How IoT Could Fuel the Next Generation of Data Capture and Asset Traceability

by Richa Gupta | 04/23/2014

This past week has been all about Zebra Technologies’ acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise business unit and what it means for the global AutoID & Data Capture industry. Zebra’s executives have consistently cited the Internet of Things or IoT phenomenon, powered by their home-grown, cloud-based software platform, Zatar, as the bridge to tie the company’s existing product portfolio with that of MSI’s. Given the buzz surrounding this topic, at VDC, we have put together a two-part blog series where we discuss IoT as a concept and Zebra’s big bet on Zatar, and enabling Enterprise Asset Intelligence. This is Part 1.

So, what is IoT all about? Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT), or Internet of Everything, is a web of connected devices that allows for remote monitoring and control. Sensors send off signals with information about asset location, identity, and condition that can be read by a supported device to enable enhanced visibility and monitoring. These supported devices can then relay signals in order to remotely control appliances and adjust their settings. IoT use is not restricted to supply chain traceability and monitoring; it has just as many uses in the consumer world as well.

Incorporating IoT and device connectivity in the enterprise world enables a wealth of new possibilities. Organizations’ networked IT infrastructure is no longer limited to PCs, laptops and data centers. Large-scale employee adoption of internet-connected mobile devices for personal consumption (smartphones and tablets, among others), has opened up the floodgates. With companies increasingly embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend where employees can use these personal devices for business purposes, this concept becomes integral to the IoT phenomenon. Specialized applications and websites give employees’ devices access to all of their company-specific needs. There is growing interest in deploying, managing, and securing these always-connected devices. Internet pervasiveness and the ability to embed sensing technology into all types of assets are helping drive IoT investments.

However, with IoT adoption comes concerns surrounding network security and data integrity. BYOD can be detrimental to employee productivity and many companies are skeptical of integrating it into their current business methods.  Security is another main concern, deterring organizations from fully committing to the “enterprise IoT”. Employee devices will have access to sensitive information and are more likely to be stolen or lost than devices that never leave the company premises. Personal devices are also likely to come in contact with insecure internet connections outside of working hours making them more susceptible to cyber attacks. Cyber security is a hot button issue, especially after the recent attacks on Target and Neiman Marcus, which prompted a Senate hearing on the subject. Companies will be wary to open themselves up to more attacks until IoT can be proven to have sufficient security measures in place.

IoT has already been integrated into our everyday life where security is viewed to be less of an issue. Smart devices can be turned into universal remotes for almost every device around the home. Consumers can start their car, brew a pot of coffee, change the temperature in their house, and turn on the news, all from their phone, for example. This form of IoT is viewed as less of a security risk, at least for now, because of the nature of devices (mostly household appliances) communicating with each other. Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest, a home automation company, is the biggest indication of growing interest and investments in the “in-home connected devices” paradigm.

From VDC’s vantage point, IoT has the potential to completely change enterprise as we know it on all levels – from source to consumption. It broadens the sphere of control for managers so they can see the real-time status of products as they make their way to the retail storefront. IoT can be a profitable investment for companies with its ability to improve inventory management lowering losses due to lost or misplaced goods, and by leveraging the BYOD trend to trim CAPEX. It is important for organizations to start strategizing on their vision for future growth and business sustainability, and how investments in IoT and device interconnectivity enablers can help them achieve their goals.

(With significant contributions from Jake Ferry, Research Assistant)

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