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IoT from A to Z: How IoT devices impact enterprise mobility programs

In the world of mobility, acronyms seem to be created every day. To help decipher these terms and clear up some confusion around the industry, we recently partnered with Blue Hill Research to create the Enterprise Mobility Acronym Glossary. With that in mind, I thought an IoT Q&A about some of these acronyms could be educational and helpful. Below is the conversation I had with Blue Hill’s Founder and Research Fellow Ralph Rodriguez and Research Associate Charlotte O’Donnelly.

BI — business intelligence: How has IoT affected BI and enterprise strategy/technology regarding big data?

Charlotte O’Donnelly: With BI of the past, the challenge was identifying the most valuable enterprise data and ensuring it was collected in a way that allowed it to be acted upon later. IoT devices generate thousands or even millions of daily data points, resulting in new challenges: volume, variety and velocity — the three Vs of big data. Sensors and connected equipment in airplanes, for example, may generate a terabyte of data over the course of a single flight.

IoT transforms each business access point into a new potential data source, thus drawing BI and insights from a wider range of data sources, a much larger volume of data, and from data that is changing on a per-second basis. Enterprise IoT strategies must be in real time, rather than based on historical data sources, and must incorporate significantly more types and bytes of data.

There is no shortage of data or metrics (GPS location, temperature, output, speed or time just to name a few). Therefore, the new challenge IoT presents for BI is how an enterprise properly manages and makes sense of seemingly limitless data across all areas of its operations.

CoIT — consumerization of IT: Is CoIT influencing enterprise IoT behaviors in any way? Will CoIT in this industry be as dramatic as other technologies (smartphones, wearables, etc.) at the enterprise level?

O’Donnelly: Surprisingly, IoT adoption is reversing the path that smartphones and wearables followed — it’s initially gaining traction at the industrial and enterprise level and filtering down to the consumer frontier. With industrial IoT, businesses are investing in and developing solutions to make existing devices and equipment smarter. CoIT, on the other hand, involves a behavior change that convinces businesses to purchase and use new devices instead.

So far, the value of connected consumer devices has been incremental and more novelty-focused. With many of these early consumer IoT devices, there have also been significant security concerns that have either slowed or completely halted adoption altogether.

Security is influencing development and behavior in both the consumer and enterprise spheres. Manufacturers are increasingly prioritizing comprehensive IoT security solutions that protect component parts, devices, applications and cloud systems. Much of this effort is driven by consumer-level breaches that have caused abandoned device adoption and/or legal retribution. At the enterprise level, a security breach could put a company out of business, or at least significantly affect its brand reputation and ongoing operations.

IoT — internet of things: As IoT becomes more prominent, are organizations managing it uniquely, or is it being lumped into the umbrella of mobility and/or IT? Will that change?

O’Donnelly: Organizations are investing in IoT in a piecemeal fashion, resulting in a wide spectrum of management practices and deployments. Some organizations are lumping IoT network connectivity into mobility under existing cellular contracts. Many are managing deployments in-house and lack a clear view into expenses, data, usage and future strategy. Current management practices all suffer from a lack of visibility and the potential for project scope creep, especially as enterprise IoT investments scale.

In the future, organizations will likely attempt to incorporate all information technology assets (mobility, machine-to-machine, cloud, IoT and traditional legacy infrastructure) into IT management. To successfully accomplish this, IT will need to involve virtually every organizational decision-maker within the telecom, procurement and purchasing departments because an enterprise’s IT asset buyers have not traditionally been the same people setting up carrier accounts or paying the bills. IoT will scale to radically transform the entire scope of business operations (like mobility but on a much grander scale); its management will need to be an overarching, enterprise-wide strategy rather than a departmental or regional one.

MNO — mobile network operator: How is wireless carrier IoT management different from other mobile devices? Are MNOs doing anything unique to prepare for explosive global IoT device growth over the next few years?

O’Donnelly: IoT devices have different connectivity requirements than mobile devices. Managing IoT devices on an existing network spectrum is expensive for carriers, as it can be used for higher revenue accounts such as lucrative smartphone contracts instead. Devices are relatively cheap to run from an enterprise perspective, as they require only a basic connection, but enterprises may have hundreds or thousands of devices they wish to connect, which creates bandwidth challenges for network operator support. Therefore, many carriers are understandably reluctant to devote spectrum exclusively to IoT devices.

