Let’s Redefine “IoT” to Mean “The Innovation of Things”

The "Internet Of Things"

The “Internet Of Things” has the potential to aspire incredible innovation!

When pundits first began talking about the Internet of Things-also known as “IoT“-the buzz was around applications consumers would use as zillions of devices connected to the Internet. Who doesn’t remember the breathless articles about how our refrigerators would scan product bar codes as we moved items in and about, and automatically manage a shopping list at our favorite market.

Ten years on, most of us are still using paper and pen, or maybe our smartphone, to keep track of what we need to buy at the supermarket. But that doesn’t mean that the Internet of Things isn’t alive and well. It is, and so is a hotbed of innovation around it. The real surprise, though, is that the IOT’s real potential turns out to be on the business side of things.

In fact, the Internet of Things is far more powerful than using an appliance (such as a refrigerator) as the human interface to an existing function (such as grocery shopping). The first real innovation enabler is that devices will communicate autonomously with other devices, applications, and services instead of-or in addition to-people. The second innovation enabler is that they will be empowered to take action based on this communication.

Imagine Internet-connected devices such as:

  • A gadget provided by auto insurers that customers plug into their vehicle. It monitors and reports on their driving habits, times, conditions, and so on. Then it interacts with underwriting and pricing services, and gives the consumer a customized quote. With a wave of their smartphone, they can activate their insurance and receive a legal confirmation. It takes all of 30 seconds.
  • Smart sensors in jet engines that proactively alert maintenance staff to problems, preventing downtime and reducing costs. Similar smart sensors might enable entirely new business models, such as leasing engines to airlines, and charging them only for the thrust they actually use.
  • Intelligent air conditioners, dryers, and other power hungry appliances that adjust when and how they run based on learned customer usage patterns or preset preferences, such as during daily spikes or drops in electricity prices.
  • Environmentally aware rail switches or traffic lights that can dynamically respond to and adjust traffic flows based on real-time information about traffic patterns, congestion, accidents, construction, weather, or special events (such as an ambulance en route to a hospital).
  • Remote health monitoring devices that learn the rhythms of their patient’s daily activities, automatically adjust oxygen or medication flows, and can also alter the frequency and severity of alerts to caregivers based on past experience or patient requirements.
  • Automated guided vehicles that enhance efficiencies at ports and terminals, lowering overall labor costs (see recent CA blog post on this and other examples).

It might sound like future think, but it’s quickly becoming present day reality. And while these capabilities hold great promise for society and business, the Internet of Things raises some tough security questions for IT professionals.

First, of course, is the security of the data itself. Success here will require carefully thinking through what data to gather, how to use it, and communicating those policies to customers. One auto insurer, for example, is careful to explain on its Web site that its monitoring device only tracks how a customer drives, not where they drive.

In addition, many of the remote data-gathering devices that exist today are vulnerable to hacking over the Internet, because they lack support for contemporary security protocols.

Even more fundamental: Much (if not most) of the information used by the business is captured and reported by devices that operate outside the corporate firewall. This makes the concept of perimeter security obsolete. With the Internet of Things, as with the cloud, the security perimeter isn’t an object such as a firewall, but the ongoing process of identity and access management.

This requires technology such as hybrid identity and access management platforms that let organizations extend their internal security to the cloud and mobile remote devices in use today, as well as those establishing the IoT. Indeed, in a recent Ponemon Institute study, commissioned by CA Technologies, 64 percent of respondents said they’d like to improve cloud security in these types of platforms.

But doing so requires more than a new generation of software that allows IT to establish the identity of its people and IoT devices as the new perimeter. It requires new security processes and workflows. In fact, you could say that along with business models, new security models will be one of the hottest areas of innovation in the Internet of Things. For an interesting perspective on what this new security paradigm might look like, listen to the recent podcast from Mike Denning, General Manager of Security at CA Technologies.


This post was originally posted on CA.com’s Innovation Today blog