In the current generation enterprise systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) is providing a promising opportunity to further business efficiency bringing digital assets working on sensor devices into the workplace, realizing the idea of Enterprise of Things (EoT). Leveraging the growing pervasiveness of wireless communication, embedded systems, and smart sensors to achieve critical business activities like decision making and data acquisition, EoT facilitates new innovative business operative models and revenue streams.
Traditional IT infrastructure when connected with other physical endpoints allows businesses to improve the scalability and efficiency of physical operations. EoT plays a key role in providing the right level of integration in enterprise systems bridging the gap between physical assets and the IT infrastructure. It help foster a more customer centric approach with enhanced employee customer engagement.
The enterprise adoption of the Internet of Things is an ever-evolving process and is expected to multiply in the coming years. It drives new levels of business transformations and introduces some significant management challenges that the enterprise IT should prepare to deal with. Businesses will have to extend their current architecture to accommodate EoT. It also escalates the cybersecurity risks, asset management challenges, and the requirement of redefining many of the enterprise policies.
Pondering how to address the EoT management challenges and what all needs to be protected amid this shift is quite crucial while implementing a proper management strategy. This guide will give you insights on the EoT capabilities that could transform your organization into a digital business, the strategic changes brought about by EoT adoption in your workplace, and the proactive EoT management measures that could be instituted by UEMs to gain holistic control across your business.
What is Enterprise of Things (EoT)?
Enterprise of Things (EoT) is the enterprise adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and so before coming to EoT, let me brief what IoT is.
Internet of Things or IoT is one of the most-hyped technological initiatives enabled by the enhancements in embedded systems, communication technologies, smart sensors, actuators, and internet protocols. It constitutes a set of uniquely addressed, identified, and connected physical and digital components that can gather, integrate, analyze, and exchange data using inter-operable information and communication technologies without the involvement of humans.
Some common IoT devices
Physical Access Control Solution — Used to automatically open or close door locks with authorized access.
HVAC Systems — Stands for Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Provides heating and cooling effects according to change in the environmental conditions.
Network Cameras — Work based on deep learning algorithms to ensure video security and do video analysis.
PLC — Stands for Programmable Logic Controller. A ruggedized digital computer that helps in controlling the manufacturing process.
PACS — Stands for Picture Archiving and Communication System. Medical imaging technology that uses digital images instead of x-ray films.
NAS — Stands for Network Attached Storage. Allow authorized users to store and retrieve data from a centralized location.
Cloud-connected UPS — Helps in managing the health of UPS systems.
Out-of-Band Controllers — Acts as an interface to manage and monitor the hardware of the server.
Wireless Access Points — Acts as a portal for devices to connect with local area networks.
VoIP servers — Helps in connecting calls to different telephone networks.
HL7 Gateways — Software platforms that enable standardized communication to ensure interoperability of medical software applications.
IoT is a blanket term that refers to a wide range of underlying technologies related to connectivity, virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 5G and machine learning enabled analytics, process automation, big data, and so on. IoT has different forms, including commercial IoT, consumer IoT, industrial IoT, infrastructure IoT, etc., and has a remarkable role in various sectors like education, healthcare, transportation, science, military, government, retail, hospitality, and business. Though IoT is acting as a game changing technology for the consumer base since its introduction, it is only recently had IoT paved its way to the business world. Now, IoT is evolving into a key contributor to digitalization initiatives in organizations.
Consumer IoT vs. Enterprise IoT
Enterprise of Things: Harnessing the power of IoT in the enterprise
The Enterprise adoption of the Internet of Things or simply Enterprise of Things (EoT) allows accommodating physical objects with embedded systems within the business premises to minimize manual efforts and save costs. EoT opens up the opportunity to improve the visibility of business operations and thereby influence the overall business agility. Owing to the ground-breaking innovations in the technology realm, EoT is helping in monitoring and automating many of the business operations. Being able to automate and keep track of all the menial tasks can do wonders with the overall business efficiency.
