The Apple car: The perfect IoT learning tool for CIOs?

There's buzz that an Apple car is in the works, and CIOs should use it to drive attention to IoT security. Also in Searchlight: The U.S. has been embedding spyware in foreign networks for years; Snapchat seeks $19 billion in funding.

Apple's first new i-product in five years, the Apple Watch, isn't even released yet, but the tech giant might already have another connected object in its sights: the self-driving car. CIOs should take note, says Gartner analyst Alfonso Velosa.

"The connected car is the major [Internet of Things] device any person or enterprise will have," said Velosa, a research director who covers the IoT.  With the sophisticated infotainment systems these vehicles have and the various records they collect -- which range from information about your vehicle to physical activity -- more and more questions arise: How do you monetize that data and provide services around it? Furthermore, how do you do that within a secure environment? CIOs should use the buzz around Apple's venture into the automotive space as a springboard to discuss these questions with their business peers, Velosa said.

How seriously is Apple taking this venture? Very, if the Wall Street Journal's inside sources are to be believed. The sources report that Apple's new project to design a self-driving electric vehicle involves around 1,000 people, some of them possibly poached from Tesla and a company that makes batteries for electric cars. The people leading the group allegedly include Steve Zadesky, vice president of product design and a former engineer at Ford Motor Co., and Marc Newson, an industrial designer who created a concept car for Ford.

Even if these reports are merely "rumors or speculation," as one Apple spokesman insisted, it doesn't change the fact that the market is ripe for automated vehicle technology. Other big-name Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Tesla, as well as automakers Daimler and Audi, have already been exploiting a market that is projected to reach $25 billion by 2020, according to analysts at brokerage Exane BNP Paribas. By that time, there will be 250 million connected vehicles on the road, Gartner predicts.

As Dawn Chmielewski of Re/code put it, an Apple car really isn't such a far-fetched idea. Apple already made a previous foray into the auto industry with CarPlay, a system that lets you interact with your iPhone's features through your dashboard's built-in display. She also makes the point that Apple has upended established industries before, with the iPod and the iPhone. The automotive industry is ripe for the disrupting, and could be next for Apple.

Connected cars drive security queries

Regardless of whether Apple is looking to build a full-fledged autonomous car or merely to expand its expertise, the buzz confirms that the company is joining a growing group of credible companies that want to cash in on connected vehicles' potential, said Velosa. The Apple news should function as a push for enterprise CIOs -- whose organizations are already likely involved in IoT initiatives -- to start thinking about creating security policies for the data stored in their connected devices. "It will be a useful vehicle to drive information with their peers," Velosa quipped.

He cited a report issued by the office of Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) that painted an unnerving picture of just how vulnerable connected vehicles are to hackers. For instance, one automaker fully equipped its fleet with wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and wireless Internet access, but has not explored how hackers can infiltrate its systems. The report also found that most of the auto manufacturers were either unaware of or unable to report on past hacking incidents.

Broaching a conversation around security policy will be a tall order, however, considering that CIOs aren't necessarily directly involved with these IoT projects.

"A lot of companies are experimenting with the IoT, but they're not necessarily done in conjunction with the CIO's office," Velosa said, because they involve decisions around reducing costs or driving new revenues. "It's an opportunity for the CIO to engage with the business."  

To create a policy, CIOs have to conduct an audit to figure out exactly what IoT equipment is being used by enterprise business units. But first, it's important to have a discussion with them about how they're using their connected car or experimenting with the IoT. "It should be an exploratory conversation," he said, one in which the CIO asks questions about IoT security, data ownership, the value of that data, the provision of services and more.

As to whether Velosa thinks CIOs will become more central to IoT discussions in the near future, Velosa wasn't as certain.

"I'd like to say yes, but it's going to take a while to go through the enterprise. It's a matter of time. So no, not anytime soon," he said.

CIO news roundup for week of Feb. 16

Here are more tech headlines from this week:

  • The NSA and the U.S. government may have been implanting malware and spyware in targets' computers for the last 15 to 20 years, according to findings released Monday by Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab. Some of these implants have been embedded so deep that they are able to infect computers' firmware that's beyond the reach of existing antimalware and security controls, according to the firm. Lenovo says that it will stop preloading the adware.
  • Chinese PC maker Lenovo has gotten heat this week for preinstalling its computers with what cybersecurity experts say is malware. The virus-like software, from a company called Superfish, was found on some consumer notebooks Lenovo shipped late last year.
  • The White House issued new rules on drone exports on Tuesday, making it easier for the U.S. to furnish armed drones to its allies fighting militant groups such as ISIS. Previously, the U.S. only sold armed drones to Britain.
  • Snapchat is ready to play with the tech big boys. The photo-messaging startup is looking to raise up to $19 billion in funding, an insider told The New York Times. If Snapchat is able to raise the money, the company's value will almost double.

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups on Box's enterprise key management and the FCC chairman's gutsy net neutrality proposal.

Next Steps

Get a deeper look at how the connected car is reshaping the automotive industry. Then, get CIO expert Harvey Koeppel's humorous take on how CIOs can prepare for the Internet of Things.

Dig Deeper on Internet of things (IoT) for business