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The Internet of Things and its possibilities
THE Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting digital and physical worlds in innovative ways - with breakthrough business results. The physical world - people, assets, plants, supply networks - has historically been "unconnected" to the digital world and therefore largely invisible as a source of insights for business decisions.
With IoT solutions, businesses can analyse data generated by sensors on physical objects in a world of intelligent, connected devices. This valuable data helps transform businesses, revealing hidden patterns and insights that enable leaders to make more informed decisions and take swift action.
In Singapore, IoT is fundamental to our Smart Nation vision. The data collected from sensors, and other sensing capabilities, will support the creation of Smart Nation applications and smart services. The next decade or so will see massive progress in IoT technology.
As it is, IoT has myriad applications in the public sector and has proven to be transformational. Some of the most significant implementations of IoT-based systems within the manufacturing, logistics and healthcare sectors are already in place and transforming the world.
Strategically deployed, data analytics can help organisations translate IoT's digital data into meaningful insights that can go into developing new products, business models that can better serve customers' individual needs and drive the development of more tailored services.
For businesses, IoT has the potential to drive business transformation and enable organisations to create entirely new systems and services, engage customers and drive growth.
Value drivers for businesses
By connecting the physical world to the digital world in ways that can turn pain points into competitive advantages for businesses, IoT solutions can provide the most value to:
- Supply networks: Improving factory and operations, planning and inventory; supply network and logistics; and channel connectivity;
- Customers: Creating seamless customer experiences and enhancing customer support and services;
- Products: Creating opportunities for innovation and efficiency throughout a product lifecycle;
- Security & privacy: Safeguarding connected networks and mitigating risks.
IoT solutions offer particular value for businesses in industries and sectors such as manufacturing, smart cities, oil & gas, automotive, security & defence, travel, retail, media & entertainment, technology, consumer products, power & utilities, and life sciences & healthcare.
IoT solutions can deliver powerful outcomes but the organisational implications of IoT in areas like security and privacy, technology, strategy, architecture, analytics and implementation need to be carefully considered for every IoT deployment.
The existing IoT solutions and accelerators include Retail 360 - an omni-channel shopping experience to customers via a mobile app (EngageMe) and in-store inventory management capabilities to retailers via a web app (Store 360°). These help customers get the experience they desire while retailers can meet goals for increased sales and operational efficiency.
In the healthcare sector, there is Patient 360 - an IoT-based, care-coordination platform that empowers patients, healthcare providers, payers and the pharmaceutical industry. It can deliver better patient experiences by providing data and analysis to improve patient care as well as productivity in the healthcare marketplace.
Smart, connected objects offer tremendous opportunities for value creation, but can also create tremendous risk, demanding new strategies for value protection.
As data is created and transmitted, this represents a new opportunity for that information to be compromised. More data, and more sensitive data, available across a broad network means the risks are higher and that data breaches could pose significant dangers to individuals and enterprises alike.
A single vulnerable device can leave an entire ecosystem open to attack, with potential disruptions ranging from individual privacy breaches to massive breakdowns of public systems.
Effective risk management in any IoT deployment will draw on all three factors: to be secure, vigilant and resilient.
- Secure: Effective risk management begins by preventing system breaches or compromises. This includes having sensors on the systems to protect them from accidental or deliberate assaults, and installing software firewalls to keep out hackers.
- Vigilant: Making a system secure is not a once-and-for-all proposition. Both hardware and software degrade over time due simply to age. The nature and intensity of attacks can change in ways that render previously effective security measures obsolete. No level of security is perfect. Best efforts still leave any system vulnerable. Consequently, security must be complemented by vigilance - monitoring to determine whether a system is still secure or has been compromised.
- Resilient: When a breach occurs, limiting the damage and re-establishing normal operations are much more easily and effectively done when there are processes in place to quickly neutralise threats, prevent further spread, and recover.
The prospects for creating and maintaining a seamless, secure network - with or without external partners - may seem daunting, considering that vulnerabilities exist on all sides, be they physical or virtual, inadvertent or malicious.
Security cannot be an afterthought - it must be integral throughout the design process. IoT solutions will need to blend a deep understanding of organisational operations with knowledge of multilayered cyber risk management techniques, creating offerings that are secure, vigilant, and resilient.
The road to balance
Organisations are looking at what the IoT means for them. Some changes will be incremental and relatively easy to adopt; others will be more transformative.
The approach to every IoT deployment is to have a clear understanding of the information value loop created by these technologies. Identify where the bottlenecks lie, how each party is motivated to respond, and seeking to shape both incentives and the value loop will enable companies to be in control of their business strategy.
Lastly, make an honest assessment of your company's IoT strategy - identify where IoT investments may not have an appreciable benefit or may decrease one's potential for value capture. This is just as good as knowing the right places to invest.
- The writer is Technology Consulting Leader at Deloitte Southeast Asia. The views expressed are her own.