Additionally, existing cellular networks do not have a wide enough reach for the connectivity needs of IoT devices. Cellular networks are not yet ubiquitous and often unavailable where most needed: in the field, in remote areas and, in many cases, underground.

MNOs are currently upgrading existing networks or building entirely new ones specifically to support IoT and the high volumes of traffic these devices generate. Carriers are also partnering with large global IoT companies, such as IBM, to build analytics capabilities around device and network data.

M2M — machine-to-machine: How do M2M and IoT technologies differ? Are there advantages to managing them separately and/or as one program?

O’Donnelly: M2M refers to standalone networked equipment that consists of a collection of sensors communicating data directly from one machine to another for a specific purpose, often through customized use-built equipment without human involvement. Different than IoT, M2M transmits data only between machines and not to a centralized computer or network, meaning M2M interaction outputs are simpler. Although human involvement is not needed to transmit the data in M2M, it is often needed for high-level data analysis, interpretation and output actionability tasks like fixing broken machines.

Before an enterprise can successfully manage IoT, it must be able to manage both mobility and M2M equipment. M2M connectivity operates under many of the same standards as mobility and IoT, such as cellular, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and radio frequency identification (RFID). Thus, enterprises should manage M2M and IoT (as well as mobility) under one program, as much of the functionality and desired output is similar. In progressing to IoT, the goal is that the devices and data will eventually be self-managing and able to act independently without requiring high-level human analysis and decision-making. Enterprises that bring M2M and IoT equipment under the same management program will be better equipped to transition legacy M2M data and equipment into a modern IoT system.

OEM — original equipment manufacturer: Recently, IoT devices have been the target of several hacker attacks and some experts blame a lack of industry-wide device manufacturer security standards. What are manufacturers doing, if anything, to strengthen device security and prevent these incidents in the future?

Ralph Rodriguez: IoT devices are still suffering from a lack of industry standards that exists due to the global competitive landscape crossing multiple borders and geographies. Electronic parts manufacturers and assemblers are located mainly in Asia, yet the embedded software (the actionable part of the device) is globally sourced and is very discreet in its industry usage let alone manufacturer ties. Part of the problem is inherent to standard manufacturing processes, as devices manufactured in the U.S. and Germany, for example, vary from similar devices being manufactured in Japan or China. When software is overlaid, the same basic device now has two very different and distinct security profiles. One idea being kicked around by Open Trust Protocol developers is to provide a secure universal architecture and code management system to protect IoT and mobile devices from malicious attacks. The question is where to start within the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, but that’s another blog discussion topic entirely.

The preferred method to create a standard is through cooperation of private industry and coalitions focused on serving their specific industries. Political intervention causes additional complexity, as there is no easy way to track lobbying influences that result in watered-down standards or, worse, a standard that leans unfairly toward a single large and well-connected manufacturer. I prefer ideas coming out of U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who favors an industry-based agreement and approach.

For many years, we’ve had collaboration between OEMs, subject matter experts and standards groups. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a communications technology laboratory examining security in the context of IoT and the telco networks. In addition, other well-known organizations actively working toward IoT security are the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The key will be for industry players to see “coopetition” to be in their best interest, like the VCR industry that once grappled with setting a global standard. Then again, my VCR never had the capability to attack my house and shut off my lights.

RFID — radio frequency identification: In today’s IoT landscape, how is RFID technology evolving? Are organizations using RFID differently today than they were a few years ago?

Rodriguez: While RFID, both passive and active, is not new, its usage to potentially help manage global supply chains, field-usage adoption and explosive IoT implementation is coming fast. Having been the CTO of a global semiconductor automation company, it’s about time that RFID had its day, specifically passive ultra-high-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, which are projected to be heading towards 10 billion active sensor modalities.

If you want to spot what’s hot and what’s not, then follow the money as they say. One company to watch is Qualcomm, which just acquired NXP. And while retail is making a lot of headway and market news, sensor tagging and how to best logistically manage the looming IoT war has just begun.

Get a copy of the Enterprise Mobility Acronym Glossary here (free, requires registration).

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