Internet of Things: Risks and Opportunities for Businesses

Internet of Things: Risks and Opportunities for Businesses

By Saif Ahmad, Founding CEO of Hallwaze Inc.

Intelligent devices and their ever growing network encompassing our daily lives emerged as the utopian idea for our Tech savvy generation. As predicted by research firm IDC, by 2020 there will be over 28 billion objects with data exchange capabilities. Internet of Things is already on the way to materialize as the next big tech trend. Its enormous growth rate can be presumed from a report by Gartner Inc. indicating that use of IoT devices in 2015 was up by 30% from 2014 with over 4.9 billion connected devices. Furthermore, according to IDC predictions, IoT market will hit $7.1 Trillion by 2020.

IoT is central to smart homes, smart shopping, smart transportation and smart healthcare. Embedded software, hardware devices, communication services are interconnected forming a complicated network of information most of which are stored in the internet. With increased proliferation of internet networks, security emerged as the most critical factor in its existent infrastructure as devices are vulnerable to sophisticated hacking activities. In fact, the perilous security condition has facilitated the protrusion of a massive IoT security market side by side. According to a forecast by Technavio, the global IoT security market will grow at a CAGR of 54.93% over the period 2014 to 2019. Hence, IoT is striking the business world with both risks and opportunities.

With increasing connections of billions of devices, security attacks and data thefts will emerge as the daunting challenge for the industry. Above this, an alarming condition of public insecurity might shape up owning to vulnerable exposure of sensitive personal information within the cloud domain. IoT has decentralized the entry points for malware exposing a smart network to potential security threats. As loads of devices are interconnected in a smart system, a minute security glitch in a device may create the loophole to the entire network exposing every bit of information within it. A report by Cisco on cyber security threads has identified a number of aspects related to IoT security. The report reveals that IoT devices could be used as infection vectors to spread malware across organizations.

Infection could lead to denial-of-service attacks causing serious damage to life and property. As IoT devices are increasingly used in extremely sensitive industry such as health, they now form the critical parts of life saving mechanisms and emergency systems. Any failure in such devices in a critical juncture of life and death could lead to loss of life of a patient.

Furthermore, as remote sensors and monitoring are materializing as the core of IoT, data control and ownership in business organizations will become more sensitive. This will drive compliance issues to become pertinent across every industry vertical. Unique compliance frameworks developed and customized according to unique requirements of businesses will emerge. For adequate data protection, development of new security framework will gain an evolutionary trend, as they will have to evolve consecutively to deal with new and evolving security threats. In fact, the evolutionary nature of IoT is set to complicate the industry. With a huge number of players in IoT, enterprises will have to follow multiple standards, protocols along with large number of compliances.

Despite of its complicacies, IoT has been successful in creating hype primarily because of advantages it offers. Cost saving, improved process operations, higher productivity, obtaining real time information, forming massive networks to overcome geographical boundaries and innovations in business are primary advantages offered by this new technology. IoT brings down operational cost of business substantially, as it sidelines the need of expensive infrastructure by encouraging an extended utilization of Cloud. Businesses are becoming more automated resulting efficient and agile process structures. IoT eradicates possible human errors as human intervention are becoming less relevant in business.

Improving these aspects, businesses can ensure higher productivity and reap maximum profits out of their operations.  IoT has facilitated business expansion across large geographical locations and offer more pervasive services or products to customers. As it improves supply chain management and facilitates real time tracking, enterprises gain radical advantages to manage the business through IoT.

To harness the potentials of IoT optimally, the threads and complicacies in this technology must be addressed intuitively. Threat centric and an automated approach to security will must be leveraged to gain maximum advantage out of smart IoT networks. Operational technology of used devices must be integrated to IT platforms within businesses after intensive scrutiny and through research. As OT layers in these devices are the most vulnerable entry points for malicious agents, more intensive technology must be developed aimed at increasing its integrity with Internet security protocols.

The increased operational efficiency offered by IoT could offer a win-win situation to business as well as to consumers, while improving their quality of life. Effectual Intelligence can be generated using combined information from smart devices. However, the emergent network structure is also advocating sheer vulnerabilities to the whole infrastructure. As sensitive information critical to business as well as personal lives of users will be disposed in the network or in the cloud, without a strong and properly maintained security infrastructure, the fear of data leakage to malicious entities will always exist.