The Internet of Things (IoT) – a term that is growing in popularity and conversely getting increasingly confusing on what it actually encompasses. A few things are certain – IoT is transformative and disruptive. It is connecting devices – some built to be connected and some not – and changing how businesses think about their products, employees and customers. And the buzz surrounding it is almost palpable. Still, enterprises are under-prepared for what IoT may mean for business and employees.
As companies consider how IoT will play into their business and mobile strategies, three common themes should be consistently present: visibility, security and connectivity. Visibility is crucial. When there is an absence of visibility, several questions arise: Who has the connected device? What is the device being used for and how is it impacting the business? What is the process or protocol in place when that device malfunctions, needs to be replaced, or the person who owns the device is no longer employed with the company?, says Mitch Black, President, MOBI
This is where a managed mobility services (MMS) provider steps in. While many companies will deploy a mobile device management (MDM) solution, these solutions focus on the device itself. An MMS provider supplies information on the actual service: who the device belongs to (is it BYOD, or corporate-owned), who is using it, for what, where, and for how long. And, as mobile ecosystems become more complex, with more connections and communications between devices that were not previously communicating, utilising an MMS platform can provide IT managers with clear visibility and visualisations of the entire system.
While more industrial IoT applications might be a few years away for many companies, one category of IoT that is already making waves in the enterprise is wearables. The Apple Watch and other smart watches are already being used in business platforms. For example, companies like Salesforce are currently building applications for sales teams to allow them to be able to make decisions on the go. As these types of wearable devices advance, they will perform more complex and highly connected tasks. Enterprises must be prepared for all the consequences, both positive and negative, that come with increased wearable connectivity.
The IoT will inevitably increase usage of mobile devices as well, with the constant pulling and pushing of information. Visibility into data usage and the ability to optimise the carrier relationships and billing will have its own list of benefits:
- Ability to pool data based on department/business unit
- Ability to process billing based on department/business unit
- Savings suggestions based on trends in data usage
Of course, the more connections and communications that exist, the greater the security risk to the company. Every device or sensor that communicates with each another, means inevitable confidential sharing of information, –particularly when so many employees use personal devices for work purposes. In fact, Computing UK reported that 80% of information workers use non-approved SaaS apps for work related tasks.
Every connected device, sensor, wearable and application opens the door for an increased use of possible malicious software, also increasing the risk of sensitive information being released. Even if the applications employees use don’t pose a threat, the apps still putting the company at risk for a security breach. Even more concerning, most enterprises aren’t tracking what apps their employees are using or who has what devices accessing corporate networks and information. For example, imagine a wearable device gets on the wrong wrist and this wearable is connected to a VP’s email –then what?
Administrators will need to have real-time access and visibility into nearly all of the details that are included in operating a device. With complete visibility and control, an IT administrator can remotely wipe a device of all corporate data if a security threat is recognised quickly. Given the right control and visibility, IT can detect early warning signs of malicious or unusual behavior, and act before there is a real problem. Furthermore, policy enforcement is easily shared with employees and approvals tracked. Restrictions/allowances are specified and enforced so that the device is being used (hopefully) as intended.
The complications to be considered as a result of the IoT are nearly infinite, but the focus needs to start at the connections. Which devices are other devices talking to and…why? The question should be answered simply: Because the data being exchanged fosters a healthy relationship that ultimately provides data that is actionable. Connections should make life simpler, turn something that was previously manual into a self-operating system, or improve automatic processes.
Through maintaining a centralised hub of information that provides real-time visibility into the connected devices being utilised by the IoT, MMS providers can lessen the risk of the unknown. The big data that is collected can be secured and utilised, resulting in smarter business processes and savings of time and money along the way.
The author of this blog is Mitch Black, President, MOBI. Mitch Black was born and raised in rural Indiana. He has spent over next 20 years in executive positions with leading companies such as BrightPoint, Brightstar, PCS Wireless and Verizon Wireless. As President of MOBI, Mitch leads the company’s go-to-market strategy, organization, and provides valuable support for overall growth and operations. When he is not helping enterprise clients solve problems related to their complex mobility environments, he enjoys spending time with his wife and four children.