Internet of Things to become an enterprise reality

by Sohini Bagchi    Mar 06, 2013

IOT

The Internet of Things (IOT), which has been a buzzword in the technology circle for a while now, is fast becoming an enterprise reality. Recently, technical professional organization, IEEE reveals in a new survey that with the rise of connected devices such as smartphones, tablets, appliances among others, the IOT market is expected to witness a humongous growth in the coming months.

Evolution and growth
Wikipedia defines IOT as a concept that is “driven by the billions of electronic device users, a new layer of digital connectivity on top of existing infrastructure, objects and things will evolve, driving new means and ways of interacting with the world around us.”

In 1999, the term Internet of Things or IOT was coined by RFID technology pioneer Kevin Ashton who believed that the future lies in smart interconnected devices. However, the concept was largely confined to research and high-level industrial activities. The IEEE survey however reveals a shift in the IOT ecosystem and that in the next couple of years, IOT will become fully mainstream, connecting devices that we use in our daily lives.

As many as 65 per cent of respondents in the IEEE survey says they are most interested in using connected devices to improve their work productivity, with 14 per cent adding that they also have an interest in managing their homes. Nearly 12 per cent believe that IOT can enhance quality of life and 9 per cent said the concept can have a positive impact on healthcare.

A number of manufacturers are already working in this area. Experts at Ericsson India Global Services believe the Internet of Things will have a profound impact on enterprises and individuals in the coming months. “By 2020, connectivity will be present everywhere. There will be connection between your mobile phone, alarm clock, geyser, vacuum cleaner, microwave and all the devices that we use in our daily lives. And we are just a few years away from that transformation to happen,” says Amitabh Ray, Senior VP- Ericsson India Global Services. He claims that IOT will be the most disruptive technology, with estimates ranging between 50 and 500 billion in terms of the devices and products that will be internet-connected by 2020.

Cisco Systems is also bullish on IOT and believes it has a lot of potential to transform the enterprise. “The billions of sensors connected to the Internet will allow us to gather massive amounts of data than ever before. With the help of analytics, companies across verticals can turn this data into new valuable business insights and gain better ROI,” mentions Kaushik Nath, VP, Systems Engineering, India & SAARC at Cisco Systems.

According to Nath, the demand for IOT will continue to rise, mainly driven by factors such as increased penetration of smartphones and tablets and other connected devices, greater availability of bandwidth and various elements which are being embedded in modern devices such as sensors, image recognition and near field communication (NFC) technologies.

The profound impact of IOT
While enterprises are still in their early stages of IOT implementation, a number of firms are exploring ways to solve business challenges, drive innovation and enhance productivity by using this technology. Sachin Tare, Head - Indian Subcontinent, Zebra Technologies believes that enterprises can effectively track and manage their physical assets and improve customer relationship and management by IOT. According to him, in the next one year, many CIOs, especially in the manufacturing, healthcare, automobile, FMCG and retail will consider IOT to make smarter decisions and spur innovation.

The IEEE survey reveals that IOT technologies can be used profoundly in areas such as barcoding, RFID and GPS to gain greater visibility into the location, condition, timing and accuracy of the events. Tare recommends that companies should identify device manufacturers and partners to help them understand the benefits of implementing the technologies.

“The Internet of Things is still new and people have varying perceptions of what the network entails,” Roberto Saracco, a senior official of IEEE said in a statement. He believes that with people becoming more used to interacting with connected objects, for example using a cell phone to read a bar code, the way they define connected devices will become more clear and universal.

Security challenges
Although touted as the technology of the future, IOT has its own share of challenges as well. As devices and data become interconnected, experts believe it can give rise to increased security challenges. Nearly 46 per cent of respondents in the IEEE also believe that privacy and security are the biggest concerns in the adoption of IOT.

Andrew Rose, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research in his latest blog states that there is an increased risk of data to be stolen or compromised when deploying emerging technologies such as IOT. Therefore there is a need to protect your data and network by implementing a multi-layered approach to security. Moreover, companies should have a security policy in place to identify targets, evolve key security control, add newer delivery mechanisms and review their security scenario frequently, he says.

However, IEEE experts believe that worthwhile innovation does not come without obstacles and even though it may take some time for IOT to mature, CIOs and analysts are already recognizing its benefits. As a recent Forrester report released last year also predicts that in 2013, IOT will reach a tipping point, with an eruption of new consumer and enterprise users. The study reveals that 53 per cent of companies globally are planning to implement IOT-related technologies over the next 24 months, which is indeed a huge leap!