The internet of things continues to gain steam, both in production and in the popular imagination. The term has started to gather the same amount of industry buzz that accompanied cloud, perhaps more given its mainstream appeal. And it’s rightfully earned, there is tremendous potential for IoT, and IT professionals are going to be a major part of what happens. From smart manufacturing and self-repairing machinery to smart homes and cities, the internet of things has unlimited potential. The future of IoT is unwritten, and IT professionals will have a serious role in writing it.
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It’s easy to see the many advantages and efficiencies that will be gained from IoT. Taking manufacturing and industry as an example, intelligent machinery that orders its own replacement parts and can even repair itself will greatly reduce production downtime. At the same time, wearable technology promises to deliver massive improvements to health and safety through reporting on temperature, noise and other risk factors that will alert employees to dangerous environments.
As with industry, healthcare is another area where massive IoT gains are expected in the near future. Any number of medical devices, including heart monitors, pacemakers and wearable fitness technology, will be connected, giving healthcare professionals the ability to remotely monitor patients’ health. There are a number of ways for these connected devices to monitor and alert professionals and even call for emergency services based on patient heartbeat, temperature or other metric falling below preset parameters.
These benefits, which are only scratching the surface of what IoT promises, do not come without challenges. There are a number of concerns around network performance, manageability, security and stability that will all need to be addressed and solved by a variety of vendors and IT professionals.
In an IoT-enabled world, so called “dumb” devices will need to be connected to the IT infrastructure as well, which will create unusual workloads that will need to be benchmarked and monitored. This will also greatly expand the threat vector for would-be intruders, creating new cybersecurity challenges. Integrating, understanding, monitoring and securing an influx of new devices will require a great deal of planning and careful implementation — something that does not always happen when there is this much excitement around a new technology.
While the challenge of implementing and integrating all the “things” into the IT infrastructure is already substantial, what comes next is no small task either. All these connected devices are doing something on the network, and that something is creating massive amounts of data while also utilizing network resources. The volume of machine-to-machine data created by connected devices will require us to rethink the way we process and analyze data. Additionally, we will need to be able to visualize, contextualize and report on that data in a way that is usable. All of this needs to happen over networks managed and monitored by IT, without impacting existing business applications.
These challenges are far from insurmountable, but they are going to affect the future of IoT and how successful IoT ends up being, especially in the near term. The entire world seems prepared for the potential of this new technology, but its future is going to be written by armies of IT professionals architecting, implementing, managing and monitoring. It’s their opportunity to make a serious impact on the world and to move technology one giant step forward.
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