The Internet of Things (IoT) will be the most game-changing IT initiative since cloud computing in terms of new business opportunities, and its impact on IT. However, IoT is still an emerging business technology area, and with so many aspects that differ from traditional IT, it presents several new challenges for which technical professionals must be prepared.
“IT organizations must start taking proactive steps now to address the coming changes brought by IoT,” said Drue Reeves, managing vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Otherwise, they'll risk getting left behind and putting their business at a competitive disadvantage.” Mr. Reeves highlighted four key challenges to focus on now:
IoT is not one thing; it's the integration of several things. IoT requires advanced integration skills and end-to-end thinking. As IT organizations begin to build their IoT solutions, the most prevalent problems they will encounter are the integration of edge devices to the IoT platform, and the integration of the IoT platform to enterprise applications and services — especially security, identity and operational applications.
To overcome these challenges, IT organizations must form IoT solutions teams, led by an IoT architect and composed of a variety of subject matter experts who can diagnose and solve challenges across the IoT solution landscape.
New security vulnerabilities
Several aspects of IoT solutions raise new security risks that have yet to be encountered in traditional IT systems. First, the potentially vast array of geographically dispersed edge devices can pose broad, and difficult-to-protect, physical attack surfaces. Second is the potential for malware or compromised firmware when devices and their aggregation points have management interfaces that allow remote access over public networks.
Finally, the automated, end-to-end nature of IoT solutions compounds the risk. An attack at the edge could trigger events throughout the enterprise systems, which could inappropriately act on those events and cause serious operational issues or false reports of problems that don't exist. The key challenge will be to build trust into IoT systems from end to end — from the edge device, through the aggregation point, and into, and out of, the IoT platform.
“ Creating an effective three-way working relationship among information technology, operational technology and the business units will be key challenges for enterprises undertaking new IoT initiatives”
IoT technology market volatility
Because IoT is such an immature and rapidly evolving area, the markets for various products and technologies associated with IoT are emerging, and a significant degree of change and upheaval is likely to occur. Many small, innovative startups will likely be acquired or disappear, while established vendors from other, adjacent markets can be expected to jump into the fray.
New organizational relationships
IoT solutions will require IT organizations to work in new ways with many of their colleagues in business units, and with parts of the business that handle operations-related functions and related operational technologies. “Creating an effective three-way working relationship among information technology, operational technology and the business units will be key challenges for enterprises undertaking new IoT initiatives,” said Mr. Reeves. “Without this, the enterprise is likely to end up with too many, or poorly operating, IoT solutions, or IoT solutions that don't solve any real business problems.”