The Internet of Things Means Business

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
internet of things

Connected devices and networked machines are enabling industry and government to collect information and act on it in ways that will redefine IT and business.

Another organization that has embraced the Internet of things is Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). The Portland, Ore.-based health and research institution tags assets ranging from infusion pumps to crutches so they can be easily located. Using passive RFID and WiFi, its nurses, physical therapists and technicians can see exactly where an item is at any given moment.

"The system helps us manage the flow of devices," says Dennis Minsent, director of clinical technology. Later this year, OHSU plans to tag patients and clinicians to better understand where they spend time, how they move around within the facility and how long patients wait in a room before a clinician arrives. "It will provide insights into how we can operate more efficiently," he explains.

PwC's Curran says that the IoT creates entirely new capabilities for businesses, opening the door to new types of products and services that extend throughout the supply chain and out to customers. "The technology has the potential to create far more active and engaged relationships," he adds. "It offers enormous possibilities revolving around big data and analytics."

In fact, by plugging in data from other sources—including social media and crowdsourcing—it's possible to create a much deeper and broader view of fast-changing events, conditions and behaviors.

Kavi's Kaduwela says that machine-generated data currently accounts for about 15 percent of the overall data organizations hold, and he expects the figure to rise to around 50 percent within the next decade. The value proposition for the industrial Internet already exists, he says. Optimizing and streamlining operations—even by a percent or two—can result in substantial gains.

The key to success is by effectively integrating and managing the data and developing the right analytical solutions. Kaduwela believes that, for now, the value proposition is much stronger in the industrial space than it is in the consumer space.

However, the IoT also creates new security and privacy risks that organizations cannot ignore, notes Robert Stroud, chair of the ISO liaison subcommittee for the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). "Information could be aggregated or shared in a way that a person or an organization isn't aware of—or in a way they don't approve," he says.

Part of the problem, Stroud notes, is that many connection points and vulnerabilities are not well-tested or understood. "A failure could lead to unintended implications and serious consequences," he explains, "so there needs to be an understanding of how to mitigate risks and secure the data." Already, hackers have demonstrated that it's possible to breach automobiles, baby monitors and medical devices.

PwC's Curran says that, in the end, it's crucial to formulate a strategy for the industrial Internet and IoT. It's important to begin thinking about how to connect devices or sell products that fit into a larger ecosystem of intelligent devices. This means identifying opportunities and problems that connected technologies can solve and understanding how they can provide deeper insights into a business, including customer touch points.

"It's important to begin building prototypes, testing and piloting systems, and learning how to harness the technology," Curran concludes. "The Internet of things will play a major role in the future of business."

This article was originally published on 2014-02-19

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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