IIoT awesome, but only 25 percent of execs are deploying it

An overwhelming majority of business leaders said that the adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is critical to their company’s future success, but only a quarter of them are deploying the technology today.

In the survey, released by Genpact Research Institute, it said data security was the most prominent reason why IIoT deployments were not happening today. Business leaders are also worried about lack of technology skills, use of legacy systems, and privacy issues.

“IIoT has the potential to transform traditional supply chain practices saving companies valuable resources and time,” said Guy Yehiav, CEO of Profitect. “Yet, businesses are cautious to implement IIoT because it’s still relatively new. Since this form of IoT collects various data points it provides even more data, not less. Dealing with the data is what makes it valuable, but it can be a challenge for businesses to fully trust and whether or not anomalies are being picked-up.”

Profitect provides a prescriptive analytics solution for IIoT deployments, which Yehiav says can spot irregularities and recognize areas of the business working well. This solution gives businesses better understanding of the deployment success, which may not be felt financially until a few years down the line.

34 percent of the 173 executive responses said data quality is blocking the current deployment of IIoT in their businesses. Profitect and other analytics are attempting to convince execs that the data collected can save them millions and provide meaningful solutions, but it doesn’t appear to have sunk in at the present time.

“I don’t see executives as more cautious than usual, but IIoT usually has to do with connecting devices that have not been connected before, so there are security and technical issues to be solved,” said Kai Goerlich, research director at SAP. “Furthermore to really use the full potential of IoT, the operations should be in real-time, which means generated data has to be analyzed and uses based on real-time databases and algorithms.”

“This is a major investment for many companies and they often lack a clear business plan, the skills and budgets to defend the IoT projects internally.”

Goerlich’s arguments match up with the data provided in the Genpact Research survey, almost 50 percent of businesses are attempting to develop a clear IIoT strategy, 30 percent won’t have an IoT plan in the next 12 months.

It is possible that some business leaders are deploying IIoT without a good grasp of the effects it will have, although Goerlich believes a business only looking to save money will see benefits instantly. It is when businesses start messing around with more complex data from IIoT devices that they struggle, due to lack of understanding or not teaching staff members the benefits of the new connected devices.

Attacks on IIoT assets also raise fears

Cyber attacks are another cause for concern among business leaders. In the survey, 50 percent of execs think IIoT deployment increases their company’s susceptibility to cyber attacks, which could be anything from targeted destruction to ransomware.

“Anything that expands and diversifies the attack surface increases the risk of cyber attacks,” said Rob Sadowski, marketing director at RSA, the security division inside EMC. “There are two distinct aspects that need to be considered.  First is that by adding IoT, you are creating another point of entry that could be utilized by an attacker to compromise your broader network. Second, IoT can be an attractive target for attackers looking to perpetrate highly-visible disruptive or destructive attacks.”

That’s a rather gloomy statement for business leaders on the fence about IIoT, but Sadowski provided a list of ways companies can mitigate these risks and effectively secure IIoT devices from the outside world.

  •   Ensure that IoT are deployed in a physically secure manner
  •   Integrate IoT into existing vulnerability management processes
  •   Provide secure access to IoT
  •   Monitor the devices for attacks and intrusions
  •   Understand/evaluate the devices native “built-in” security features

This comes back to the insufficient skills of technology staff obstacle, which 35 percent of executives say is holding them off deployment. Companies, especially large firms, need to employ IoT specialists or seek help from third-parties, like RSA, which provides a range of scalable security tools for businesses.

See Also: China IIoT efforts will dominate global market: Economist

IIoT has been pegged, alongside automation, as a possible Fourth industrial revolution. The third, the introduction of computers to the workplace, has seen incredible bounds in productivity over the last 30 years. Firms working on IoT expect these connected devices to provide even more than that, as we enter into an age of autonomy, robotics, and big data analytics in the workplace.

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