The Internet of Things (IoT) Image

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has definitely been “buzzing” recently.

CES 2014 definitely got the conversation going with all of the cool innovations coming out of the conference.

Three days later Google made a big play to be relevant in the IoT by acquiring Nest, a producer of smart thermostats, for a whopping $3.2 billion dollars cash! That is nearly twice the amount Google spent on purchasing YouTube.

Three days later (again), Proof Point posted a press release stating that they found a rather large Cyberattack on Internet of Things devices!

Why is the Internet of Things such a big deal? Let’s start with the basics and go from there. So, what exactly is IoT?

What is the IoT?

IoT is based on the basic assumption that humans misinterpret information and poorly report into data inputs. Computers largely rely on human inputs, thus computers are forced to rely on inaccurate data. By having devices that can interpret and send data inputs, the IoT largely removes the inaccuracies of humans. This translates into devices communicating to each other instead of relying on humans to input external information.

Basically, the IoT is having inanimate objects that are connected thru the internet. This gives them the ability to communicate with other objects on the internet. These devices can gather and send data to automate processes. Here’s an example from Cisco’s Infographic:
IoT Infographic from Cisco
For a more in-depth definition, here is SANS Institute’s definition of what constitutes a “thing” on the IoT:
Image of SANS Institute definition of IoT "things"

So…Why is the IoT such a big deal?

IoT is a big deal because it is big money! Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, predicts that the IoT will essentially create a new economy with $1.9 trillion in economic value by 2020. The IoT is projected to affect numerous industries including:

  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Telecom

According to Mr. Sondergaard (SVP and Head of Global research at Gartner), the technology and telecom sectors alone are expected to bring in $309 billion per year in revenue by 2020! Has this got your attention yet? Because it has ours! New technologies always bring risks to both enterprises and consumers. Will consumers adopt the technology? Can we support and adapt quickly enough to the new technology? Can we effectively draw insights from data and maintain security of the data? We’ll cover some of the concerns in the next section!

What risks does the IoT bring?

Two of the largest concerns with the growth of the IoT are privacy and security.  Proof Point’s recent press release pushed the security concern front and center. Their press release revealed a global cyber-attack that affected many IoT devices. Here is the gist of what happened:

Infographic of Cyber-Attack

Even worse, in an article by Engadget, they revealed that “All of the devices are still infected, and will remain so until they are taken offline or receive a security update from their manufacturers.” Further concerns from Proof Point, is the ability of employees to unknowingly expose their work environment to attacks. With the trend of BYOD, people can access infected devices from their house and potentially infect a work network.

Security is always an issue in a connected world. If companies want consumers to adopt IoT tech, then they need to drastically improve the security of these devices. IoT devices inherently gather data that is very personal. What time did you wake up? Where did you go on your run? When are you out of the house? These are just some of the data that these devices gather. While the utility of IoT devices is clear, companies need to step up their game security.

What opportunities stem from IoT technologies?

The opportunities in IoT are rather transparent. From what we have already discussed, it should be apparent how IoT and IT are related. Along with other trends, IoT is pushing the importance of big data, security, and the cloud.

Big Data

The IoT means the generation of even more data. People create data when their on the internet, purchase a product, and now when you go on a run, or change your thermostat settings! As more devices collect data, the amount of data will explode and the ability to decipher it will be even more important. Cisco predicts that by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices, far outnumbering the number of humans. How will we harness the power of all this data?!


With all of this incoming data, comes the concern of security. Security has always been an issue, but how do you effectively secure all of these devices connected to the internet. We have already seen the importance of security from Proof Point’s report. Mr. Sondergaard sees a future of headlines raising awareness about security (and potentially creating fear) and companies need to be prepared for this.

Mr. Sondergaard offers the following advice for improving security: “The security of embedded technologies that your organization has right now may be the most important operational responsibility you will have in 2020”. Further steps to improving security include building a portfolio of security vendors and establishing more agile security processes.


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