EoT can not only support the peripheral parts of the current business processes but can also become the new enterprise normal by replacing the existing systems and completely revolutionize how people work. Even though EoT in a broad sense is not a near-term phenomenon and is still in its early stage, there are many businesses that are already primed to reap the benefits of EoT as a significant part of their working procedure. EoT is gradually gaining popularity, impacting a business’s data storage capability, management functions, accessibility, network connectivity, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), security infrastructure, CRM (Customer Resource Management), and more.
EoT has an array of benefits for businesses though the struggle to integrate it into your system may not always go smoothly. Here we will decipher the actual benefits of EoT, which proves that EoT, along with intelligence distribution and data gathering, is not a wastage of time.
- EoT connects people at work and on the move to ensure higher service quality and safety.
- Enterprises will get a greater ability to change work processes as they have more insights into the business operations, product, and internal systems.
- Optimized asset utilization, reduced human intervention, and reduced overhead costs.
- An improved decision making capability.
- Enables new business models and collaboration methods.
- EoT is at the core of forces enhancing customer experience. EoT adoption is one of the promising factors that differentiate a data-driven business from its competitors by making it more profitable and smarter.
- EoT helps smoothen the process of connecting devices at remote locations taking communication to the next level. Cloud-based EoT systems, along with machine-to-machine communication, connects devices at different units to streamline operations.
- Continuously monitor the state of devices.
- Improves the implementation of big data solutions to ensure real-time availability of data.
- Revolutionize many essential business functions, including process automation, analytics, and quality analysis.
- Detects the pain points in the business process to pinpoint efficiency.
- Make businesses socially and environmentally responsible in tackling global challenges by reducing energy consumption and wastage powering an intelligent work procedure.
Some common EoT use cases
IoT can have different use cases when it comes to its enterprise usage. Devices with real-time location provisions, smart metering, energy management systems, smart warehousing, and intelligent devices particular to the business niche are examples of IoT gadgets used by businesses.
Here is a list of some common use cases of EoT:
- Remote sensing of hazardous locations — IoT equipped drones can be used to analyze and evaluate hazardous environments before sending field workers to those places.
- Device condition monitoring — The working condition of different devices can be monitored with the help of embedded IoT sensors, and the analytic data can be transmitted to other devices. This helps in determining which all devices need maintenance services. This also helps in prolonging the device’s life span. Asset optimization is another critical aspect. Real-time data and analytics from key assets like frontline worker devices help in using these assets to their maximum potential.
- Detect environmental changes — Change in operational conditions like temperature, humidity, and vibration ranges can be detected using specific sensors and RFID technologies. Work processes can be altered automatically according to the changes in the external factors.
- Collision avoidance systems– Construction companies can launch collision avoidance services with IoT devices to reduce the risk of accidents.
- Smart parking at office premises — Real-time parking space availability checking equipment and parking sensors are some of the recent parking trends enabled by IoT technology.
- Remote work — The corporate ecosystem of connected physical equipment enables employees to work from any location with seamless collaboration.
- Workspace distribution — Sensors can help in identifying vacant rooms and distribute convenient workspaces to the employees. They can also help in predicting the availability of conference rooms for scheduled meetings.
- Product quality assurance — IoT scanners can check the product quality and initiate changes in the production line if there is no satisfactory result. These systems can work efficiently than human supervisors.
- Video surveillance — This is an important security feature that helps in reducing human errors while monitoring video feeds. Intelligent image detection algorithms and smart sensors help in identifying unauthorized employee presence in forbidden areas.
- Self-optimizing production — EoT helps optimize the production process by making automated adjustments to improve quality and prevent failures.
- Fleet management — EoT helps in managing the vehicles of the workers in real time. With greater insights on the fleet location, condition, and usage, companies can reduce repair and maintenance costs.
