There are a number of buzzwords that we are seeing more and more of, three of them are “Internet of Things”, also known as IoT. While this seems like something that’s up in the cloud (see what I did there?), the reality is that IoT is coming a lot closer to home for our businesses and personal lives.
What is IoT
The Internet of Things is literally that, it’s a bunch of “things” networked together. These could be wearable technologies like your Apple Watch or Fitbit, through to devices like your fridge – monitoring its own temperature and letting you know when the door has been left open. This used to be the technology of science fiction, but it is rapidly permeating our lives and becoming a (very affordable) reality. I modified my own fridge to let me know via instant message when the door is left open or when the temperature rises over 10 degrees, and I did that for under R200 (around $15).
What are the dangers
With any device becoming mainstream, the risks increase of software developers taking shortcuts, or mass producers not paying enough attention to security. In 2016 we saw a major chunk of the internet as a whole go down, when Dyn – one of the largest DNS providers in the world – got attacked by over 100,000 infected IoT devices running insecure and outdated software. These hacks are not becoming a reality, they are a reality, and it’s important to know about the risks.
How do you protect yourself
There are many ways to use technology responsibly, and even these seemingly dangerous, shortcut riddled devices can be updated and managed to be safe for your home and your business. Outgoing traffic from your network can be blocked, devices exist to monitor security, and proper installation and auditing of devices can give you a sound and clear piece of mind. Your digital strategy can include all of these aspects, and an experienced consultant can help you see your blind-spots!
What are the benefits?
The benefits of IoT in the workplace are fantastic, think of everything you can monitor and act on. If you take a look at server room monitoring, a traditional temperature monitoring device will set you back around R12,000 (around $1,000) for a monitor with three probes for temperature alone. The same configuration, running on a Raspberry Pi and ESP8266 Microcontrollers, will set you back around R1,200 (about $100), and will monitor three different temperatures as well as the humidity in the room. This is great for keeping static and heat at bay, for a staggering price difference. No longer are these systems only in the domain of the giant enterprise!
Aside from computer health, IoT can even help for things like office health and safety. With a plethora of low cost sensors available, you can monitor anything from from gas leaks, to light levels, noise levels, and even humidity. You can configure automated “what if” scenarios, such as detecting the presence of water on a floor and notifying a cleaning or plumbing crew, while simultaneously locking access to that area.
Where to now?
It is important to not just apply IoT because “it is cool”, but to have a defined strategy with a considered direction for implementation. Both IoT and security thereof should be considered in your digital strategic planning. A well balanced technology strategy coupled with sound advice can lead you on a path to greatly increasing internal efficiency in your business, saving you time, and potentially a lot of cost in equipment that would normally have to be checked manually.