IoT for Enterprise: 4 Concerns to Consider Before Deployment

By Michael Lamp

IoT is a buzzword that takes on a whole new meaning when implemented on an enterprise level. The level of customization for each use case means that even the basics get more complicated when it comes to the Internet of Things.
 
Here are some of the main concerns businesses tend to face when it comes to deploying IoT:

Custom solutions mean additional privacy, security concerns
What happens if it breaks or malfunctions? What happens if it’s hacked? What’s happens if it’s stolen? There are a host of questions when it comes to security and privacy across IoT in your organization.

Your typical IT department is dealing with a good bit of standardization across operating systems or networks. That’s why security certifications from Microsoft, Dell or Cisco can help them better manage Windows errors, network logins, drives and stores. However, the digital ecosystem in IoT tends to have much more customization that spans a variety of different devices. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all IoT solution, there’s no standard security certification to help keep it safe.
 
Encrypted data means nothing if someone steals a sensor from a field in your agricultural IoT deployment. A “man in the middle attack,” where a hacker intercepts communications between two systems, can occur in exploited vulnerabilities across hardware and software depending on which weakness they find first.
 
Add to that the level of different hardware security risks from sensors and mobile devices to drones and robots and security and the complexity increases. Tally up the privacy concerns from hacked data and an IoT dream can turn into a nightmare.

Interoperability standards are crucial
Deploying IoT isn’t like putting a product on a shelf. It needs to be constantly updated and improved to keep up with not only industry best practices but also privacy and security concerns.

On the hardware side, the wide variety of parts and pieces included in IoT means that you might have to engage with original equipment manufacturers. All of those parts and pieces have to work together and if they don’t, you can have some real problems. Ensure that whoever is heading up your project checks for things like secure key storage or tamper protection in each and every piece of hardware throughout your system to verify security. An experienced partner should build this into the planning component of your deployment.
 
For software, you’ll have to think of all the operating systems that could be involved in your IoT project. It’s not just making sure your app plays nicely on iOS and Android, but negotiating networks outside Ethernet like LAN or ZigBee.  To avoid some problems like these, integrate a robust and thorough testing plan early on in your process. Before you even begin to develop your system, consult the internal team or external partner leading your solution.

Converging IT and OT
Blending your information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) teams is an effort in and of itself—and that’s not even the entire equation. You’re familiar with the IT pillar in your organization. Those are the folks that administer data and computers in your network.
 
Gartner defines OT in this way: “(Operational Technology) is hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events in the enterprise.”

Your OT team has the experience of managing networks in the field. They are the ones with more experience securing the “things” that will be all throughout the Internet of Things solution you deploy.

In IoT, however, both teams have to share duties managing custom software and its interactions with the cloud, neither of which are in the average IT or OT staff’s normal tool belt. The project lead should help play liaison between IT and OT teams as well to manage this process.
 
Hosting concerns can plague IoT as well
Devices can communicate to other devices, the cloud or gateways. Once you’ve decided how the cloud will work into your IoT solution, the right application service provider (ASP) can provide offsite hosting solutions to lighten up your in-house infrastructure investment.

A platform that connects to the sensors collecting information, then stores it and visualizes it will serve your business needs both during deployment, when you want to report out metrics, but also all the way through to hardware end of life or whenever you may need to make changes based on data collected.
 
Find the right guide throughout the process
The bad news is that there isn’t really a way to remove the need for a strong end-to-end security solution or find the right blend of IT and OT. The good news is the right guidance can make this process much simpler.
 
There will be some partners you might have to bring on—say for external hosting or one last security sweep. However, adding too many can compound the above issues even further. Be sure, whether they are an internal team lead or an external lead partner, that you have one person on point to make your IoT deployment a success you can be proud of enterprise-wide.

Michael Lamp is Director of Americas IoT Business Development at Avnet.Working alongside Avnet’s IoT team, he is focused on assisting customers to create secure and connected products. At Avnet, he strives to make technology relevant to customers; he has held positions in Applications Engineering, Management, and Technical Marketing. Michael’s 20-year career in technology ranges from automation systems to communications infrastructure, as well as experience in computer forensics for E-discovery. Michael holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Boston University.

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