Internet of Things Shaping IT's Future
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those somewhat rare technology topics that is pretty easy for the layperson to understand, at least on the basic level. But the topic as a whole encompasses enough layers of change for IT to make your head spin. Networking a rapidly growing variety of physical objects to enable data collection and transmission is part of what analyst Rob Enderle calls the third age of IT: digitization.
You might also call it a mega-trend. Alongside advances in robotics, mobile technologies and, of course, Big Data analytics, the IoT is one of the most fascinating, fast-moving – and fun – topics we cover at IT Business Edge.
On top of the increasingly difficult task of securing existing workplace networks and devices, add a sometimes hard-to-track set of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) users and now IoT devices. Gartner says 26 billion IoT devices will be connecting to enterprise networks by 2020. New attack vectors are being created by the influx. Spiceworks and others have found that IT is worried but not ready; the majority report they are "not actively preparing."
Perhaps the urgency hasn’t reached the same level as other day-to-day security efforts, but IT doesn’t have much time left to rely on that explanation. Last month, the Bash or Shellshock vulnerability, for instance, was called a serious threat to IoT devices, many of which were built around Linux, but without any ability to be patched or detect malware.
Privacy and data governance concerns around the IoT are growing with each new form factor and use case. IT Business Edge’s Loraine Lawson wondered recently, “Who has ownership over our heartbeat? Who’s responsible for armpit compliance? What happens if our underwear suffers a data breach?” Those particular questions may seem on the silly side, but they will, in fact, need answers. Data management and quality experts say developers and designers will have to stay on the leading edge here to keep up.
The IoT will fundamentally change the way IT manages, stores and processes data, says Gartner VP Joe Skorupa. Clearly, business priorities are at stake. Vendor-created groups like the Internet of Things Consortium, the Open Interconnect Consortium, the AllSeen Alliance and the Industrial Internet Consortium are collaborating on standards and guidance – while each vendor member protects its share of a market that IDC says will reach $7.3 trillion by 2017.
In recent months, new skills, job descriptions and titles have made for interesting IoT news. Vendors like Cisco want to keep the focus on education and training for positions inside and outside of IT that are changing with IoT. And consultancies and large enterprises are creating senior-level IoT management positions to shape and coordinate their new products and services.
IoT and Innovation
To make the IoT both work and pay off, IT is juggling upgrading and building app-centric networks, mapping out new data center architectures and the staff to maintain them, and taking a crash course in data analytics, which in many enterprises, it turns out, may not ever be centered in other departments.
Between massive volumes of data, as-yet unimagined networked devices in our workplaces and homes, new data architectures, and new focus on data analytics, some are calling the entirety of this shift a “revolution” in IT. It is one that only just beginning.
Kachina Shaw is managing editor for IT Business Edge and has been writing and editing about IT and the business for 15 years. She writes about IT careers, management, technology trends and managing risk. Follow Kachina on Twitter @Kachina and on Google+.
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