The internet of things (IoT) is, without doubt, one of the hottest topics in technology at the moment. But, in a world where enterprise IT solutions mingle with industrial air conditioning units and plumbing systems, many resellers still seem uncertain as to how best to approach this burgeoning market, and where its biggest opportunities lie.
There are already several examples of security breaches that illustrate the consequences of melding the worlds of IT and operational technology (OT). The US Department of Homeland Security has admitted that hackers worked their way onto remotely controlled thermostats in a government building and a manufacturing plant in New Jersey - and this was as far back as four years ago. Elsewhere the US Food and Drug Administration last year issued a warning to healthcare providers that certain digitised drug pumps were dangerously vulnerable to a hack that could potentially have admitted intruders to remotely alter patients' doses.
For cybercriminals to access the ‘things' is bad enough, but perhaps even greater fear lies in the possibility that connected objects could offer a side entrance onto a company's wider network. John Smith, cloud and IoE lead EMEAR distribution at Cisco, believes that, as businesses move towards an IoT world, the increased proximity of OT and IT will bring security challenges.
"People should be concerned about security. When we look at the number of devices that are already connected already and passing data between each other, this is not something where you can just go off and connect everything up, start analysing the data and work on parts of it being secure and parts of it not being secure," he explained. "People who work on the industrial side - as opposed to the IT world that we generally spend our time in - they are used to having siloes and proprietary systems, which they have always felt have been pretty secure because they were unconnected. But even taking those systems and growing them to the number of connections [needed] and keeping them separate is still a security risk.
"And if you want any of the business advantages of bringing these industrial-type connections into the enterprise network, into the cloud, where you can analyse the data, work on it and get business value - then security is absolutely essential. I think it is absolutely key that security can't be something that's fifth on your on the list; it should be something you think about from the outset, and make sure you have a holistic approach."
Smith's comments were made during a recent webinar hosted by CRN UK and our sister publication Channelnomics Europe, in which we took an in-depth look at the IoT market, and how and where resellers can best look to engage with it. Research conducted of our live audience on the day suggested that there is already significant uptake among channel players across Europe, with two thirds (66.7) per cent claiming that, not only are they currently selling IoT, but that it has become a key offering. A further 4.8 per cent indicated that, although they are offering their customers IoT solutions, they have not yet seen great success, with 28.5 per cent claiming that they are not yet selling IoT tech, but are hoping to do so.
Our webinar panel agreed that the biggest opportunities in the IoT sphere - for both VARs and their customers - could come in the world of analytics. David Hartwell, IoT and digital transformation consultant at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA, pointed to the potential of connected items to provide businesses with valuable insights in the moment.
"The real key benefit is the difference between analysing information that has happened historically, and gaining real-time insight right now," he said. "The corollary of that is you have to be able to act in real time; it's a transformational change to businesses and they have to make a decision: are we ready to be able to deal with all this information in real time? If all we're doing with IoT is sticking data a cloud somewhere to analyse later, that is really missing a massive opportunity to gain real-time insights."
Elsewhere in the webinar (pictured above right) topics up for discussion included how channel sales and marketing professionals can best position IoT, who resellers should be selling to, key vertical markets and use cases, and much more besides. To watch the whole thing - completely free of charge - simply click here and complete the 30-second registration process.
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