IoT is connecting the edge to the enterprise, to boldly go where no tech has gone before, says Avnet’s Murphy
How often in the technology market have we heard someone say ‘there has never been a more interesting time in this industry’? There have been so many transformational phases over the past two decades that it is hard to imagine the industry continuing to change at the same pace in the coming decade. Yet when we consider the opportunity that will unfold through the Internet of Things (IoT), suddenly that next phase seems less difficult to grasp. The principle that ‘anything that can be connected, will be connected’ uncovers vast opportunities for those of us willing to embrace this new world of IT.
We are not just discussing enhancements in personal mobile and home devices, the opportunity that the Internet of Things opens up for enterprise connectivity is immense. Employee productivity, increased asset utilization and supply chain efficiencies — these are all benefits that the enterprise sector will gain from IoT. Indeed the enterprise sector is estimated to be the largest of the three main IoT markets, including home and government.
The principle that smarter devices will inform people so that they can make better decisions is also core to the opportunity for the channel. We have already seen movement in the generation of data and opportunities that have materialised in the secure storage of ‘big data’.
The world we live in has already embraced analytics and information from the ‘edge’ (sensors, gateways etc.). Access to information allows us to make an analytic decision, and more and more of us are using software and technology to help us make those decisions. Every day we use technology to gather information, check facts and gain insight that allows us better decision making.
When we check the weather forecast, for instance, and make the simple decision on sunglasses or umbrellas, we are using information based on complex mathematical models driven from enterprise level analytics engines, which are making sense out of huge amounts of sensor-driven edge data.
In this next phase, there will be a need for people to take their data to the next level — it will need agile exploration, analysis and action. The market for analytics software will open up. Whether it be predictive or reflective, analytics will need to be designed to adapt to data streams and maintain a quality of insight that is accurate and meaningful.
Additionally, the requirement to protect privacy and secure information, i.e. to safeguard data, becomes critical. Data derived through automated responses from remote sensors requires a more advanced level of security. Both security software and services are already in high demand to manage the transmission of data and analytics because of the risk of cyberattacks.
“There will be a need for people to take their data to the next level — it will need agile exploration, analysis and action. The market for analytics software will open up. Whether it be predictive or reflective, analytics will need to be designed to adapt to data streams and maintain a quality of insight that is accurate and meaningful”
Location of data also adds to the complexity of security. Imagine, as an example, the opportunity of remote data transmission from a floating oil rig in the North Sea. The requirement for secure cloud storage, capable of handling millions of small data samples securely from multiple devices and locations, opens up huge opportunities. Mobility adds another dimension with the requirement for asset tracking and management, as well as secure data transmission over public networks.
This mobility highlights again the issue of security. Enterprises will need to be able to remotely identify faults in sensors, and safeguard against sensor tampering to prevent ‘spoofing’ of data , therefore widening the scope for access management to verify data sources.
Don’t just think of the Internet of Things as a future where your coffee machine will be connected to your alarm clock and your home heating will be connected to your car. Enterprise-focused IoT hardware and software in the manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and information sectors are where the real growth opportunities will be.
Let’s also not forget the edge solutions already in place around safety, compliance and facilities management. The opportunity to connect these to enterprise systems and drive the automation of maintenance, for instance, could be the first to realise commercial value.
Miriam Murphy is senior vice president, north region, EMEA for Avnet Technology Solutions