Top 5 reasons why enterprises must have an IoT strategy

General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM

As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes ubiquitous, it also becomes something enterprises must embrace if they're hoping to stay leaders in their industry. The IoT promise is a big one, but it's also one with many challenges that require a strong strategy. The IoT has already arrived and ensuring a strong game plan around how you can harness the opportunities of an uber-connected world is key to not falling behind.

1. Make sense out of the Internet of Things data you already have (but may not know you have).

You have it in virtual buckets all over your plant, device, asset or environment ... buckets full of data. Some of it is good, some of it is aged and some of it is screaming so loudly that you can’t even hear it. One of the most important things gained from the Internet of Things is data. There’s a lot of it, and it’s all but useless if you don't know how to find what matters to you among your data. Looking at the data that can give real insights and then applying analytics to this data is the only way to leverage the IoT for actionable insights. Filtering the signal from the noise is paramount for enterprises that hope to predict trends, stay ahead of failures and ensure smooth operations.

2. Ensure that your “things” do what you think they should be doing.

As devices and products are becoming uber-connected, development and operations are becoming more and more difficult to manage. The only way to ensure that the IoT is an enabler rather than an obstacle is to engineer new products, operate existing products and gather data from connected interaction with a holistic IoT strategy in mind. Picture a device from ten years ago, featuring ten sensors hardwired to a panel. Now think of that same device with 100 sensors working in a mesh, each with its own software signature and relationship to the other sensors. That’s what we have today. Spreadsheets just don’t cut it any longer. Thinking through how you will build or run your IoT devices is critical for safety, compliance, improved performance and business resiliency—not to mention much, much more. With an estimated 30 billion connected devices by 2020, the importance of the connected world to business is impossible to overlook.

3. Make sure that you’re secure.

As the IoT inevitably permeates every enterprise, those who fail to understand the risks that are created for the Internet of Things will be left exposed. As we consider IoT security needs, it becomes clear that they are much different from traditional IT security needs. Devices often run in harsh environments. Not only must they run in physical environments that are often demanding—with hot and cold temperature extremes, challenging weather conditions and so on—but they also need to run outside the bounds of physically secured places. In addition, the devices may even communicate using multiple methods, depending on their current state and position. Devices also operate much closer to the physical environment than we have typically seen with mobile computing and cloud-hosted applications. In other words, IoT devices will be used in mission-, life- and safety-critical situations. Enterprises can’t afford to get their IoT safety and security strategy wrong.

4. Truly put the cloud to work.

A recent IDC press release claims, “Within the next five years, more than 90 percent of all Internet of Things data will be hosted on service provider platforms as cloud computing reduces the complexity of supporting the Internet of Things ‘data blending.’” The Internet of Things and cloud computing are growing in tandem: One requires the other. Any company wanting to transform using IoT data needs to fully embrace the cloud. And because most enterprises have already fully embraced the cloud, the next step, and the new killer application for the cloud, is the Internet of Things.

5. Change your business before your competition does.

The age of the Internet of Things is upon us. There is no more time in which to decide whether to embrace the opportunities of IoT. The Internet of Things has arrived, and if you're still waiting to decide what your IoT strategy is, you’re falling behind competitors that are already embracing the IoT. In every industry around the globe, someone is thinking about warranty costs a different way, adding a new service to run or manage a device that once was just sold or dreaming up a new supplier network or an alternative way to distribute products to new direct buyers. And it’s happening in every industry: aviation, home appliances, electronics, health care, insurance, oil and gas, utilities—all of them. The IoT promise is a huge one, and it’s one from which many enterprises are already deriving direct benefits. Don’t get left behind because you got stuck waiting to develop a strong IoT strategy.