Big data is moving in with adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. And with it comes big challenges for wireless networks and CIOs who must securely manage the influx of information.
In their NI Trend Watch 2015 report, National Instruments (NI) summarizes the situation by saying, “The idea of a smarter world where systems with sensors and local processing are connected to share information is taking hold in every single industry. These systems will be connected on a global scale.” This concept is widely known as the IoT, which NI says “includes everything from smart homes, mobile fitness devices, and connected toys to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) with smart agriculture, smart cities, smart factories, and the smart grid.”
CIOs are expected to make this interconnected world reality by seamlessly connecting disparate devices and systems across the globe, while also addressing the changing demands of mobile workforces.
And they better do so quickly.
Experts at Business Insider predict that there will be “roughly 23 billion active IoT devices by the year 2019,” and that “spending on enterprise IoT products and services will reach $255 billion globally by 2019, up from $46.2 billion this year.”
These pros also believe that the “manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and information sectors will invest the most in IoT systems and devices in the next five years,” noting that manufacturers are “currently leading the industry to use IoT devices.” They estimate manufacturers’ total investment will “reach $140 billion over the next 5 years.”
High installation costs are one of the first barriers businesses must overcome. Once resolved, CIOs must minimize their risk for cyber attacks, while expertly addressing big-data challenges. This requires stricter IT requirements that:
- Ensure network security
- Increase bandwidth
- Support adaptable, scalable solutions
- Simplify maintenance and updates
Security screams for attention
With the IIoT’s reliance on machine-to-machine (M2M) precision, massive systems must flawlessly communicate with enterprises and each other from any location without intervention from humans. This requires superior network security so millions of dollars in assets aren’t jeopardized.
Topping the list of security concerns are smart grids, which are the technical infrastructures through which companies share and access digital data to improve efficiency, reliability, and sustainability—especially in the energy industry where smart-grid technology is already in use.
As the availability of information on the grids increases, so does the risk for security breaches. Ensuring that gap is tightly contained with knowledgeable IT personnel is critical to companies’ health and safety.
Equinix CIO Brian Lillie echoes the importance of having the right staff on board. When asked at the 2014 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium what obstacles plague his company’s IT strategic roadmap, Lillie responded with one simple word: Talent.
“We’ve been fortunate, but it’s only going to get harder to find talent with the skill sets you need.” Lillie specifically mentions “skilled data scientists and application program interface developers” as examples of the types of talent required “to accommodate the growing popularity of accessing cloud services via mobile devices and APIs” in the IIoT world.
Bandwidth commands center stage
One of the biggest advantages of the IIoT is better decision-making that comes from automatically sharing and analyzing large amounts of data through M2M communications. Sounds great, but how can organizations support this flood of information?
Traditional industrial networks weren’t designed to handle voluminous demands, but the next generation of wireless networks is. Companies such as Cisco, Aruba, and Motorola are delivering advanced mobility solutions that take advantage of wireless technologies, such as the high-speed 802.11 n, which is 4 – 5 times faster than its predecessor, 802.11 g.
To win the race for marketplace supremacy, companies must invest in new networks that expertly handle big data. Yet many CIOs struggle to find the ideal fit due to the onslaught of available options.
Stephen Neff, CTO at Fidelity Investments, sees this “velocity of change” as a hurdle to IT progress. “Not only is there so much change in our world right now between what used to be called ‘emerging technologies,’ but they are all hitting at the same time (i.e., mobile, big data, analytics, cloud). This significantly affects ongoing as well as pending strategic IT ventures across a wide range of organizations and industries.”
Among those is the requirement to implement new, secure technologies with the bandwidth and speed they need to embrace IoT solutions.
Adaptable, scalable systems take top billing
Finding the time to keep pace with new technologies is “easier said than done,” says Dieter Haban, CIO at Daimler Trucks North America. “There are so many interesting technologies out there, and there’s so little time to implement them fast enough.”
To work around network issues, many organizations like Haban’s are opting for quick solutions from vendors that “tack-on” needed functionality for supply chain visibility. But without connected wireless networks with comprehensive capabilities, IIoT businesses will still face roadblocks such as delays receiving alerts about catastrophic failures and the lack of instant access to analyzed data—both of which can cost companies time, money, and more.
End-to-end solutions aren’t lifesavers, either. While they may achieve needed harmony, they can leave companies with proprietary communication protocols that aren’t easy to upgrade. Organizations eventually end up where they started as advanced automation technologies surface.
That’s why Haban and other CIOs are improving their IT processes before investing in adaptive, scalable solutions that are easily updated through software or other functionality. This not only future-proofs their organizations; it ensures their investments deliver lasting rewards.
Maintenance ensures best performance
Setting up a scalable system isn’t the final task on companies’ checklists. As the tangled web of interconnected components grows, so does the need for proper maintenance and support.
IT personnel must continually modify and maintain networked systems for continued connectivity and top performance. For example, failure to update software leads to weaker systems that don’t effectively integrate, nor operate, as designed, leaving companies in the proverbial dust on the path to big data supremacy.
Kristin Darby, CIO for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, admits that balancing strategic priorities, such as maintaining software and systems, with regulatory demands is challenging.
“The main struggle for me and my team has been around balancing strategic priorities with all of the regulatory demands of healthcare providers, and I think that really lends itself to availability of qualified resources, capital—just time to execute and compete.” Darby cites recent revisions to the medical classification system as one such example. Compliance with these new regulations required a “dramatic amount of resources,” preventing Kristin and company from focusing on other issues related to network performance.
System ID can help
Change is never easy, especially when new advancements such as IoT solutions are forcing CIOs to address wireless network security, bandwidth, scalability, and maintenance issues. But for the benefits of big data to settle in, leaders must overcome these infrastructure challenges.
System ID, the leading provider of business process automation solutions, can help make the journey a little easier. We’re constantly uncovering new technology systems that pave the way for widespread IoT adoption. To learn more, give one of our advisors a call at 888.648.4452. And, to stay abreast of technology news, subscribe to the System ID blog, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.
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