11 Ways IT Professionals Can Make Sense of IoT Data

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IoT devices are entering the workplace in all shapes and sizes, from workers wearing smartwatches to industrial sensors such as soil monitors. The data pouring in may be so overwhelming it's unclear what should be done with it, why, and what the risks might be. Here are a few ways to navigate the maze.

As wireless sensors find their way into a wide array of products – both for consumer and industrial purposes – IT organizations of all types are grappling with what the internet of things (IoT) means to their operation. According to Gartner, 20.8 billion connected "things" will be in use worldwide by 2020.

Unlike some other technologies, IoT tends to have a multidimensional effect which not all companies are equipped to handle. IT leaders need to consider how IoT will influence the company's business strategy and its business processes, as well as potential effect on partner and customer relationships. They also have some very real IT issues to consider, such as infrastructure.

"Organizations are not planning for the infrastructure they will need to store and process all of the data that will be generated by IoT devices, and they are not properly securing information as it is being transmitted from these devices or even as the data sits at rest," said Tim Tutt, CTO of IT management and engineering solutions vendor Bogart Associates, in an interview. "Not planning for the infrastructure need can result in all types of system failures, while not having a strong security plan around the data can expose an organization or its customers to malicious actors."

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Adding to the potential confusion are differing perspectives on even the most basic elements, such as how long data should be kept, where, and why.

"The biggest mistake companies make is when they implement IoT without determining a clear business case first. IoT is seen as a 'cure all' and companies need to be focused on the business problem: monetization or operational efficiency," said Debbie Krupitzer, IoT North American Practice lead at consulting, technology, and outsourcing services company Capgemini, in an interview. "IoT is seen as a solution, as opposed to an enabler, for business outcomes."

Mail and messaging management equipment provider Pitney Bowes has gone to considerable lengths to ensure its IoT efforts are successful. According to Pitney Bowes SVP of Technology James Fairweather, the company created a comprehensive employee training program and formed a small, central team to own Pitney Bowes' Big Data platform. It also worked with partners to provide the data connectivity and transport layer and to stand up the data lake infrastructure. Its own platform is ingesting and transforming data from a multitude of existing systems into its data lake, so the data can be leveraged in a common data platform alongside new, IoT-sourced data.

"Companies are wrestling with the same challenge, which is how to succeed in both physical and digital worlds," said Fairweather, in an interview. "Implementing these practices has allowed us to enjoy significant success with IoT."

Other organizations aren't as fortunate. A number of obstacles can get in the way, some of which are internal and some of which are external. We've identified some of challenges and best practices. What's your experience? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

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