EoT – Integrating IoT into the enterprise

In case you haven’t paid close attention, another acronym has been gaining ground on the heels of IoT (Internet of Things).  The new term, EoT (Enterprise of Things), is about IoT’simpact to and integration into the enterprise.  In my previous blog, I wrote about how IoT will dramatically change the way we work and live.  The disruption in business models, supply chain, information security and almost all aspects of the business are reason enough for enterprise to get ahead of this curve.

If you think that consumer devices like smartphones and tablets showing up within the enterprise were a headache, then EoT is going to give you a migraine.  The influx of sensors, connected miniature and camouflaged devices that can be hacked to listen-in, record and transmit information will pose tremendous risks to privacy and intellectual property.  Introducing these devices as part of your business will bring different set of challenges in terms of manageability, monitoring, big data and integration.  Following should be on priority list of every CIO and IT department.

1.       Privacy & Security:  The knee jerk reaction of any security team will be to banish or disallow any such devices into the enterprise.  Unfortunately, the users will figure out a way to use them in innovative ways bypassing the security.  The better approach would be to start with the assumption that such things will show up within the enterprise and then design security around them.  Not just policies and procedures, but actual working security solutions like device intrusion alerts and lock-down

2.       Adoption strategy:  Identify, up front, the business domain, e.g. supply chain, where these devices can be integrated to improve efficiency and reduce waste and then develop interfaces with your corporate ERP or home grown solutions to accelerate adoption.  These new devices are bound to create new opportunities and usage models that did not exist or were not possible earlier.  Have a strategy in place to evaluate, develop and deploy some of these usage models to actualize their benefits

3.       Data and its analytics:  Today’s Big Data will appear small compared to what we’ll see when plethora of IoT/EoT devices start showing up in the environment.  Not all data needs to be or should be stored.  Define clear set of guidelines on data storage, retention and obliteration.  This is important as your data analytics has to be focused and meaningful with the right context.  Storing endless data and creating patters or trends with no context will risk wasting effort and money on meaningless insights.  One way to counter this challenge is to define the context for each subject area or business domain and then develop all your analytics around that context

4.       Sensor integration strategy:  Will all these sensors be wired or wireless?  If wired, will they have PoE (Power over Ethernet) or will need additional power adapters?  If they are wireless then will they be run by battery or will need power connection?  Should all these sensors be integrated into the network each with its own IP or should they be routed through a dedicated gateway on a separate sub-net? 

I highlight some of the key factors that will directly impact EoT strategy and decisions.  There are deeper implications of each and that’s why this will need to be thought through.  Let’s take a very simple example, let’s say that you push forward with wireless sensors that are battery powered and you happily roll out 10,000 of them across the enterprise because wiring them up to network or for power is expensive.  The implication of this decision is that you have now introduced a recurring cost to the enterprise of replacing each sensor’s battery on a periodic basis.  Assuming it takes only 5 minutes to change a battery, this translates to 105 man days of labor just to replace all these batteries!  If these sensors are ceiling mounted the same task will amount to 312 man days, considering that each battery replacement will take 15 minutes, if not more.

The challenge with EoT strategy will not be just a discussion of sensors or of network or of interfaces.  It will involve the entire stack of enterprise IT starting from infrastructure to software to user facing devices.  My only advice to CIOs and the IT departments would be to take this bull by the horn and tame it before it runs havoc inside your enterprise.

- Rajeev

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Opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent that of my employer, Intel Corporation