Data Security in Industrial IoT: Legal Requirements and Best Practices

Data Security in Industrial IoT: Legal Requirements and Best Practices

data security

As companies increasingly rely on interconnected systems and sensors to streamline operations and improve efficiency, the need for robust data security in Industrial IoT has never been more critical. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the legal requirements and best practices in navigating data security in the Industrial IoT landscape. From complying with industry-specific regulations to implementing stringent access controls, this guide will delve into the key problem-solving steps and considerations for safeguarding your valuable data. We will discuss the importance of encryption, authentication, and data transfer protocols in preventing unauthorized access and ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of your information. 

By understanding the legal landscape surrounding data security and adopting best practices, businesses can not only mitigate the risks of data breaches but also build trust with their customers and partners. Join us on this journey as we navigate the complex world of data security in Industrial IoT and arm ourselves with the knowledge and tools needed to safeguard our digital assets. 

Legal requirements for data security in industrial IoT 

Ensuring data security in the Industrial IoT landscape requires compliance with various legal requirements. Companies must navigate through a maze of regulations to protect sensitive information effectively. One such regulation is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which applies to companies operating in the European Union (EU) or handling the personal data of EU citizens. The GDPR mandates companies to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data and report any breaches promptly. 

Apart from the GDPR, certain industries have specific data security regulations. For instance, the healthcare industry is governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States. HIPAA requires organizations to protect patient data through measures such as encryption, access controls, and audit logs. 

Moreover, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) applies to companies that handle credit card information. Compliance with PCI DSS requires implementing robust security measures, including encryption, network segmentation, and secure coding practices. 

In addition to these regulations, companies must also consider local data protection laws in the countries they operate. These laws may vary in their requirements, and it is essential to stay updated with the legal landscape to ensure compliance. 

Data protection regulations and compliance standards 

Complying with data protection regulations and compliance standards is crucial for businesses operating in the Industrial IoT landscape. Failure to meet these requirements can result in severe consequences, including financial penalties and damage to reputation. 

One widely recognized compliance standard is the ISO/IEC 27001, which provides a framework for implementing an information security management system (ISMS). By adhering to ISO/IEC 27001, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to data security and gain trust from customers and partners. 

Another important compliance standard is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. This framework provides a set of guidelines and best practices for managing and mitigating cybersecurity risks. It emphasizes the importance of identifying and protecting sensitive data, detecting and responding to threats, and recovering from incidents. 

Additionally, industry-specific organizations and alliances often establish their own compliance standards. For example, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) provides guidelines and best practices for securing industrial IoT systems. Adhering to these standards can help organizations align their data security practices with industry expectations. 

By understanding and complying with these regulations and standards, businesses can ensure they have a robust data security framework in place. 

Best practices for securing industrial IoT devices and networks 

Securing industrial IoT devices and networks is vital to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access. Here are some best practices to consider: 

1. Implement strong access controls:

Ensure that only authorized personnel have access to critical systems and data. Use strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and role-based access controls to enforce secure access. 

2. Regularly update and patch devices:

IoT devices often have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers. Keeping devices up to date with the latest firmware and security patches is essential to mitigate these risks. 

3. Segment networks:

Segregating IoT devices from the main corporate network can limit the impact of a potential compromise. Implementing network segmentation ensures that even if one device is compromised, the attacker's access is restricted. 

4. Conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests:

Regularly assess the security posture of IoT devices and networks by conducting vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. Identifying and remediating vulnerabilities proactively can prevent potential attacks. 

5. Monitor and analyse network traffic: 

Implement network monitoring tools to detect any suspicious activity or anomalous behavior. Analysing network traffic patterns can help identify potential security incidents and enable a swift response. 

By following these best practices, organizations can enhance the security of their industrial IoT devices and networks, reducing the risk of data breaches. 

Data encryption and authentication in industrial IoT 

One of the fundamental aspects of data security in industrial IoT is encryption and authentication. Encryption ensures that sensitive data remains unreadable to unauthorized parties even if it is intercepted or accessed. Authentication, on the other hand, verifies the identity of devices and users accessing the system. 

