Scott Koegler - June 13, 2019

IoT Monitoring Demands CIO Attention

As companies contemplate how they will make use of IoT, CIOs need to focus on these five issues that can become problematic quickly. IoT monitoring comes in many flavors—both literal and in terms of general good IT governance.

IT governance often comes down to operational basics. D&R policies, monitoring, security, data availability: these are the critical parts of all IT. From mainframes to desktops, smartphones to tablets, the principles of IT governance are agnostic of technology. When deploying IoT solutions, organizations use their existing IT governance muscle and apply it in a different context.

Digital transformation with IoT is a game-changer. As companies contemplate leveraging IoT, CIOs need to focus on five issues that can become problematic quickly. The good news is that addressing them will help in defining the data to be collected and managed, easing future decisions about where and how data will be stored.

 

Define business benefits first

IoT deployments are becoming more frequent and more comfortable to accomplish because device vendors can deliver customized pre-built systems directly to customers. But this same ease of availability means it’s also easier to shortcut the more in-depth evaluation of the purpose of the effort. CIOs need to step back from the more expedient path of accepting pre-configured devices or even devices with standard customizations and evaluate the needs of the business beyond the initial request to move forward with an IoT initiative. Determine what data is available and whether adding more or different sensor data could be useful to serve other business purposes. At the same time, review what data may be generated that can be eliminated. Unnecessary data can become a liability if not appropriately managed and may be better deleted before it’s produced.

Have an IoT monitoring system

IoT devices are often used as monitoring systems in themselves. But maintaining the regular updates and flow of data to and from them is crucial, particularly when there are hundreds or even thousands of devices in a network. Monitor the devices in several ways to assure they are performing as intended. Follow the data itself for anomalies that can indicate problems with sensors or the applications themselves. Check the volume and frequency of data transmissions to verify units are active and not offline. Check security status for intrusion attempts to protect the network and the rest of the enterprise computing platforms. Monitoring systems should deliver real-time messages when issues are detected.

Implement a security protocol The state of IoT security is still incomplete. CIOs should put as much effort into evaluating the security options available from their suppliers as they do to defining the devices themselves. Require vendors to provide verifiable plans for updating security protocols in every device and methods for reviewing them periodically. Require those chosen vendors are actively involved with IoT security protocol working groups to advocate for robust and current security measures that can be deployed to the devices they supply.

Forecast the data flow

IoT devices can generate significant quantities of data, and large numbers of devices can deliver more data than is necessary to accomplish business directives. CIOs must forecast the timing and amount of data being transacted between their IoT devices and their storage facilities and make plans to accommodate it. Take advantage of defining times for data uploads, reduce the amount of data being created, and consider the addition of edge computing to process and condense IoT raw data before sending it to centralized storage.

Plan for device updates and replacements

One advantage of IoT devices is they can be installed remotely in locations that are difficult to reach and inconvenient to maintain. But that doesn’t mean they don’t require regular maintenance, occasional repair, and eventual replacement or decommissioning. Implementation plans should include detailed protocols for software updates, firmware revisions, and security updates. Installers should record details of location and any special considerations that can be helpful to maintenance crews, including GPS coordinates and photos of the installation.

Have a plan for outages

Some IoT deployments are critical to the regular operation of things like traffic signals and HVAC systems. Their failure can lead to sometimes disastrous results. But even when non-critical devices fail, business processes can be interrupted and cause financial and operational difficulties. CIOs should incorporate fallback protocols in their IoT deployment plans to permit normal operations when devices fail. Simple power outages are common causes of outages, and where appropriate, backup batteries can be included with installations to keep machines running and their wireless communication active.

Planning of IoT deployments is crucial because the nature of IoT devices and their placement makes it difficult to manage them once they have been installed physically. CIOs need to examine every contingency likely to arise and then dig into those that are more unlikely. Call on vendors to assist in reviewing plans and request their input in creating fail-safe methods.

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