Tom Canning, Vice President of Global Sales IoT and Devices for Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, knows that IoT requires organizations to master new business principles, technology architectures, operating systems, tools, and approaches. At IoT World, he was deep into evangelizing what he sees as a maturing technology that enterprise has no choice but to embrace, in an open source way of course.
What do you see as the main security challenges for the IoT environment? Threats that are unique to IoT? Are these threats different from your standard network security threats?
It's a little bit more complex. IoT devices, depending on what IoT segment you're in, have different input and output requirements and different interfaces. So with certain devices, you have more possible path gateways to inject vulnerabilities and security threats into those devices.
For example, we work with a large consumer electronics company, that has a consumer home product. That product has visual capabilities, audio capabilities, it’s in your home listening and seeing what’s going on. This lends more complex vulnerabilities to the picture when compared to a data center switch. With a switch, you have to lock ports, make sure the packets get through and arrive at the correct destination. With an IoT device like this, you have visual and audio vulnerabilities as well as device manipulation capabilities with somebody controlling your home devices and invading your home and family privacy.
How do you suggest leaders begin adopting IoT into the enterprise?
What's interesting is you use the word, “leaders.” There has to be executive leadership present to support the lone IoT evangelist or that eager IoT architect. First of all, we all have to be willing to be innovative. IT leaders have to look at key strategic objectives and say, "For us to reach these strategic objectives, what innovations have to be created in the marketplace and where could IoT play a part of that? How can we accelerate, reinforce, or help mitigate risk for those directions leveraging IoT solutions?"
Leaders need to establish an IoT practice that allows developers to explore pilots, to secure exploratory budgets and to prototype, so they can understand how to use the available IoT technologies in the marketplace. They need to understand the use cases that could align and support their strategic business initiatives. They should look at their customers and their pain points so that they can create proper product-market fit.
We have to help leaders stitch together a strategy. It's tough because people will say, "Hey, show me the money." And the standard internal answer is “We can't show a predictable return because we don't understand the technology. We haven't piloted this before. We don't understand the customer buying patterns, and we don't understand the adoption timelines."
It takes time to pull a team together, go through and develop an overall understanding and product-fit analysis, come up with some possible scenarios, execute/test those in a short timeframe, and maintain executive sponsorship. Finally, there are no roadblocks, and leaders allocate money to spend beyond the pilot phases to keep the project alive!
I was going to say, allocate resources.
Yes. Talent is key. You must have the budget, time, and talent, and recognize early achievements because they're tough to deliver.
Competing priorities are the killer for most big companies. You'll start something, someone really smart will start hacking away, and then they are pulled away to put out a fire elsewhere. Availability and prioritization people and budgets are key.
How should IT calculate ROI for IoT?
They shouldn't have to at the early stages as they explore. I think this is the biggest and most frustrating thing in this IoT market. If I was selling water fountain machines, should I have to provide an ROI since I want to put that into your organization? You don't do an ROI to buy a water fountain. Right?
No, because water is a necessity.
Correct. It is a service that needs to be delivered. IoT is not going away. It is a service or a capability that you need to embrace and leverage to differentiate your solution offering and create market leadership. You need it to grow and survive, just like water.
Let's say someone says, "But we're getting the same data and the same service with our current infrastructure. We don't need to implement IoT." How do you show the value add? How do you convince this person? Because it seems to me that a lot of these technologies that are emerging, they need advocates. They need people to push them forward, but how do those folks say, "This is why you should do it." What are the critical buy-in points?
So, that was my first answer. When you have the guy pushed up against the wall by executives, then you have to think. To me, this goes back to the simplicity and understanding of the customer problem. Right? How do we get better and unique insights? How do we acquire insights that are truly actionable? How do we correlate that data at a cost that makes sense? How do we deliver better capabilities to deliver services to capture new wallet share? Or reduce customer churn?
Let me share an example now I have with a large company with millions of devices that'll be potentially deployed. They're using an IoT device to keep customers. Super high churn rate exists today. So for their ROI calculation, imagine a churn rate of 13 %. What does that cost? If we can provide value-added IoT services and additional data insights to make their current service offering more sticky, imagine the impact if we're able to create a 10% reduction in the first year. What does that outcome create if you go back into the organization? Millions of dollars!
When you analyze the cost of this project, we've got the potential for multi-million dollar returns on investment (e.g., five developers, standard hardware, a hundred dollar home device goes into the home, with 3rd party ecosystem built applications).
You have to have a team that's smart and has a defined business problem. I've seen and have experienced that. I'm active in a project like that right now. We need passion in the leadership team that will support the IoT team past the internal challenges and gets them over this initial ROI hump. Otherwise, they'll spin their wheels and be in pilots and evaluation mode forever.
You started out talking about Canonical. Let's go back to that. Talk to me about what you're excited about moving toward, or moving out into the IoT world.
There are multiple points of excitement today. There's excitement around the market - It's coming together. It's a slow horse, but the big players are starting to show up, and the deployed device footprint is increasing. So, I think we see some natural and healthy maturation of the market. We're seeing the early adopters and the early pilots that have gone into production be highlighted and shared. There are some great stories out there, which help reduce market fears and creates additional transactions and growth within the IoT market place.
We also see more diversity within IoT. As a company, we focused on four segments: Industrial, gateways, and industrial automation. We’re focused on automotive, connected car autonomous vehicles which are super interesting. We’re also focused on robotics. It may blow your mind – but these new robots are going to take over the world! Just kidding.
I was at CeBIT a couple of years ago, and they had a whole building devoted to robotics and software code. It was so cool.
It's cool. So with robotics, you know the robot operating system (ROS)? We're the preferred underlying operating system for that, so we're already in a lot of robots today. And then the final segment is top-of-the-rack switch networking. So, we take IoT into the data center and extend the top-of-the-rack switch to create a unified rack infrastructure.
A connected car is a hot market, billions of dollars. We're working with some of the big, tier-one firms in Germany right now.
Who are you working within Germany?
I wouldn't talk about any specific names right now because we're early in conversations. They are the common names that you would know, and you would buy their car and drive it and be comfortable and safe.
What is there about IoT that you would like to put out into the ether?
I like working with companies that are fearless in this space. Because they want to go somewhere and they have the power to do so. My thing in the ether is people need to accelerate their IoT experiences. People need to have the sponsorship of the executives to explore and learn. The sooner people do that, the better off they’ll be because the project will either fail fast/create learnings or succeed quickly and create new business outcomes and our new IoT champions. This drive speaks to enterprise culture. Just go ahead and do something. Allocate some budget but don't keep waiting. It's happening now.