Top 10 tips to roll out connected devices in your business

- Top 10 - Nov 10, 2016

In October, a denial-of-service attack on Internet infrastructure company Dyn crashed some of the world’s largest online platforms. While quickly restored, the cyberattack provided a timely reminder of the vulnerabilities that exist in many of the connected devices becoming increasingly present in our professional and personal lives.

By 2020, there will be 24 billion internet-connected things, and more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the Internet of Things (IoT). The plethora of sensor-controlled devices, enterprise webcams and business intelligence technologies will revolutionise corporate business models and offer incalculable efficiencies and productivity benefits for companies.

Already, we’re seeing widespread application of connected devices in data-heavy industries such as financial services and manufacturing. This is facilitating greater efficiency and insight, reducing costs and providing a rapid return on investment. In other industries, including retail, healthcare, agriculture and logistics, early adopters are reaping the benefits of innovation in stock and inventory, facilities management, and remote monitoring, increasing their industry competitiveness and profit margins accordingly.  

The rate of progress is accelerating. Technology is getting stronger, networks are getting faster, and costs are continually falling. Over the next decade, as 5G becomes ubiquitous, more businesses will have the opportunity to incorporate IoT into business strategies and standard processes. Nothing in the workplace will be static – almost everything capable of being connected will be, and data will flow continuously from object to object, device to device.

For companies weighing up the relevant cost and benefits of becoming a connected business, the initial steps can be the hardest to take. Here are some tips for rolling out connected devices in your organisation.

Top 10 tips:

1. Put security at the centre of your IoT strategy

As the Dyn incident shows, advancements in connected devices are happening at a faster rate than many security practices can keep up with. As the workplace changes, more employees are handling commercially sensitive information on unsecured devices (such as their own mobile phone or tablet) or through unsecured networks (such as public wifi). The risk of data breach is therefore critical.

Before rolling out connected devices in your organisation, invest in secure technology, including encryption of company-owned devices, and adopt policies and guidelines that will serve to reduce risk. Also allocate appropriate budget for handling a security breach to allow for prompt restorative action.

2. Plan your technology rollout

One of the major challenges with establishing an IoT environment lies in choosing technology. Devices are continually evolving, and what works today may quickly become outmoded by emerging technologies. This isn’t, however, a reason to stall on implementation. Map how connected devices will complement your existing technology infrastructure and schedule milestones for deployment. This way you will not end up with piecemeal efforts and devices that fail to connect with one another. Building flexibility into your plan will allow for new technologies to be incorporated seamlessly as they become available.

3. Have the right skills on board

Successfully managing an environment built on connected devices will require a collective effort from technologists, software experts and data analysts. Not every business will be able to afford having this diverse range of skills on hand at all times. It is therefore vital to ensure prompt access to skills as they’re required. Investing in people who understand the complexities and can direct solutions is crucial to establishing, orienting and maintaining an IoT infrastructure. A plan for recruitment, training and, where necessary, outsourcing, should be a priority element of your IoT strategy.

4. Ensure interoperability of devices

One of the greatest challenges you’ll face in building your IoT environment, is ensuring everything connects. This issue becomes more acute as different employees have different preferences for hardware (e.g. PC vs Mac) and software (Android vs iOS). The issue can compound at a technical infrastructure level. This hurdle can be successfully overcome by equipping distributed systems with senses that allow their programmes to acquire relevant information and make decisions that will allow the range of ‘things’ to work together within the ecosystem.

5. Install the right infrastructure 

As IoT becomes the norm, the amount of data it will generate in the workplace will be immense. This will put substantial pressure on systems and force IT managers to come up with more efficient ways to transmit and store data. Infrastructure will therefore be a vital element of success. The exact requirements for your environment will vary depending on the size of your company, your processes and your business objectives. The key is agility. Having an IT infrastructure that is flexible and responsive to change will pay dividends as the company grows and evolves, allowing for operations to be scaled without compromising the functionality of existing systems.

6. Adopt the right network for your technology 

Existing workplace networks were typically built to accommodate desktop computers, with access points for only a handful of computers. Workplace habits are changing and mobile and IoT-connected devices are quickly becoming the norm. More smart devices also means more content, which leads to the necessity of a more robust network that can handle video streaming and management of big data. Upgrading to a unified solution that allows for the range of wired and wireless devices will create a more streamlined and easier to maintain IT environment.

7. Invest in analytics

Big data is, as the name suggests, a lot of data. The Internet of Things is generating more data than ever before, and the numbers are growing exponentially. By the end of the decade, we will be seeing zettabytes of data in flow.

The real value of IoT comes in the form of the data that connected devices can collect. Predictive analytics sourced through connected devices will allow for reduced costs tied to data transmission, storage, and management, as well as enhanced network and application reliability. Over time, the benefits of a system of incremental improvement of IT and business operations will produce massive dividends and substantial return on investment.

8. Get on the cloud

The power of cloud computing is continually developing. The union of the cloud and IoT both will serve to increase efficiency in our everyday tasks. IoT generates massive amounts of data, and cloud computing provides a pathway for that data to travel to its destination. Popular IoT cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud IoT and Microsoft Azure IoT Suite are becoming more available to businesses of varying sizes, allowing for gathering and processing of data without placing a burden on local systems.

9. Manage employee expectations

The fundamental purpose of an IoT environment is to improve employee productivity. This will only be the case if connections are operating quickly and smoothly. Employees will expect seamless Internet connection at work regardless of whether they are using their office desktop, a personal tablet or a wearable device. The rise of mobility can place a strain on the company’s existing networking systems, and will continue to do so as technology and trends evolve. Incorporating education and regular assessment of the environment into your roll out will help to keep employees enthusiastic about the relative benefits of working in an IoT environment.

10. Don’t rush

One of the most important points is to bear in mind is the potential consequences of getting it wrong. With so much personal and commercially sensitive information at stake, you need to ensure the environment is secure and operates effectively. This will no doubt create frustrations and require a culture change – by 2018, 75 per cent of IoT projects will take up to twice as long as planned to install. This isn’t a bad thing. Moving slowly and surely, rather than trying to adhere to unrealistic timeframes, will help to build an environment that’s fit for purpose.

Get the basics right and build from there.

By Peter Gadd, Regional Director EMEA North, Pure Storage

Read the November 2016 issue of Business Review Europe magazine. 

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