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Gauging the IoT Fear Factor

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Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things (IoT) is still running high, but there seems to be a growing undercurrent of concern that the challenges of supporting such an infrastructure are more significant than they first appeared and that even the benefits might not be entirely positive.

None of this is enough to halt or even slow down deployment, of course, which is likely to see a dramatic upswing as we head into the new decade. But it does mean that the enterprise still has a few things to figure out on the IoT, particularly when it comes to many of its anticipated use cases.

Security is certainly a perennial concern, but now that the IoT is up and running, it is starting to manifest itself in stark terms. According to a recent study by ReRex Research, a good quarter of enterprises are seeing security-related IoT losses of $34 million or greater. Protecting against these losses is a far more complicated matter than in the traditional data center or even the cloud. With literally millions of devices already connected, threat vectors have expanded exponentially, as has the challenge of integrating a federated security apparatus throughout the entire IoT data chain. Already, firms are reporting data breaches on the IoT at six times the rate of traditional infrastructure, including a 4.5-fold increase in malware and ransomware attacks.

Beyond security, however, many organizations are just now starting to realize the huge management and integration burden the IoT represents. New research from Dynatrace has nearly 70 percent of IT executives expecting the IoT to become a significant performance management burden in the near future, while nearly three quarters think it will have a collateral impact on their business operations, most likely diminishing revenues in some way.

One key concern is that user expectations have gotten so high that organizations that do not provide flawless IoT experiences all the time will suffer blows to their reputations and eventual obsolescence. This is of particular concern for companies involved in life-critical applications, such as driverless cars and connected health care devices, where failure could produce that most dire of consequences: loss of human life. The Catch-22 here is that attempts to over-manage these environments in the form of, say, constant upgrades and security patches, could impede performance just as easily, most likely through service disruption and diminished visibility.

Even the proper functioning of IoT infrastructure may come back to bite the enterprise, says Raconteur’s Daniel Thomas. A case in point is John Deere, which has been selling connected smart tractors to farmers around the world for several years now. The machines are equipped with multiple sensors designed to capture data on planting, yields and operating conditions of the tractors themselves. Farmers, however, are starting to complain that they can no longer fix their own tractors like in the old days, but must pay hundreds of dollars to an authorized repair shop not just for the repair but for new software, new sensors and other high-tech equipment.

At the same time, some are starting to question the impact that mass data collection will have on the very farmers that are doing the collecting. While on one level it may help them control costs and boost yields, it may also become available to commodities brokers and other speculators who may then, in turn, drive prices for a particular crop up or down, ultimately diminishing farmers’ incomes.

It’s the rare technology that doesn’t emerge without a fair share of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), so it’s important to note that all of the concerns arising over the IoT are solvable; security can be tightened, management can be streamlined, data usage rules can be refined.

But each and every solution will likely alter the efficacy of the IoT, so that in the end it will probably not live up to the headiest expectations of today. It is safe to assume, however, that no matter how it evolves, the IoT will produce a net positive for the human race.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

 

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