Implementing robust encryption protocols, such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), helps protect data both at rest and during transmission. AES is widely regarded as highly secure and is recommended by various data security standards. 

In addition to encryption, implementing strong authentication mechanisms is crucial to ensure that only authorized devices and users can access the system. This can be achieved through methods like digital certificates, secure key exchange protocols, and biometric authentication. 

Furthermore, organizations should consider implementing secure protocols for data transfer, such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Shell (SSH). These protocols provide secure communication channels, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of data during transmission. 

By employing encryption and authentication techniques, organizations can significantly enhance the security of their industrial IoT systems, protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access. 

Securing data storage and transmission in industrial IoT 

Securing data storage and transmission is paramount in the Industrial IoT landscape to prevent unauthorized access and maintain data integrity. Here are some best practices to consider: 

1. Encrypt data at rest

Implementing data encryption at rest ensures that even if the storage medium is compromised, the data remains inaccessible. Use strong encryption algorithms and robust key management practices to safeguard data. 

2. Secure data transmission

Implement secure protocols, such as TLS or SSH, for data transmission between devices and systems. These protocols encrypt the data during transit, preventing eavesdropping or tampering. 

3. Utilize secure cloud storage

If utilizing cloud storage for industrial IoT data, choose reputable cloud service providers that offer robust security measures. Ensure they provide encryption in transit and at rest, access controls, and regular security audits. 

4. Regularly backup data

Implement a robust data backup strategy to ensure that data can be restored in the event of a breach or system failure. Test the backup and restoration process regularly to confirm its effectiveness. 

5. Implement data retention policies

Define data retention policies that align with legal requirements and business needs. Regularly review and delete outdated or unnecessary data to minimize the risk of exposure. 

By adopting these practices, organizations can significantly improve the security of their industrial IoT data, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. 

Threat detection and incident response in industrial IoT 

Threat detection and incident response play a crucial role in ensuring data security in the Industrial IoT landscape. Organizations must be proactive in identifying and responding to potential security incidents to minimize the impact on their systems and data. 

Implementing robust threat detection mechanisms, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS), can help identify suspicious activities and potential attacks. These systems monitor network traffic, analyze patterns, and raise alerts when anomalies are detected. 

Additionally, organizations should establish an incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a security incident. This plan should include procedures for containment, eradication, and recovery. Regularly test and update the incident response plan to ensure its effectiveness. 

Furthermore, organizations should consider sharing threat intelligence with industry peers and collaborating on incident response efforts. This collective approach can help identify emerging threats and mitigate risks more effectively. 

By investing in threat detection mechanisms and establishing a robust incident response plan, organizations can minimize the impact of security incidents on their industrial IoT systems and data. 

Employee training and awareness for data security in industrial IoT 

Employee training and awareness are crucial for data security in the Industrial IoT landscape. It is essential to educate employees on best practices, potential risks, and their roles and responsibilities in maintaining data security. 

Organizations should conduct regular training sessions to educate employees on data security policies, procedures, and industry-specific regulations. Emphasize the importance of strong passwords, secure access controls, and recognizing phishing attempts. 

Furthermore, organizations should promote a culture of security awareness by encouraging employees to report any suspicious activities and providing channels for anonymous reporting. Regularly communicate updates and reminders regarding data security practices to keep employees engaged and vigilant. 

By investing in employee training and awareness programs, organizations can significantly enhance their data security posture in the Industrial IoT landscape. 

Choosing the right data security solutions for industrial IoT 

Choosing the right data security solutions is crucial for protecting industrial IoT systems and data effectively. Here are some considerations when selecting data security solutions: 

  1. Scalability: Ensure that the chosen solutions can scale with the growing demands of the industrial IoT environment. The solutions should be capable of handling a large number of devices and data volumes. 
  2. Compatibility: Consider the compatibility of the solutions with existing IoT devices, platforms, and protocols. The solutions should seamlessly integrate into the existing infrastructure without causing disruptions. 
  3. Robust encryption and authentication: Choose solutions that offer strong encryption algorithms and authentication mechanisms. These solutions should provide end-to-end security for data storage, transmission, and access. 
  4. Real-time monitoring and analytics: Look for solutions that provide real-time monitoring and analytics capabilities. These features enable organizations to detect and respond to security incidents promptly. 
  5. Vendor reputation and support: Select solutions from reputable vendors with a track record in the data security industry. Ensure that the vendors provide regular updates, patches, and technical support for their solutions. 

