Is the Internet of Things (IoT) the same as the Internet of Everything (IoE)? Lots of vendors seem to want you to think so – however, I would like to make a differentiation between them – for reasons that I hope will become apparent.
As an organization, you want control. The mass addition of new nodes into the network threatens that. Therefore, you really only want to allow known and manageable devices onto your network. This, to me, is the IoT. You may have your production line with its various devices; you may be moving to an intelligent building with smart security and environmental systems. You may even be tracking your vehicles through GPS devices. All of these are known devices that you can add in a controlled manner to your existing network. You can apply intelligence to how these are dealt with – intelligent hubs can ensure that the chatter on the network is minimized, with only the data that is needed crossing over the main network.
What distinguishes the Internet of Everything?
The IoE is a completely different beast. Here, your employees may be looking at attaching some of their devices to the corporate network – new smartwatches, say. They could be using corporate devices to access their own IoT (the smart home devices such as heating control, lighting, and so on). As your employee base continues to move from a controlled set of entities utilizing company equipment to a disparate set of individual consumers who (occasionally) deign to come together to work on your business, bring your own device (BYOD) tablets and smartphones that are being used as a center for the individual’s IoT world will collide with your corporate IoT one – and there may well be few true points of similarity between them.
Your suppliers may want to try and add value to your supply chain by utilizing devices that can allow both you and them to track anything from full lorry loads of items down to specific items. Your customers may want to enable tracking where they are in real time so that they don’t have to arrange to be in a specific place to take delivery of your goods.
The IoE can therefore be a very complex and difficult concept to deal with. Whereas the IoT can be constrained, it will become increasingly difficult to apply such constraints if and when the IoE comes through. Being too prescriptive (or proscriptive) in what you allow your employees to do has never really worked – the intelligence that they can apply to getting round constraints can be pretty impressive – to an extent where many organizations wish that their employees would apply as much innovation to the job they are paid to do.
How can I deal with the IoE?
However, there are things that can be done. Using sandboxing or partitioning on BYOD or corporate devices can separate out the personal from the corporate. Such separation, if done in the right way, still allows the user to do what they want with the device – they could, if so wanted, browse every single web site in Russia and China picking up as many viruses as they can, yet these cannot cross over from the device to the virtualized container that is used for corporate activities. Such partitioning also enables better centralization of data and information – so giving much greater governance, risk and compliance (GRC) capabilities, and also negating the risks from device loss, as the container can be made to be temporary, or can be remote wiped.
With the rest of the IoE, it will become important to look at how much of the data being created is really needed – and where. For example, if one of your suppliers opens up their IoT to you – do you need all of it? The minutiae of data around what is happening to an item throughout manufacturing, and even through warehousing may be of no real use to you in granular form. Is it possible to be able to filter the information so that all you get is a flag of “in manufacturing” or “in warehousing” with data only being sent when the flag changes? Can be delivery data be provided on a pull, rather than a push, basis, so that you only get data when you request it – unless overridden by a priority event, such as a delivery being held up at customs or such like?
Essentially, if you can break your IoE down into sensibly integrated, discretely constrained IoT groupings, you will be on the right track.
The IoT will be stressful enough for organizations trying to implement and maintain an optimized and effective network. Without planning for the IoE and how this is different to the IoT, I believe that organizations will find their IoT strategy failing.
Understanding the differences and planning for how to deal with the different aspects will be key – and it is best to start to plan now, rather than as the impact of the IoT and the IoE starts to bite.