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The Internet of Things: Coming to a Network Near You

17 May
When people talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), the most common examples are smart cars, IP-addressable washing machines and Internet-connected refrigerators. But IoT is coming to the enterprise as well, and CIOs should already be thinking about the ways it will shake up the corporate network.“Products and services which were previously outside their (CIOs’) domain will increasingly be under their jurisdiction,” says Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a US-based research and educational institute.

So, what are these devices?

Castro says that companies increasingly will be operating in “smart buildings” with advanced HVAC systems that are connected to the rest of the corporate network.

Many utility companies will be deploying Web-connected smart meters at customers’ facilities to allow for remote monitoring.

Companies are tying their physical security to their network security, so that data from security cameras and authentication readers are coming under the purview of enterprise IT. Most of the retailers already use RFID and other tracking technologies to manage supply chain logistics, says IDC’s Michael Fauscette. IoT is therefore a natural next step.

Then there’s operational technology (OT), where enterprise assets such as manufacturing equipment, fleet trucks, rail cars, even patient monitoring equipment in hospitals become networked devices, says Hung LeHong, research vice president at Gartner.

“Those types of assets are becoming Internet-enabled,” LeHong says. And even though they are managed by field operations or hospital services, they could become end-points on the corporate network.

Other examples of OT might include companies deploying vending machines that are connected to the Internet, so that they can be automatically restocked when certain items run low.

Another key area where IoT is making an appearance is what Gartner calls the digital supply chain. That’s when a company’s end-products, such as consumer electronics or large machinery, are Internet-enabled so that the manufacturer can keep track of maintenance schedules and other such aspects.
Besides, IoT is also showing up in consumer offerings such as home automation and smart grid. IT executives in industries such as gas and electric utilities will need to stay abreast of developments such as how smart meters and other types of data-generating solutions will affect IT and the corporate network.

And finally, IoT is emerging in so-called smart cities, where all kinds of devices and assets such as traffic lights, parking meters and garbage truck fleets are gradually being connected to the Internet. Municipal government IT executives will need to be aware of how these assets tie in to the network.

IT and OT Convergence

What will likely happen is a convergence of OT and IT. “As these machines go onto the corporate network, CIOs need to start talking together about what the future will look like when traditional IT and OT overlap on the network,” LeHong says.

“Who is responsible for providing security, for example,” LeHong asks. “There are existing IT skill sets that are very developed, but are at the same time, new or not a prime focus for the operations guy. There can be some synergies.”

IT executives will need to prepare themselves for situations such as when an IP-based vending machine is creating software replenishment orders for out-of-stock items using an ERP application, he believes.

“When it creates the replenishment order, does the vending machine need a user license for the ERP application?” LeHong asks. “CIOs need to get an understanding of this. Even if they are not going to own the vending machines, they need to worry about things like these. That’s what we mean by convergence. OT and IT need to discuss things like governance, security, software licensing and maintenance.”

In terms of networking technology and strategies at enterprises, IoT will have a significant impact. According to a report on IoT trends published by Gartner in 2012, things will be connected, but not necessarily in the ways most familiar to companies today. “Wi-Fi, 3G/4G cellular and Bluetooth are the wireless connectivity technologies we are most familiar with. However, they will not be the only way things connect to the Internet,” the report says.

These network technologies and protocols consume lots of power and are designed for higher-bandwidth applications, the firm says, but many things (for example, a temperature/humidity sensor in a remote agricultural setting) will require low bandwidth, long range and very low power consumption.

Looking ahead to the next few years, growth of the IoT will probably be greatest in areas such as inventory tracking and supply chain management, says Castro from ITIF. But given the way technology is developing, it’s likely that the IoT will be pervasive in many aspects of business.

Source:  http://www.connectedenterprise.in/feature/internet-things-coming-network-near-you#front