The Internet of Things' future role in enterprises

The Internet of Things is guaranteed to make life more interesting, but how does it fit into the enterprise?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an overarching term for a world in which objects, animals and people are connected wirelessly, encompassing machine-to-machine communication and wearables. As it gets closer to becoming a reality, IT admins are wondering: Is it just a fad? What are its business applications? What role should it play in the enterprise?

The Internet of Things is not a fad; in fact, it could penetrate the enterprise much faster than either the iPhone or Android did. Most of the technology that is needed to develop the Internet of Things is available today, and the possibilities for the enterprise can already be seen in the innovations happening in the consumer market. Wearables, such as the line of FitBit products and Samsung's Galaxy Gear, are showing up as a way to incentivize employees to get healthy and reduce wellness claims in the organization. There is even a consortium of vendors that want to form connectivity standards that will provide guidance to those developing applications or devices that will be a part of the Internet of Things.

A typical day in the Internet of Things' future could start with your car letting you know that traffic is bad and you should take a different route. Because of the traffic data, the order you normally place at the employee cafeteria for breakfast can be delayed and made ready for you based on the estimated time it will take you to get to work. The information is then used to reschedule your meetings and inform the proper parties. The sensor in your car allows you to enter the employee gate, and a special parking spot is opened up for you near the part of the building where you will have the most meetings. These are all examples of conveniences made possible by the Internet of Things even before you step foot into the workplace. Now imagine what this could do for your business.

Is the enterprise ready for the Internet of Things? When you talk to network and security management admins, they always mention protecting company data. Data is the common thread for the Internet of Things; the "thing" is either submitting data or it is consuming data. An interconnected world will most likely require substantial more storage to understand, store and manage this data. The data needs to travel from machine to human or machine to machine, and this communication requires some sort of Internet connectivity. Some of the devices are not on all the time or may only produce a small amount of power, which could make it difficult to capture the data.

How EMM may respond to IoT

Off the bat, enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors may not be able to handle the influx from the Internet of Things. EMM vendors are used to developing tools for endpoint devices such as mobile phones and tablets, which usually require a client app to be put on the device to make sure it's secure. Typically, there is lag time between the latest release of a new operating system like iOS 7 or Android KitKat, which extends the length of time required to secure a device. A device on the Internet of Things may not even be able to install a client to secure it or use the same Internet protocols to connect to other devices.

More than likely, enterprises will start by deploying a separate platform to run their Internet of Things devices to keep data secure. It will become tricky when devices on this "extra" platform need to connect to other company resources.

The Internet of Things world is just around the corner, and it will definitely provide both exciting opportunities and challenges. Enterprises should embrace these new opportunities to prevent employees from needing to find their own solutions.

This was first published in May 2014

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