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Forrester: CIOs will architect and operate the Internet of Things

Although the IoT is being defined by the business right now, CIOs will end up running it, Frank Gillett, principal analyst serving CIOs at Forrester Research, wrote in a briefing.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen before with PCs, websites, and smartphones, all started as “do-it-yourself” projects by the business but ultimately falling into the CIO’s realm of responsibility, Gillett writes. He predicts this will happen with the IoT as well and CIOs will ultimately be called to manage the growing complexity of connected devices for their company.

But CIOs should prepare now for the challenges that the IoT will inevitably bring— “especially as the business tries to integrate Internet-of-Things data into core business processes running in enterprise applications,” Gillett wrote.

Five challenges IoT brings to the table

Every company will face the challenges (as well as the opportunities) that come with owning and managing connected assets, Gillett wrote. CIOs who are part of companies that sell physical products will face even more challenges, including helping the business design, build and operate connected products, Gillett added.

Whichever category you fall into, Gillett said CIOs will face these five IoT challenges:

1) New technologies, new protocols, new standards: The IoT will require CIOs to manage and integrate a slew of technologies, networks, protocols and data formats, Gillett wrote, as well as force CIOs and companies to come up with new standards in order to try to organize the chaos.

2) Handling data, analytics, and business logic: Sensor devices are often smart enough to do local data filtering, analysis, and store the business logic on the device to enable quick responses. The issue with this is that the data, analysis, and business logic live outside of the core enterprise applications and processes, Gillett wrote.

3) New security challenges: The IoT will bring with it a mixture of familiar and new security issues, Gillett wrote. CIOs will have to figure out how to make sure devices are tamper-proof, figure out which identity, authentication, and encryption technologies work, and “how to ensure the chain of custody all the way through cloud services and back to enterprise apps,” Gillett wrote.

4) New demands on the network: The surge in connected devices will challenge enterprise network admins with a new type of network node that will have widely varied requirements, Gillett wrote. For example, some devices will continuously stream data (like security cameras) while other devices will need low latency and high quality service for “speedy responses to crucial events” (like manufacturing production systems), he wrote.

5) New quantities of time-series data: Current analytics tools will not be able to handle the new amount of time-series data the IoT will bring, Gillett wrote. “Analyzing voluminous time-series data turns out to be hard to do with existing tools, so a new generation of analytics technology is appearing to accelerate time-series analysis, such as those from TempoIQ or Hitachi High Technologies,” he wrote.

Five steps CIOs can take now to avoid a mess later

Though the challenges the IoT brings seem daunting, Gillett believes that it is early enough in the development of the IoT that CIOs have the opportunity to avoid technology messes if they act and get involved now. This means CIOs will have to work with the app development team, the security team, the enterprise architects, and the product line-of-business teams.

Here are five steps CIOs can take:

1) Train your developers in new software skills: The IoT will require a new app dev mindset among developers, Gillett wrote. Typically, developers write code that takes input from humans, he wrote, not from sensors in connected products or assets. In order to use real-time connectivity and sensor data effectively, developers will have to learn new techniques, technologies and approaches in order to manage everything as well as come up with new ideas for enhancing the customer’s experience, Gillett wrote.

2) Integrate silos: As companies buy and use more connected devices, business leaders will start to wonder why they have to use separate vendors for each connected asset, Gillett wrote. He used the example of integrating the X-ray system, the CAT scanner, the gurney tracking system and the electronic pharmaceutical cabinets together in a hospital with other hospital management systems. Gillett advised CIOs assign an enterprise architecture team with the job of building an inventory of connected assets and their characteristics in order to make this integration of assets happen. The team should also plan for a unified console as well as integration with enterprise applications and analytics.

3) Explore IoT platform services: “Building connectivity into new products is not a do-it-yourself (DIY) task for the faint of heart,” Gillett wrote. He urges CIOs to explore services like Axeda, ThingWorx, and Xively to help enable connectivity and manage the CIO’s and company’s products. These platforms include services like support for M2M protocols, device management support, and support of IoT-specific protocols and analytics.

4) Work with the security team: Gillett advises CIOs to bring in their security teams to help with the mapping and management of connected devices. The security team should review and report on the inventory of connected assets as well as the associated policies and procedures for installing, monitoring, and updating the connected assets, he wrote. Gillett also advised that CIOs make sure they find, and account for, unknown IoT devices that may be part of facilities, fire protection, manufacturing, warehouse systems, etc.

5) Work with the product managers and business strategists: Gillett said that it is important that the CIO or a CIO representative work closely with product managers and the business side when it comes to dealing with the IoT. The CIO’s involvement with the product managers and the business side should be on an ongoing basis so that the CIO can work with them on things like data formats, security, and enterprise data integration.

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