EoT: Challenges and considerations
Companies considering EoT faces some significant challenges. Speedy uptake of IoT devices into the enterprise can end up in inherent flaws that can put the corporate data at risk. Enterprises either if are getting started with EoT or are looking to get ahead of the curve expanding their current structure, encounter similar challenges to deploy, manage, monitor, and maintain IoT devices in the enterprise.
Here are some top enterprise concerns on EoT:
- Security is the prime concern — EoT can increase the enterprise attack surface. EoT space is mostly talked about from the security perspective as several security issues caused by IoT devices in the enterprise are having a trivial impact on the business outcomes depending on the business criticality. IoT devices have been created with mere functionality in mind, not security. In most EoT use cases, the devices are collecting extremely sensitive data, which increases the security concerns further. No need to mention the negative impact this can cause on the IT infrastructure and data capabilities.
The risk of IoT devices being hacked is far greater than for any previous technology assets due to many reasons:
- Too many IoT devices in the workplace give little thought to security basics like encryption and password protection.
- Poorly structured EoT can quickly introduce organizations to security vulnerabilities or simply leak data.
- There can be vulnerabilities in the device itself. Threat actors exploit known vulnerabilities to compromise the device.
- Not much known patching software.
- Degradation of software security over time.
- Not investing in security control due to too much focus on profit.
- Lack of standardization of data communication protocols.
- Usage of old devices. Devices that have passed their end-of-life period can have unfixable vulnerabilities.
- Lack of awareness due to the relatively new nature of the technology.
- More sophisticated threats.
- Lack of integration with legacy technologies.
- Sudden changes to the business ecosystem.
- Large number of devices to monitor and lack of proper management technologies.
- Open ports can expose network services.
- Flaws in software.
- Device connectivity and potential communication can possess an issue. Devices that reside on the same network can be reached by threat actors even if they haven’t communicated in the past.
EoT introduces potential cybersecurity risks to an organization as attackers are actively targeting IoT devices such as routers and webcams on which IoT botnets can be very easily introduced even at the workplace. Identity theft is another important concern that businesses are most worried about as it is relatively easy to get access to a person’s details from just a few sensor readings.
2. Management difficulties — Compared to the thousands of laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and other endpoints in the workplace, IoT devices are much complex and hence very difficult to manage, especially when there is a large bulk of devices to monitor, such as in workplaces. In any business system, the diversity and growing number of connected devices pose a management challenge that can be small or severe. Managing the enormous amount of data flowing to and fro the connected devices is also really important.
3. Privacy concerns — Connected devices in the workplace have brought an increase in privacy risk level that has never been seen before. Enterprises have employees who are always concerned about their privacy. With all the sensors collecting data on everything people do in the workplace, EoT is potentially a vast privacy headache. What all data is collected and what happens to this data is an ever-growing concern for the employees that the businesses need to address. Organizations need to tackle unprecedented data privacy and compliance risks on top of the security challenges. They also need to be compliant with local, national, and global regulations.
4. Flexibility — Businesses should move quickly and remain prepared to accommodate connected products.
5. Latency — It is quite difficult to make the data collected by IoT devices actionable. It became physically impossible to transmit terabytes of collected data to a centralized location for processing.
An actionable management plan to win EoT
There is no easy fix for EoT management concerns. It is quite challenging to move up and down this new technology stack. For a solid starting point, businesses should develop a strategy to embrace end-to-end EoT defense to compete successfully without pushing the enterprise IT to the breaking point. The enterprise’s EoT management plan should address the security-privacy trade-offs and show how to stay in control.
Here is a list of best practices that lay the foundation to build the business and technology as securely as possible to continue to foster EoT growth and impact:
- Adopt EoT that is practical and affordable for your business niche. Select the EoT technology that your business can build on and expand the current facilities to accommodate EoT. Also, ensure interoperability between the devices.
- Get a proper grip on existing assets and discover what else is out there to manage and protect IoT devices.
- Know your EoT landscape and locate your company’s critical IoT assets. Businesses should analyze what device they are dealing with and at what stage they become vulnerable. Check what all new devices are entering your corporate network and inspect them before they connect.
