Five Considerations for the Internet of Things

My last Internet of Things-related blog was on how IT and business leaders should think about the value that IoT can provide. Once there’s a good understanding of where IoT value will come from for a particular organization, businesses should move fast. I firmly believe that we stand on the precipice of the IoT era — those who act quickly will capitalize on it, and those who don’t will lag behind competitors.

Smartphone and coffeeHowever, there’s no cookie cutter approach to the Internet of Things, and there are a number of things that need to be considered as organizations head down the road to IoT. Here is a list of what I feel are the top five considerations for organizations making the shift to IoT.

1) Identify the biggest areas of opportunity for IoT. This is related to the last blog I wrote. IoT value can be derived in many ways, and businesses should form an IoT task force that includes individuals from sales, marketing, finance, executive staff and IT. This group should be responsible for identifying and prioritizing the opportunities and risks associated with IoT. Processes that are highly manual or aggregated information from multiple systems make a good starting point.

2) Understand the role of the network. For years, the network was considered plumbing or “the pipes” of a company that offered little strategic value. Not so with IoT. IoT is a network-centric compute model that connects a number of things that were previously unconnected, and the network plays a key role in transmitting information and providing data to be collected. Legacy M2M solutions were often built on proprietary technologies that didn’t interoperate with other solutions very well. Any organization looking to leverage IoT today should take advantage of the ubiquity of IP and the pervasiveness of wireless technologies.

3) Invest in analytic capabilities. Creating value from IoT requires more than just connecting sensors and devices. IoT requires gathering information from multiple sources, such as servers, beacons, mobile devices, social media, and the network and storing it in a common database. More important is the ability to quickly analyze the large volumes of data to refine IoT processes, or to perhaps take advantage of a new opportunity. This requires bringing new talent with expertise in big data and analytics into the organization.

4) Secure the Internet of Things.   Many of the emerging IoT services will work on a model where users and customers must “opt in”. This means customers must choose to download an application, or a city resident must enable his or her phone to be an IoT node. Sometimes personal information must be provided for a service to provide value. For this to happen, customers, employees or anyone using the service must have the confidence that their information is protected and all transactions are secure. Securing the IoT ecosystem is an absolute must and there is no room for compromise.

5) Hire and train IoT related talent. In addition to big data and analytics there are a number of other skills that must be brought into the company. This includes wireless, cloud, data management and business process skills to name a few. Businesses must focus on hiring new talent and re-training existing employees to ensure the necessary skills are in the organization to make IoT successful. An alternative for organizations is to augment the in-house skills through partnering with a professional services firm that has an IoT practice.

The Internet of Things is coming and coming fast, and it will have an impact on business that is greater than the Internet was 25 years ago. The above five steps aren’t a holistic list of IoT requirements, but they’re certainly a good place for organizations to get started.