Yes, the Internet of Things, or IoT for short, is definitely still a tech marketing buzzword. But it’s clearly not a fad. The data does not lie.
A Spiceworks report, The Devices Have Landed, confirms that smart devices have jumped the gap between the consumer space and the workplace: Nearly three-quarters (72%) of IT pros reported that smart devices will affect their workplaces this year.
There is other recent data that adds a wrinkle to these findings. A recent global survey from Gartner found that 43% of enterprises and organizations are planning to use IoT by year’s end, with another 21% rolling out smart solutions in the next calendar year.
Heavy industry leads the way—oil, gas, utilities, and manufacturing comprise 56% percent of the companies deploying IoT solutions. Service-oriented companies, Gartner found, lag behind slightly (36%) but are surging. They have nearly doubled IoT implementations since last year.
What folks call the Internet of Things looks substantially different in the business world than it does in the consumer space. Even in the business world it takes on a diverse set of meanings. Let’s look at a few examples.
What does the Internet of Things look like in the enterprise space?
As an illustration of big time IoT automation, look at a company like Tata Consulting Services in India. Its IT department uses sensor technology for managing heating and cooling in 100 buildings across India. Using predictive analytics, a team of a dozen technicians adjusts all the thermostats from one data center, and with it saves on energy costs company-wide.
This type of IoT is well established in the enterprise, but SMBs should take note too. This same style of automation helps start-ups and SMBs compete in verticals that might otherwise be closed off. New technology opens up business opportunities that helps small companies compete with, or alongside, the big guys.
What does IoT look like for a small company?
Let’s look at a company like Compology, makers of what you might call a smart garbage can.
A smart garbage can seems ridiculous without the proper context. The Compology service model installs sensors in commercial garbage cans, which report back capacity data to tablets inside a fleet of garbage trucks. The technology helps a trash service plan more efficient routes for pickup, meaning they can be more competitive in the marketplace, thus disrupting the existing industry model. Compology started as a two-man operation, a pair of tech-savvy high school friends working in waste management, and now they run a growing business in an industry that traditionally requires huge capital investment to get into.
What does the Internet of Things look like for most companies?
The Spiceworks data indicates that sensor technology and smart surveillance are the two leading forms of IoT technology that IT pros are working with today.
Not surprisingly, we see video surveillance solutions topping the list.
Ingram Micro, a value-added reseller of technology hardware, predicts cloud-based video surveillance will fully reach the mainstream and realize its fullest market potential this year. New IP surveillance technologies are compatible and ready to adapt to legacy surveillance equipment. Additionally, the hardware offers broader integration potential, wherein video surveillance might be integrated with HVAC to offer management and IT a streamlined system of control over several departments.
In short, the technology is here and it’s easy to roll out and deliver for businesses of all sizes, and solves a problem that nearly all companies have.
Related: 2019 SMB Guide to Smart Devices
Why are IoT solutions like smart watches and office automation devices so scary?
The Spiceworks data also found the presence of wearables in the workplace has nearly doubled. Wearables represent the latest in the BYOD trend, and like all other forms of BYOD, come security concerns.
Wariness over IoT security is a well-documented sentiment in the IT community—and for good reason. Adding endpoints to a network naturally increases security risk, and developers are rolling out new solutions and rediscovering old security lessons the hard way (84% of IT pros echo this). This year, companies will spend more than ever making sure their business networks are safe, an increase of over 23% ($348 million) according to a Gartner report.
IT pros citing bandwidth concerns for IoT (39% do) is obvious enough. More endpoints usually mean more network latency and leads to the most annoying helpdesk ticket of them all:
Hi, the network feels sluggish today; can you please check it out?
Do we really need the Internet of Things?
I find one of the more noteworthy sentiments holding companies back from IoT adoption is lack of a clear ROI for doing so; the Spiceworks data shows nearly half (47%) of IT pros feel this way.
This adds a nice data component to the frustration that arises from IoT as a buzzword. Also it gets to the crux of what IoT hardware should mean for any company.
Namely, IoT has to make financial sense.
No sane company will install sensors in the company refrigerator and hook it up to the Active Directory so IT can track bottled water. That is silliness on the same level as a Wi-Fi diaper (yes, that’s a thing). But for a vending company that manages hundreds or thousands of beverage machines—a smart fridge will make them more efficient and profitable.
Companies that are doing automation and IoT the right way have either identified how to use sensors and automation to reduce workload and lower the operational overhead, or figured out a way to use new technology in an old vertical. There is really no in-between; any other way won’t make financial sense.
Why would you introduce complexity and security risk to your network if you don’t stand to profit?
This correct type of thinking begins with identifying a problem that needs solving, and works backwards towards the solution. The smart sensors and alarms and other automation hardware that you deploy to solve the problem are important, but secondary to the solution itself.
It is not surprising, then, that more IT pros are dealing with IoT in the workplace. Solutions have seen mainstream adoption because they save money or make money for a company. That is why, when it comes to office automation and the so-called Internet of Things, IoT, or whatever you choose to call it, accommodating the solutions and making sure they are as secure as possible is the only way to address the issue.