Thanks to recent advances in cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to reinvent the IT landscape and provide us with a seamlessly connected digital experience. As business operations and consumer attitudes begin to shift, IT professionals across every sector are familiarizing themselves with this new technology in order to future-proof their careers.
Of course, as appetites for interconnected devices rise, so will job opportunities within the space. Surveys in recent years report 63% of C-suite executives are planning to increase their reliance on IoT technology, and it’s estimated there will be over 75 billion connected devices by 2025. IoT development in the industrial sector alone is forecasted to add over $14 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
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With these predictions in mind, organizations across every sector are beginning to invest in IoT technology in an attempt to improve operations, transform business models, and enhance communications. It’s clear that the tech driving an organization has become just as essential to success as the product or service provided. The ability to access and leverage the swelling network of devices, data, and systems populating everyday life is crucial if a business or employee is to remain competitive.
As these investments grow, it is IT professionals that companies must turn to when considering how to manage these connections and interpret the data produced.
If you count yourself amongst these professionals, here are three implications of the evolving IoT you should consider to help you develop your career and succeed in ‘Industry 4.0’.
Privacy and Security
The privacy and security concerns inherent in IoT devices are disturbingly broad — so much so that the phrase ‘IoT security’ has already been dubbed an oxymoron. As the number of use-cases grows, so too will the risks.
With the technology still in its infancy, there is no standard security protocol for developers to work by. Similarly, end users are often without the tools or information necessary to mitigate risks themselves.
These rising security concerns have fuelled an explosion in consumer security software. Many tools like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have seen rapid growth in their user bases, some of which are even beginning to advertise their ability to protect users from IoT security risks. While they may provide suitable protection now, it’s unlikely that even the most reliable providers on the market will be a feasible solution for all IoT risks in the future.
The eventual scale of the technology — potentially millions of interconnected devices – currently dwarfs most implementations of consumer VPN software. The resources per-device needed to support a VPN are significant, as are the server-side requirements necessary to manage such a vast network. These costs add up quickly.
As a result, manufacturers and IT professionals will need to account for these vulnerabilities on both the commercial and consumer level. With smart devices handling everything from biometric data to home and business management, it’s paramount that professionals have the skills to identify and resolve a wide range of weaknesses.
In coming years, we’re likely to see the introduction of best practices and new methodologies for connecting IoT devices and addressing collective security issues. This may be through a common operating system, where solutions are application-based or mobile-operated. As it stands, neither companies nor consumers will want to fully connect in what remains a high-risk environment.
Transforming Business Architecture
The IT systems of a fully ‘integrated’ business will enhance operations by collecting data from millions of connected devices and transforming it into actionable insights. Eventually, these systems are likely to perform the majority of tasks autonomously and make decisions without the need for human involvement.
It is these ‘cyber-physical’ capabilities which comprise and define a functioning commercial IoT infrastructure, with everything from the tiniest sensors in manufacturing equipment to bulk consumer data informing the operational process.
Successfully incorporating IoT technology on this industrial level requires a complete reorganisation of a company’s IT architecture. Current formats rarely offer the resources the IoT needs; faultless connectivity, built-in redundancy, and an always-on network are crucial.
This means that technology stacks in a large number of businesses are likely to need redesigning to support billions of interdependent processing events per year, per month, or more.
Ultimately, if you and your company want to extract value from the IoT, make sure your underlying architecture is as strong and fully optimized as it can be.
Internal Convergence and Analysis
Once you’ve considered your long-term tactics and architecture, it’s sensible to address the potential for internal convergence points. Many commercial IoT applications can effectively bridge both information technology and operational technology.
This kind of union is ideal. As the physical machines generate data and the IT department governs it, the information can be shared with other departments including operations, marketing, sales, development, and more. In turn, these departments can convert the data into insights and use it to drive productivity, sales, or savings.
As well as operational data, many industries see the IoT as a potential goldmine for harvesting consumer data – and understandably so. That being said, this data is only as valuable as its analysis. Organisations and professionals capable of identifying patterns and trends amidst the sheer volume of data will be highly sought after.
Despite the inevitable importance of analysis, IT professionals shouldn’t underestimate the value of interdisciplinary skills. Understanding what type of consumer data is important and how it might be used to refine and improve IoT products is just as useful as being able recognise the trends and patterns therein.
Even as the industry adjusts to the ascension of the IoT, tomorrow’s desirable skills are likely to remain similar to today’s. Privacy and security remain a perennial issue, and analytical skills continue to develop in scale and value – working to repay Big Data’s benefits back to the end user. Other concerns, like the need for large-scale architectural reformatting, will offer new challenges.
While theory and projection are currently outpacing actual implementation, soon we will be met with an expansive network that stitches together billions of devices, sensors, and a constant stream of data.
This is likely to integrate with every major business at some point. Whether it’s for large enterprise or SMBs, IT professionals must commit to constant learning to find their place in the industry’s future and help users confidently tackle an even more connected world.
William Chalk is a security researcher at Top10VPN.