The internet has come a long way from dial-up connections. These days, everyone is carrying a miniature computer that can wirelessly connect to the web. In fact, according to Gartner, there will be over 26 billion such devices by 2020. But this growth isn’t fueled solely by smartphones. It’s being propelled by a vast network of smart gadgets that make up the Internet of Things (IoT).
There’s been a lot of talk about IoT and its potential business implications, so here’s a quick rundown.
As the name implies, IoT is made up of devices connected to the internet. Each device is equipped with chips and sensors that allow them to collect data and transmit it over the IoT network. The data is then analyzed in the cloud in order to gain valuable insights, share information with other applications, and even automate routine tasks.
The most common example of an IoT device is a “smart fridge” that can not only regulate temperature, but also detect when you’re out of eggs and then send that information to your smartphone’s grocery list. Actually, just about anything with an on-off switch can turn into an IoT device. Imagine a car that plans out your route based on your calendar app or house lights that automatically turn on as soon as you enter the room.
Business benefits of IoT
Apart from grocery shoppers and drivers, IoT devices help business owners run their companies more efficiently, especially in areas like manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare.
Automobile manufacturers can install sensors on each component of their cars -- from engines and exhaust systems to tires and steering wheels -- so performance can be tracked and you can be notified when one is likely to fail.
With sensors on their shipping containers and delivery vehicles, logistics firms can track items and make sure it reaches the right location.
IoT devices can even generate data on customers’ movement patterns inside stores to identify the products they approach the most. This is a potential game changer for retailers looking to do the most effective product promotions and get the most out of their store's layout.
In healthcare, data can be collected from smartwatches and fitness bands to help doctors provide better, more accurate treatments and diagnoses. And they can do it without patients even having to visit the hospital: like housecalls of old, with an IoT twist!
All in all, there are endless examples of how IoT can be used to improve efficiency, profitability, and customer experiences. And as the cost of sensors continues to decrease and the availability of high-speed bandwidth continues to increase, there will surely be an influx of businesses joining the IoT in the coming years.
Security and privacy challenges
Although IoT technology has advanced rapidly over the past few years, security has not kept up. This could not have been more apparent in 2016 when hackers used thousands of malware-infected IoT devices to take down major online service providers like Amazon, Neftlix, and PayPal.
Almost two years after those attacks, IoT security still leaves a bit to be desired. In fact, there are still several IoT devices that lack basic protections like firewalls, smart passwords, and encryption systems. Some users simply do nothing, assuming that there’s no way a hacker can glean any useful information from how frequently the lights turn on and off.
This is dangerous. Data generated by IoT-powered lights could allow hackers to observe patterns and closely monitor who’s in the office and when the last person leaves. If a hacker manages to commandeer the sensors on shipping containers, they can control where they’re going. And with the right program, hackers can even hijack smart cars.
The point is IoT security must be taken seriously. So when you finally choose to implement IoT devices, remember to make sure your managed services provider creates an isolated IoT network reinforced with robust intrusion prevention systems, updates IoT firmware regularly, and disables data sharing features that could leak to other devices.
If you’re in Kansas City and want to implement IoT smoothly and securely, call the Complete Technology team. After a thorough assessment of your business, we’ll make sure you get the tools and security systems you need to hook up your IoT devices and keep them safe and sound.