The internet of things (IoT) is slowly taking over the digital age. From coffee machines to space exploration, it is changing the way devices are designed, how they communicate and what happens once a product is pushed out in the market.
IoT is one of the key drivers of digital transformation and industry 4.0. And it is transforming not only the manufacturing industry, but other verticals, organizations and people.
In the year 2016, the global spending on IoT across markets was USD 737 billion. Analyst firm IDC predicts that by the year 2020, this will reach USD 1.229 trillion, at a CAGR of 15.6 percent.
Billions of devices and sensors, driven by a fabric of software and connectivity will be a reality by the next decade. However, with numerous endpoints transmitting data, it will need robust infrastructure, network and storage systems. Easier said, than done though.
“Most businesses today are dealing with integration challenges as they are in various stages of digitizing their systems.”
Ranjit Satyanath - Head,Technology Operations, Infiniti Retail
Research firm Gartner says that CIOs believe IoT is one of the top most problematic technologies (others being artificial intelligence and digital security) to implement today.
IT leaders not only have to change traditional infrastructure to implement IoT, but must also deploy analytics to take full advantage of the influx of data.
According to 451 Research, organizations deploying IoT are planning increases in their storage (32.4 percent), network edge equipment (30.2 percent), server infrastructure (29.4 percent) and cloud infrastructure (27.2 percent) in the next 12 months.
So how are CIOs handling this change?
Preparing for the connected future
“From an IT perspective, we are moving a lot of our tech onto the cloud,” says Ranjit Satyanath, Head of Technology Operations at Infiniti Retail. “With cloud we are able to react to business requirements faster and can turnaround solutions in a much quicker time.”
Satyanath highlights that from a retail perspective, IoT has a huge role to play across the organization on the storefront as well as in the warehouse. “If you marry IoT with analytics, retailers can figure out customer preferences, which can be used to run promotions to increases the chances of a sale,” he points out.
Whereas in the warehouse, IoT can streamline the entire supply chain. “Retailers can get alerts from the time the merchandise leaves the supplier’s warehouse to the time it arrives in the store.”
Pravin Vanage, GM-IT at Reliance Infrastructure believes that IoT can help power companies become more resilient. “It also enables all stakeholders to make informed decisions about power usage, generation, and future investments based on the data generated from the previous phases,” he says.
“By integrating the enterprise datacenter with external clouds, the cloud becomes a secure extension of the enterprise’s IoT network. This enterprise-to-cloud network connection should be encrypted and optimized for performance and bandwidth, thereby reducing the risks and lowering the effort involved in migrating IoT workloads to the cloud,” he adds.
451 Research finds that cloud storage gives organizations greater flexibility and considerable cost benefits for the long term. Another emerging trend in the era of IoT- is edge computing. According to IDC, at least 40 percent of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge of, the network by the year 2019.
The integration bottleneck
“Integrating non-IoT infrastructure to IoT infrastructure is a big challenge, majority of them need to be replaced with latest technology.
K C Palanisamy - Chief Manager-IS, Indian Oil
As IoT systems speak to each other in real time, the biggest challenge for organizations is to ensure integration between systems. “Most businesses today are in the process of upgrading their traditional systems. They are still dealing with integration challenges as they are in various stages of digitizing their systems. All these things are coming together, but will take at least 18-25 months to use cases where IoT brings value to the end customer,” Satyanath points out.
“Integrating non-IoT infrastructure to IoT infrastructure is a big challenge, majority of them need to be replaced with latest technology,” echoes K C Palanisamy, Chief Manager-IS at Indian Oil. “We have already started identifying major areas in oil refining, transportation, supply and distribution and customer service, where IoT can fit into and improve the processes, operations and product delivery system.”
To avoid downtime due to high network utilization in IoT, the company is in the process of upgrading LAN and WAN infrastructure across the corporation, he adds.
Securing the internet of everything
While integration poses a challenge and cloud adoption and edge computing become critical to IoT, security always pops up its ugly head. How can IT leaders enable massive infrastructural changes, implement new systems that generate copious amounts of data, and also ensure it remains secure?
Satyanath points out that security for IoT devices is still evolving. “Look at manufacturing - they’ve been using IoT for a much longer time. And our experiences from that industry is that the devices that speak to each other are actually configured and designed to keep running forever.
“They may have the ability to work in extreme conditions but security was not something that was considered when they were being designed. It’s one of the reasons why IoT in retail is not really widespread. It’s being deployed in niche areas, non-customer facing areas,” he adds.
CIOs believe that IoT is one of the top most problematic technologies (others being artificial intelligence and digital security) to implement today.
But as deployment scenarios are changing, organizations are no longer looking at security as an afterthought. “We have already identified the security bottlenecks broadly in our infrastructure and started implementing solutions,” says Palanisamy.
Satyanath believes moving to the cloud is actually better for an organization in terms of security. “Cloud service providers have to adhere and align to global benchmarks as far as security is concerned,” he says.
But he also points out that cloud providers need to be more acceptable of internal controls set up by the organization and meet them halfway. “The CSP has to realize some of the security standards which the organization follows and should be able to accept them.”
So, how long before IoT enables customers to walk into a store, pick up items and walk out, having avoided queues? The check-out free shopping experience is still in the experimental stage in the US, Satyanath points out. “In India, the fact that we have legacy systems is going to be in our favour because it is that many systems that we don’t have to upgrade.”
We can leapfrog a generation and move into a mobile, IoT ecosystem, he says.