According to technology consulting firm Gartner, up to 21 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by the year 2020. Are your ready for this connected world?
There is a great deal of hype around the Internet-of-Things (IoT), with flashy predictions of massive networks that connect people with a host of smart devices. Put simply, IoT refers to a network of physical devices – such as vehicles, home appliances and other items - embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data.
Business and IoT
For companies, the emergence of IoT networks is arguably less about fancy devices doing human-like things than it is about straightforward convenience.
Take, for example, restaurants and catering firms. Harnessing Internet connected fridges, they can be notified in real-time if temperatures increase too much – thereby protecting stock and ensuring food quality.
In server rooms, connected temperature gauges can notify IT support staff to turn up connected air cons remotely to avoid hardware damage.
Within the industrial sphere, the possible use cases are infinite. In a pre-IoT world, you would need to hire staff to watch your machines and monitor things like production outputs, resource inputs, temperatures and more. Now, with IoT devices and the rise of Artificial Intelligence, these tasks can be performed automatically and monitored (in real-time) by someone at home or in the office.
Essentially, while several new businesses will be formed to offer IoT services to existing companies, the major growth will arguably come from established businesses realising efficiencies and cost savings from IoT networks.
Related: How the Internet of Things (IoT) will enable smarter manufacturing
A gradual shift toward connectedness
In South Africa, an increasing number of businesses are showing interest in IoT. However, it’s often simply not labelled as such. For example, when someone tells you they can reduce your company energy consumption by 20% by installing connected devices to your air conditioners, you might not consider it to be IoT, but you will take the concept seriously.
As the shift to IoT takes place within the enterprise, there are numerous security risks to remain cognisant of. Already, there have been cases of hackers taking over connected devices, and the implications are challenging to deal with. Imagine, for example, a hacker taking over your security cameras to watch you logging onto your Internet banking – or to see when you’re not at home.
Savvy hackers can potentially take control of self-driving cars and home security systems too. So, the more connected and technology-reliant we become, the more vulnerable we are to sophisticated cyber-attacks.
Fortunately, the race is on to pre-empt such attacks and to find ways to protect both businesses and consumers. Looking ahead, there will have to be anti-virus-like programmes for IoT devices, as well as hardware protection (firewalls). In addition, new authentication methods will have to be implemented.
While it is still early days for IoT networks in South Africa, businesses should ideally be starting to investigate ways to harness connected devices and gain first mover advantages over their competitors.