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Like any technology trend, the Internet of Things comes with some obstacles.
After the dot-com bust, companies looked inward and tried to automate everything -- a movement that became known as the "paperless office." Fifteen years later, organizations have definitely become more automated, but few are anywhere close to paperless. Today, the IoT trend similarly promises to revolutionize IT, but it faces roadblocks that will temper adoption.
In this new world, everyday objects -- from coffee makers to server racks -- glean information from built-in sensors and use it to communicate with people and other devices. Our refrigerators can sense that we are out of milk, connect to our grocery stores and order more for us. Our cars can drive themselves and tell us when they need maintenance.
Sounds like utopia, right? The problem is it's much easier said than done. At the very least, we need to consider network availability, bandwidth and latency, security and cost before embracing the Internet of Things (IoT).
Enterprise IT can learn about the challenges of IoT by examining the current debate about the electrical smart grid. The Environmental Protection Agency and many members of Congress would like to see the United States move to a national, fully integrated smart grid. Such a grid would further enable IoT by connecting all electricity delivery systems in the country to each other, allowing for two-way computer-based communication. But the Department of Defense has serious security concerns: If hackers gain access to one area of the grid, they could compromise the entire grid. That's also a major issue with Internet of Things devices coming into the enterprise; IT needs to ensure that outside sensors and employees using these devices can't tamper with the corporate network.
There will be a limit to how far we can go with the IoT trend. People will still need to manage IoT devices, so it would be naïve to assume that everything connected to the Internet will be able to communicate without human interaction. Cost and security considerations will still trump technological advancement around the Internet of Things for some time to come.
IT is -- or should be -- in the business of improving people's lives through technology. Some people and companies will be early adopters of IoT, and some will fight tooth and nail to retain their current way of life. The question is: How far will we be able to push connected networks? Many more of our networks and devices will be connected together over the course of the next several years, but the age of a fully interconnected network is still a ways off.
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