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The business impact of IoT

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Machine-to-Machine is about the ability to remotely collect data from devices and use this data in real-time to make more informed business decisions which will inevitably lead to new business models, new business revenues and a more enriched user experience, says Manfred Kube, Head of M2M Segment at Gemalto.

IoT interconnects devices, assets, processes and systems to improve business models and profits, increase efficiency, and optimise the use of resources. In today’s challenging economic times, it offers enterprises across a wide spectrum of industries an opportunity to improve productivity and cost efficiencies to gain competitive edge. If we apply this underlying design rule, the possibilities are endless. There are literally hundreds of use cases for M2M communication including automotive, metering, remote maintenance, mHealth, eToll systems, Point-of-Sale, routers and gateways, ruggedised PDAs, tracking and tracing as well as security systems. The convergence of the physical and virtual worlds through M2M and the Internet of Things has even been called “the largest organic growth opportunity in the history of business”.

Our M2M technology are bringing electricity to off grid communities in Africa and other developing nations, providing power for lights, refrigeration, water purification and cell phones and computers – and creating real businesses for the first time. For cars and medical devices, IoT connectivity amps up capabilities transforming a vehicle into a mobile office and entertainment centre and a glucose monitor into a 24/7/365 two-way communication hub between caregivers and patients.

IoT also enables a 360 view of a business through the data collected from various, distributed sensors. Businesses can use this valuable information along with trusted and smart services to make better decisions, solve critical challenges, improve business models, economise use of resources, streamline business processes, and ultimately, to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
Quick decision making, the conception of entirely new use cases and the ability to access the right data at the right time – the IoT and the resultant abundance of data presents significant challenges. How can organisations convert these challenges into opportunities?

Big data is one of the buzz terms for 2015 and the Internet of Things results in such an overwhelming amount of information available that it comes with some challenges: how can we truly sift through it all quickly and securely to leverage actionable intelligence or “smart data?” New solutions combine Application Enablement Platforms and software partners to collect disparate raw data from in-vehicle sensors, mobile devices, smartphones and industrial PDAs and quickly transforms it into standards-based intelligence. These solutions are among the most exciting in the industry today. It’s not enough to have these various innovative solutions – we must be able to easily apply the information for real-time decision making to truly help improve business processes. A simple example is faster delivery services. With a Gemalto Application Enablement Platform and Software Agent, information from various devices, retailers and shippers can be quickly gathered to receive up-to-the-minute track and trace information and SMS notifications when packages arrive.

Security and privacy are among the main concerns among enterprises – how should they guard against these risks?

As more and more industries and individuals are adopting M2M and IoT technologies, security concerns are growing. A recent VDC Research survey revealed that almost 70% of OEMs indicate security is important to their designs. However, only 30% of those respondents indicated that they made changes in people, process or tools to improve security. Unfortunately, security remains an afterthought exposing implementers to enormous risks – both financial and to brand reputation. Architecture should be planned at the very beginning of design and development, identifying risks specific to individual use cases and mitigating those risks through secure product design and best practices. The goal in planning overall architecture is to secure what needs to be secured at the right level and price point for each individual business case.

The good news is that we are beginning to see this dynamic in motion, especially in highly regulated industries where the public and private sectors are working together to lay a foundation for a more secure Internet of Things (IoT). We’re especially seeing this in smart energy and the discussion of smart home solutions. Consumers want to ensure their networks cannot be breached by outsiders and energy providers need to protect the grid at all costs. Healthcare and banking solutions tend to ensure the highest level of security and privacy currently, providing a wealth of best practices for future innovations.

There are a variety of two-factor authentication security solutions, both connected and unconnected, including ID tokens, smart cards, in-device applications such as mobile One Time Passwords (OTP) and mobile authentication, each offering varying levels of protection against threats. The best solutions provide flexibility for IT administrators to support different authentication devices based on the user’s needs. They should also support a smooth and cost effective migration path to a more expansive public key infrastructure (PKI) solution as needs evolve and include a high-grade security system without having to change the underlying security architecture. Other multi-factor authentication systems such as contextual keys and biometrics, including fingerprints and iris scans, can be more intrusive in terms of privacy and complex in terms of personal data management (biometrics for instance cannot be changed, if compromised). These are primarily reserved for highly sensitive government applications.

Describing the IoT as being at the “peak of inflated expectations”, Gartner cites a lack of standardisation as a hindrance to the adoption of the IoT – why is the need for stringent regulation in this space?

The Internet of Things is a true technology frontier where standardization is required to help ensure on-going security and interoperability. To-date, the IoT has developed without a lot of standards or guidance from the GSMA or other governing bodies. The upshot is there have been outstanding innovations, and on the other hand, it has also meant that some IoT players have taken a wait and see approach before jumping on board. The GSMA recently published new standards for remote provisioning and we expect to see additional standardisation to help take M2M to the next level in the eyes of businesses and also help address some of the questions that remain – especially around security.

How can enterprises best cash in on the many new business opportunities and revenue streams that have emerged as a result of this technology?

The possible return on investment for enterprises leveraging the IoT is endless. Everything from realising the benefits of improved efficiencies in operations and customer satisfaction to, reducing overhead and transportation costs, implementing IoT innovations into everyday business practices is helping the bottom line. Tracking and tracing fleets of automobiles helps reduce maintenance, lost vehicles and keep deliveries on target; retailers being able to inform consumers of deliveries in real-time improves satisfaction and reduce customer service interaction; and using sensors in vending machines to send alerts for servicing or with inventory information helps ensure deliveries are hyper efficient. These are all generally basic operational improvements brought about by M2M technology. But, some of the most exciting things happening in the IoT are the innovations transforming industries – medical devices communicating information on chronic conditions so patients aren’t required to travel and wait in a doctor’s waiting room for hours in order to receive on-going care; small villages able to receive power for the first time, and creating small entrepreneurial business opportunities, through M2M-powered solar solutions; and agriculture solutions that monitor crop conditions and automate irrigation. Today, enterprises can immediately help improve their business processes with the myriad proven M2M solutions, but their true industry transformation may be coming in the next couple of years.