Over the past few years, the internet of things has reshaped industries such as healthcare and manufacturing. IoT devices and applications, however, also play an increasing role in the enterprise.
From tracking IT assets to underpinning sustainability initiatives, IoT use cases in the enterprise continue to emerge and expand. IT leaders and their teams must plan accordingly.
The rise -- and risk -- of IoT devices
The real enabler for IoT was the widespread adoption of smartphones. One of the amazing things about electronic components is their economies of scale: As soon as vendors make a lot of them, costs plummet.
As billions of smartphones were produced, the cost of processors, memory, sensors and other components fell drastically. This made it possible to cram processors, memory and sensors into almost anything, enabling a wide range of smart devices, such as drones, thermostats and wearables.
Of course, in any gold rush, there are risks. With IoT -- particularly in the enterprise -- some risks are more obvious than others.
IoT devices have already invaded the domain of enterprise IT teams. In some cases, end users may bring their own IoT devices to work. Depending on company policies, these devices may not have access to the network, but they're still in the building. What's more, a landlord may install smart cameras or other IoT devices on company property.
BYOD was, and still is, a headache for enterprise IT. BYOD with IoT devices only complicates things further. Many consumer IoT devices simply fail at basic security. It is easy to find horror stories where hackers compromise an IoT device -- and, once hackers gain a foothold, they can often access critical resources.
The role of IoT in the enterprise
Despite its security challenges, IoT can benefit the enterprise. Use cases are not limited to healthcare or manufacturing, and they don't have to involve grand visions of smart cities.
For enterprises, the true power of IoT lies in its data and information. An IT team, for example, can use IoT devices to remotely monitor the temperature and humidity in a server room or to tag and manage IT assets. Teams can also use IoT devices to track occupancy throughout a building. Combining IoT data with other company data can streamline and improve IT and business processes. Why just track IT system inventory when you can also track its usage and maintenance?
Other, more unique IoT use cases have emerged in the enterprise. In the COVID-19 era, some companies use IoT devices to monitor indoor air quality. In addition, IoT can support an organization's environmental, social and governance initiatives. For example, continuous monitoring via IoT devices can decrease energy waste.
Some of these use cases might seem to fall outside the scope of an enterprise IT department -- but the role of IT is always changing. Not long ago, the focus was installing apps and backing up PCs. It was once about organizing punch cards and cleaning gears. Today, IT is about supporting systems that are a critical part of an organization. Increasingly, that will include IoT.