Sensor-enabled support: why the Internet of Things could move the help desk beyond IT
From calendar-equipped smart watches to remote thermostats, consumers are increasingly looking to connected technologies to manage various aspects their lives.
While it will clearly be some years before the entire population lives in smart cities and are transported in driverless cars, ongoing investment in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies alone demonstrates that this is no flash-in-the pan trend. Last year, the government pledged to spend £45m to develop the IoT, more than doubling the funds available to the UK technology firms developing everyday devices that can communicate over the internet.
Currently, IoT is yet to rank highly on the enterprise agenda, which often lags behind the general technology adoption cycle by several years. However, IDC estimates the market will be worth $8.9 trillion by 2020 and comprise a staggering 212 billion connected devices, which confirms the fact that IoT technology will become a mainstream reality in homes, workplaces and the global trade sphere.
With business and customer data now recognised as valuable commodities, many experts are keen to shout about the strategic potential of IoT technologies, especially when it comes to enhancing business processes and analytics intelligence. Yet, despite being touted in some quarters as a holy trinity of big data, mobility and cloud technology, many businesses will invariably be reluctant to risk the security implications associated with the flow of sensitive data through internet-enabled devices.
However, for internal management and support, there are a growing number of use cases for IoT devices and process. For example, using current technology, an IT admin may not even have to look at his or her dashboard to know something is wrong or identify the problem.
Instead, they can be alerted to an overheating server the by an internet-enabled thermostat which senses the rise in temperature and automatically changes the lighting to alert the admin through an internet-enabled lightbulb and his smart watch.
Linked to this existing capability the opportunity to use the IoT as an open connectivity framework and flow to a wider range of applications, there is a clear potential to transcend the IT support function from technical help to other parts of the business, such as facilities.
However, alongside the additional workload for IT, the business will also need a centralised tool to manage this extended estate. For example, each bulb in a smart IoT connected environment must be monitored and checked to confirm they are working. Assuming there are over 100 such appliances in an office environment, the volume of IP addresses that would need to be allocated would be substantial.
Additionally, a mesh network would also be required to control the IP address allocation.
As the volume of devices connected to the network grows, securing what would previously have been non-IT facilities will become increasingly challenging for IT admins and support teams. Some organisations may attempt to overcome security issues by using a dedicated local network. Regardless of how successful this is however, the management of this expanded estate would similarly require a specialised management tool.
With plenty of hurdles to overcome, it will clearly be some time before the impact of the IoT is noticeable across the enterprise. However, with clear potential to improve control across a broader range of objects and fixtures, IT departments should start to think beyond existing IT assets and consider how, with the right control and management, a new generation of IoT-connected devices could benefit their organisations in all kinds of new ways.
By Pradyut Roy, Product Consultant, ManageEngine