The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to revolutionize how enterprises do business. It has been estimated that worth of IoT technologies may reach $6.2 trillion by 2025 with value from devices used by businesses in different industries. Adoption is expected to grow in industries like manufacturing (by 41%), healthcare (30.3%) and retail (8.3%).
But behind the financial promises lurks challenges. The application of the IoT, connecting physical objects to the web with the help of sensors and receiving data, seems pretty straightforward but it poses a lot of challenges for enterprises hoping to adopt it to run operations. All of these challenges ultimately come down to three main factors:
If enterprises hope to make IoT technologies a part of their corporate strategy, they must learn how to overcome these challenges.
Challenge #1 – Security Concerns
IoT at the enterprise sector will come across a slew of challenges in the future. One of those challenges is security. The basic goal of the Internet of Things is to enable objects to produce data which can be stored or processed with a software. The software can be a corporate “smartwatch”, if expert predictions concerning wearables in the workplace come to pass and triggers a WYOD (Wear your own Device) trend in the workplace, or an application in a computer. However, the transfer of data is highly vulnerable to security threats.
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In the case of wearables, the main challenge for enterprises is to keep connected wearables secure from threats like cyber attacks and data leakage. Wearable IoT devices have software and hardware that focus more on functionality rather than security. The vulnerabilities are unlike what enterprises are used to. Similarly in the medical industry, devices are used to not only to monitor the health of patients, but are able to dispense medicine and provide consultation based on the analysis performed by such devices. Imagine the consequences that could result if the security of these devices and their software were compromised.
If enterprises expect employees to utilize the same technology in the future, they must prioritize security from the outset. Organizations will need to conduct customized risk assessments, get expert advice from outside the organization if possible, to identify what the risks are and how best to mitigate them.
Challenge# 2 – Figuring out where the need is highest?
IoT is expected to benefit the economy by $2 trillion globally as estimated by Gartner. That said, while the technology has a lot of potential at the enterprise level, it is still new. And use cases are few and far between. The challenge for enterprises today is to figure out how to leverage it best for the most gains.
A good rule of thumb is for enterprises to define their business objectives first and integrate related processes accordingly. For example, if a business’ objective is to increase sales by engaging customers, they can figure out how sensor laden technology can bridge the gap between these objectives. But that is only part of the challenge. If businesses hope to use the technology in ways that are actually beneficial, they need to know how to leverage received data in ways that will prompt desirable actions from users as well.
Consider a retailer whose business objective is to increase in-store sales. In a case like this, beacon technology can be used to detect a customer who is on the way to pick groceries ordered from the store’s mobile application. Now that the customer has already downloaded the app, the objective is to ensure that they turn on their phone’s bluetooth to inform the store when they are nearby so that the staff can be prompted to prepare their order before they arrive. Renowned retailer, Woolworths, does this by using sensor technology to detect customer location through bluetooth enabled beacon notifications. With the introduction of this technology on their click-and-collect stores, Woolworths was able to put an end to the frustration that customers faced waiting for their ordered items to arrive.
Challenge #3 – Designing for Scalability
When it comes to leveraging IoT across an enterprise, one of the first problems businesses run into is scalability. Will an enterprise be able to handle the influx of data from IoT enabled devices? Will it be able to pay for storing that immense amount of data in the future? Can it keep the data secure from different attacks?
Keeping the challenges mentioned above, if businesses hope to scale IoT technologies, they must consider that complete deployment (considering costs associated with data storage and replacing old equipment to ensure compatibility) isn’t a realistic notion at the moment. A scaled IoT strategy makes maintenance a challenge especially if the IoT devices are spread out in different geographical locations. Keeping a large number of devices connected online also exposes data to security threats. The most that can be done is to introduce an IoT strategy, improve where needed and increase adoption gradually. A possible solution is to look for a standards-based platform that allows for interoperability, has an affordable pricing package for data storage and follows industry standards to keep connections between the cloud and devices secure.
Another obstacle in scalability relates to keeping these devices maintained in remote locations.
To reduce maintenance costs, enterprises must ensure that IoT devices, such as sensors, are designed for durability. If we are to give an example, durability might come down to an industrial hardened design that can withstand prolonged exposure to magnetic interferences, extreme temperatures and environmental factors.
The Internet of Things holds a lot of potential at the enterprise level but it comes with challenges that not all businesses might be prepared for. If businesses hope to leverage it for the most gains, the must keep these challenges in mind and strategize accordingly.
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