The Internet of Things (IoT) has rapidly become one of the most familiar — and perhaps, most hyped — expressions across business and technology. We expect to see 20 billion Internet-connected things by 2020, and close to $3 trillion of economic benefit globally. These things are not general purpose devices, such as smartphones and PCs, but dedicated objects, such as vending machines, jet engines, connected soap dispensers and a myriad of other examples.
The IoT will have a great impact on the economy by transforming many enterprises into digital businesses and facilitating new business models, improving efficiency, and generating new forms of revenue. But the ways in which enterprises can actualize any benefits will be diverse and, in some cases, painful.
Currently, IoT technologies — and business models that utilize IoT — are immature. Despite this immaturity, there are already sporadic examples of existing, and planned, uses across a wide range of industries. Enterprises will need to make plans and preparations now or risk being left behind by their faster-moving competitors.
The impact of the Internet of Things
The way that the IoT is leveraged by enterprises varies substantially by industry. Retailers are incorporating RFID tags within their anti-theft tags to help manage inventory and help keep costs down. Within mining, some companies are using IoT to expand on “driverless trucks” or the autonomous haul trucks that can work round the clock, have lower costs, increased output, and reduced maintenance
Utilities, industrial sectors, connected cars, healthcare and consumers are other verticals at the forefront of IoT investment. Leveraging IoT in vertical industries will definitely revolutionize the traditional way of doing things. These changes will lead to major opportunities for providers too.
Security and identity issues represent major IoT roadblocks
Managing identities and access is critical to the success of the IoT. However, traditional techniques cannot provide the scale or manage the complexity that the IoT requires from the enterprise.
At the heart of security solutions is the concept of identity. We are familiar with the need for identities associated with people. This concept must now be extended to things. Identities are then used to define relationships between a thing and a human, a thing and another thing, a thing and an application/service, and so on.
Business and technology leaders must reconsider how traditional approaches to cyber security and identity and access management work in an environment involving vast numbers of connected devices. When devices and services are so abundant, in so many different forms, and beyond the scope of any single organization, new rules must be created.
The business case
While security may be a roadblock, the lack of a compelling business case is a major impediment to IoT growth for enterprises. The business justifications almost certainly exist, but they have not yet been articulated and quantified by most enterprises. For those struggling to find their place in the IoT-enabled landscape, a compelling business case must be developed before large-scale deployment can happen.
Jim Tully is a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner and leads Gartner’s Internet of Things research agenda.