Currently, around 23 billion ‘things’ are connected to the world’s numerous communication networks and more are joining at a rapid speed. For consumers, these include everything from connected fridges to watches. The general hunger for both novelty and innovation is swiftly increasing as industry goliaths continue to release new products into the market.
Though machine-type communications are set to usher in the fourth industrial revolution, it is predicted at least 65 per cent of businesses will adopt a mass of connected devices by 2020 – more than twice the current rate. Manufacturers, logistics firms and retailers will be the first movers in this ‘internet of things’ (IoT) revolution, as they look to connect and automate process-driven functions.
The outcome of adopting connected devices is beneficial for every business, as they see investment in prominent technologies such as mobile devices key to ensuring they can serve their staff and customers, and bring them a greater understanding of consumers.
However great the perceived benefits are, connected devices bring new business challenges around scale, interoperability, security and the management of devices and endpoints. Starting at the coal-face, for those of us who rely on mobile devices for work purposes, the emotional fallout can be hard – recent research revealed 59 per cent admit to being stressed by technology and 29 per cent even voiced fears of losing their jobs due to technological failures. The stress of technical failures is 13 per cent higher for business owners, with 72 per cent concerned over the potential cost of data loss.
To ride the tech wave, enterprises must have a clear strategy for mobility management. It is essential to cover traditional devices and non-traditional ‘things’, such as connected cars; taking in technical issues like interoperability, security and more straightforward ones like filtering vast new oceans of data and what to save in the catch. Without a strategy in place, companies will find themselves throwing infinite resources into connecting everything to the internet, rather than just those that are crucial. So, what do businesses need to streamline mobile and IoT device management and harness the potential opportunities?
STEP 1: INTEGRATION
It seems device management is the most challenging task facing the market, as 45 per cent of companies are failing to enforce restrictions such as blocking apps. At a basic level, connected devices must be properly coordinated if businesses are to easily access and manipulate the data available to them, regardless of its origin. Using an integrated suite of mobility solutions offers a clever, quick, and reliable way for businesses to build their apps faster and manage their mobile devices and IoT endpoints.
Additionally, a closely integrated device and IoT management system can bring added benefits to companies seeking to bring order to the rising confusion of IoT connectivity. Businesses must recognise what can be achieved through IoT, not just by creating “smart” devices, but by providing business intelligence and improving productivity, cutting costs and improving the customer experience. Refined mobility management solutions give real-time insights into remote device performance, which can be tapped into by help-desk teams to run device diagnostics, solve technical issues and maintain staff productivity.
Likewise, the most cutting edge device and IoT management solutions cover rapid cross-platform app development, so businesses can deploy enterprise applications for their own specific devices in a fraction of the time. Ultimately, if network inter-play must be solved by the technology industry at large, the working integration of connected devices is the responsibility of leadership teams and IT departments within enterprises themselves.
STEP 2: SECURITY
The recent WannaCry ransomware attack, which impacted 200,000 computers globally, makes it all too clear that this dynamism makes us vulnerable. By 2020 it is estimated that the number of connected devices will be 30 billion, but with each new device comes a new way for criminals to access the system.
Undoubtedly, mobile IoT devices must be secured and maintained properly, but while governments and industry bodies work out the detail to increase minimum security-levels, it is essential that enterprises consider their own network, device and data security. New devices should have the right security certifications but much more can be done to support devices and data.
Companies should expect device management solutions to enforce authentication, including biometric and two-factor authentication, in order to stop unauthorised access to valuable company data and documents. They should also expect full device storage encryption to ensure sensitive company information present on mobile devices in the field is as secure as data on an office-based workstation.
In case they are lost or stolen, IoT devices should also be trackable and wipeable in while the wireless access and the network connection must remain constantly private and secure.
STEP 3: SIMPLICITY
Approximately 90 per cent of all data has been created in the past two years. The sheer volume of data available to us is over-whelming and intellectually crippling if it is not understood and processed swiftly.
Likewise, companies must efficiently filter and understand the data they capture. Businesses should take deliberate stock with specialist data analysts and mobility management providers, and evaluate the types of data they have – looking at the insights they can gain, and how these will distinguish them.
It also requires experimenting; the process to insight and differentiation is iterative. It is foolish to jump into this sea of data and try to swim; it is far better to build a vessel on dry land, test it in the shallows, and then to guide it towards new horizons. Once the boat has been constructed and set afloat, the main navigation can be automated with periodic check-ups to master the course.
Human input is crucial from the beginning and throughout, but the most recent data analytics and machine learning engines can lighten the load – especially as the sea widens with the flood of new data from new ‘things’.
For businesses entering uncharted waters, it is vital to not only ‘think big’ but also to retain extremely close attention to detail. Their approaches need to be right for their strategy and market. Trying to achieve too much at once can end up being counterproductive; the real value from IoT lies in doing the smaller things well and building on that. Companies which refuse to take these precautionary measures will find themselves drowning in data. By focusing on integration, device management and interpreting data, businesses can avoid falling adrift and ride the wave of success.
By Nassar Hussain, managing director of SOTI Europe