- Appoint a team accountable for EoT security. The team will be monitoring the EoT compliance with corporate policies, detect security loopholes, run regular audits, and ensure that software patches are up to date.
- Educate your employees and demand the best security practices from their end. Define a common jargon of IoT security and teach users on techniques deployed to protect IoT and easy ways to identify risks.
- Have data backups always ready in order to ensure business continuity in case of a system breach.
- Meet with your employees and sketch out an EoT roadmap that best works for your team.
- Have proper software and firmware updates.
- Get complete control over your IoT assets. With a defined asset and organizational scope, create and enforce effective policies to establish an overall authority.
- Define what roles each employee has to play with EoT and make sure that only the right people can use the right assets.
- Centralize asset logs to make sure that the IT team is able to recognize threats before a potential breach.
- Take a multi-layered security approach. Enforce multi-factor authentication and practice the use of strong passwords, which acts as the first line of defense.
- Separate IoT devices from the main network and use an independent network like a virtual LAN for them.
- Mandate VPN and data encryption.
- Practice the use of IoT technologies and networks designed around the concept of security.
- Anticipate future needs, practice proactive protection and watch out for emerging threats.
- It is good to join an Information Sharing and Analysis Center to get and share threat intelligence.
- Understand how the sensor data are used and ensure that only data linked to clear business objectives are collected.
- Enforce compliance and be sure to meet all the compliance regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy regulation to strengthen data protection.
- Consider UEM to manage all the things in your workplace. To realize the full potential of EoT, you’ll need the right solution. Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is one such tool that reduces data breach risks with EoT and increases the overall resilience of networks across the enterprise. Your entire enterprise assets, not just EoT need a centralized and holistic management approach that aligns different business processes concerning traditional work devices and IoT smart devices. Enterprises should leverage UEM solutions to have a centralized approach to EoT management and new technology integration to existing systems ensuring all elements work well together.
The evolution from MDM to EMM and finally to UEM was driven by the urge to meet new management aspects, secure new work devices, and cope with the proliferation of acceptable non-conventional and ruggedized devices in the workplace. UEM is a more comprehensive replacement to all the previous management trends and can take care of everything in the workplace, including mobile devices, desktops, laptops, IoT devices like smartwatches and AR glass, along with other endpoints. There are dedicated IoT management platforms available, and UEM can’t always replace such solutions. But from an organization point of view, when you have already managed endpoints, UEM acts as a cost-effective solution as it acts as a single pane to control everything in your work premises.
The following are some EoT management features that Hexnode UEM offers:
- Support for smart TVs like Apple TV, Android-powered displays, barcode scanners, RFID readers. We are looking to add support for wearables, printers, and other smart devices in the near future.
- Seamless endpoint manageability with a see-through view of the entire process through a single pane of glass for every network connected devices, along with remote management features like remote monitoring and control and real-time compliance and risk reporting. Helps in detecting new or suspicious devices connected to the system.
- Automated enforcement of policy-based control with countermeasures to mitigate threats, data loss and compliance gaps.
- Zero-touch and bulk provisioning methods for scaled and high-volume endpoint deployment can meet the onboarding needs of even the largest and most demanding businesses.
- Identity and access management features help manage who has privileges to access a device and data contained in it.
- Security management features help in addressing most of the EoT security concerns. Vulnerability and patch management, encryption and password enforcement, data loss prevention, and mandatory VPN connections to keep EoT devices isolated from other endpoints.
- Application adaption with an enterprise application store experience.
- Over-the-air software updates.
- Remote troubleshooting and life cycle management of devices.
- Expense management features to cut down data usage and other potential costs.
- Helps in maintaining GDPR compliance.
Companies currently have a timely opportunity to lay down the building blocks for the new era of a one-of-a-kind business line. With the range of future-proof EoT management solutions offered by UEMs, businesses can attain traction in the EoT space and position themselves to stake a claim in one of the biggest market opportunities of this generation.