the tools they know and love best to allow for all of the above — flexibility, choice, security and more.
Over the last decade, there has been a lot of hype around the internet of things as a silver bullet technology to improving, well, everything. From smarter and more efficient use of natural resources to safer driving conditions to lighter and trendier wearables — the benefits have seemed to be endless. However, it’s important to acknowledge that IoT is not one technology or system. It’s really an umbrella term for businesses that have more computers and more forums in which to accomplish more functions across organizations.
Let’s break down the different types of IoT for work to demonstrate the benefits of connected systems and technologies, and then explore the associated challenges and best practices for working through those obstacles to make modern work a reality in your enterprise.
IoT at work
IoT is a disruptive, ever-evolving concept that is becoming increasingly important to the workforce and a company’s ability to build a competitive advantage. When it comes to empowering the workforce via IoT, there are three different buckets to consider: employee, industrial and mobile IoT.
Employee IoT encompasses everything from the Fitbits employees wear to improve their health to the connected refrigerator in the office. It is the individual computing elements companies are introducing to the workplace to not only augment their employees’ productivity, but their everyday lives as well. Industrial IoT refers to the machine-to-machine perspective. The next generation of sensors connected to analytics is improving business processes without the need for human interaction (think temperature and humidity sensors at a chemical plant that alert employees there is an error). Finally, mobile IoT consists of a company’s smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. These computing devices allow employees to be more productive and have evolved tremendously in the past 10 years.
While we haven’t seen the full potential of personal and industrial IoT at work just yet, mobile IoT is having a big impact on employees in the workplace. In fact, the global mobile workforce is set to increase from 1.5 billion in 2016 to 1.87 billion in 2022 — accounting for 43% of the global workforce. Employees are seeing several benefits from mobile IoT, especially when it comes to increasing productivity, through reduced human efforts, decision analytics, higher quality data and real-time feedback.
The barriers to entry
While IoT has enabled employees to work more effectively, the technology has changed a lot of the ways companies operate, which creates some challenges. As a result, the role of CIOs is changing daily as they are working to create a model to showcase IoT’s business value to stakeholders.
To demonstrate the business value, IT needs to be at the forefront of these new technologies, influencing other groups in the organization and serving as a resource for general understanding of how these new systems deliver value. Serving as that resource means effectively explaining how the application of new technologies can help streamline operations and taking on the role of subject matter expert to appropriately vet and critically assess new technologies.
Though there is a gold mine of business value in IoT, there is also an endless amount of security challenges. And as companies race toward innovation, security often falls to the wayside. Breaches have become a commonality and organizations that don’t make security a priority will be left vulnerable and wide open to exploitation. Even with proper security precautions, regulations like GDPR mean IT will need to tread carefully and strike a balance between collecting useful data to drive business value while ensuring security protocol to avoid potential fines.
While IoT devices are generally lower powered than their desktop or laptop counterparts, they are still powerful. Unfortunately, they are still easier to break into because they don’t have secure default configurations. With any technology though, as long as IT departments have done their research, hardened the OS and application, and written good application codes, there is no reason these configurations can’t be secure.
Four tips to successfully use IoT
To successfully implement IoT in the workplace — whether it be employee, industrial, mobile IoT or a combination of the three — consider the following best practices:
- Don’t think about your IoT strategy; think about your data and business strategy. IoT isn’t one specific thing; it’s a journey your company embarks on to figure out how ubiquitous computing can impact your business.
- Understand how your data flows, what kind of data helps your company make decisions, from where that data is collected, and when that data drives action.
- Prioritize data flows that are most business critical and then consider IoT-style approaches that make those data flows faster and better understand through analytics.
- Secure, secure, secure! There are endless amounts of ways for hackers to compromise proprietary data. Design a structured model of deploying endpoints that all have a shared security framework to ensure you have a central way to protect and monitor your endpoints.
Find the right use cases for your business
There continues to be lots of hype around IoT and sometimes it is difficult to wade through the noise to determine how an enterprise IT organization should be using this broad array of technologies. The number of devices with connectivity will continue to grow exponentially over the next decade. Some of those devices will have a human interface and be multipurpose, like a smartwatch. Others will never interface with a person and be highly specialized, like a motion sensor. Ensuring your company is productively using IoT — and effectively navigating challenges along the way — is key to tapping into the innovation your employees want and your business needs.
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