Companies say IoT matters but don't agree how to secure it

An IDC survey shows a majority of enterprises consider IoT strategic to their future

A majority of enterprises say the internet of things is strategic to their business, but most still take a piecemeal approach to IoT security.

Those results from a global IDC survey conducted in July and August reveal both the promise and the growing pains of IoT, a set of technologies that may help many industries but can’t simply be plugged in. The 27-country survey had more than 4,500 respondents, all from organizations with 100 or more employees.

For 56 percent of enterprises, IoT is part of their strategic plans for the next two or three years, IDC analyst Carrie MacGillivray said on a webcast about the results. But the state of adoption varies widely among industries. Manufacturing companies are investing the most in the technology, with retail and financial services – especially insurance – also on the cutting edge.

Governments, health-care companies and utilities are moving more slowly, IDC says. One reason is the work of making sure these new systems comply with regulations, especially in health care. And despite vendors heavily promoting “smart cities” filled with countless integrated IoT systems, most governments have only deployed point solutions so far, MacGillivray said.

Overall, their biggest challenges in deploying IoT revolved around security and privacy. But most are taking an “ad hoc” approach to security, doing things like securing individual devices using firewalls. However, 23 percent said they are integrating security processes into their IoT workflow. No single approach has won out yet, MacGillivray said.

Finding people with the right job skills is another thing that makes IoT difficult, respondents said. That's a pain point especially in terms of crunching all the data that flows in from the new systems.

Also, most enterprises haven’t taken advantage of edge computing, which may be one of the most important parts of IoT, according to IDC. A majority of organizations that have deployed IoT devices just use them to collect data and send it to the cloud or a data center for processing.

That’s not the best way to use IoT, MacGillivray said. Deep analysis of long-term data sets can yield insights, but real-time monitoring can allow IoT systems to take corrective action in case of failures or hazardous conditions. This requires some computing at the edge in IoT devices or gateways.

“The faster you process the data, the more valuable it becomes,” MacGillivray said. Doing analysis at the edge also reduces the need for network bandwidth to get data to the cloud.

Big vendors like Cisco Systems, Dell, IBM and Intel are pushing edge computing, but most IoT users apparently aren’t using it yet. However, 43 percent do at least some processing at the edge, the survey said.

IDC also said most adopters of IoT so far are using it internally to improve their operations and get products and services to market more quickly. Fewer are using IoT in ways that their customers actually see. This echoes a Gartner survey conducted late last year, which found only 40 percent of enterprises with IoT were using it to boost revenue or give customers a better experience. That report predicted a shift in 2016 toward externally focused deployments, but IDC’s numbers suggest that move may be happening more slowly.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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