By carefully evaluating and selecting data security solutions, organizations can minimize vulnerabilities and protect their industrial IoT systems and data effectively. 

 In conclusion, data security is of utmost importance in the Industrial IoT landscape. By complying with legal requirements, adhering to compliance standards, and implementing best practices, organizations can safeguard their valuable data and mitigate the risks of data breaches. 

From encrypting and authenticating data to securing data storage and transmission, organizations must adopt robust security measures. Additionally, threat detection, incident response, employee training, and choosing the right data security solutions are essential to maintaining a strong data security posture. 

By prioritizing data security, businesses can build trust with their customers and partners, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information in the Industrial IoT landscape. It is essential to stay updated with the evolving legal landscape and emerging threats to ensure ongoing protection of valuable digital assets. Together, let us navigate the complex world of data security in Industrial IoT and safeguard our digital future.

Internet of Things  – Futures

Internet of Things  – Futures

As with most things, predicting the future of IoT is a bit of a guessing game, what we predict today is unlikely to be what we will see down the line.  The big picture may be the same, but details will be different.

For this reason, some analysts divide up their divinations into two camps, domestic or consumer IoT, and Enterprise or Industrial IoT.

The Big Picture

Opinions on this are very varied and range from the optimistic to the tinfoil-hatted predictors of catastrophe.   Some think that the future will be one of increased leisure and opportunity, others see a dystopian future like the Terminator movies with mankind struggling to survive against an AI driven IoT army.

In short, the reality will probably lie somewhere in between.

Consumer IoT

We are seeing the emergence of the “Smart Home”.  The proliferation of Fibre to the Home, 5g and WiFi have combined to allow homes to have high bandwidth, always-on connectivity to the Internet.

The Intelligent home has been with us for some time, but its efficiency and capabilities were limited by not being connected to the Internet.   That has all changed.

Consumers can install smart security systems, with IP cameras and motion detectors, automatic recording capability, and latterly, smart locks.   A PC or smart device based app gives the user the ability to monitor what is happening at home, to lock and unlock doors, switch lights off and on.

Internet-connected refrigerators monitor their contents and automatically order replacement items.  There is even an Internet-enabled toilet that determines your current and projected state of wellness and recommends to the refrigerator what, and what not to buy.

All these features will be driven by a voice-activated assistant like Alexa or Siri.   In future, they will self-educate, become much more sophisticated and move closer to almost human response patterns.

Gartner estimates that every person has at least four internet-enabled devices – smartphone, smartwatch, personal health monitor, laptop and/or tablet.   Add to that, media streaming devices, smart TVs and gaming consoles and the average home has a large network.

There is therefore a great potential for the average home to substantially increase its investment in IoT devices.

One tongue-in-cheek suggestion was for an IoT alarm clock.  It would use Internet sources to monitor traffic and weather, and if you needed extra time to get to work, would wake you up earlier.

On the downside, most home networks are not adequately protected against malware, and that will be one area that will see major growth over the next few years.  There are already reports of ransomware attacks on home networks.  To the home user, the sole copy of a video of a family event is as equally valuable as Intellectual property to a corporate.   Imagine how easy it would be   Hacking the home security system would make robberies much easier and reduce the chances of being caught.

Enterprise IoT

As described elsewhere, robotics and other automation techniques have been around for some time, supplemented recently by the IIoT and AI. That process will continue with the objectives being to reduce production costs, improve product or service quality and find new and better manufacturing or service provision processes.

We can expect to see increasing numbers of unmanned, lights-out factories, fully automated production processes, and automated management of SCADA and ICS devices.  It is likely that stock management will become fully automated, and driverless vehicles will transport material around eh factory.

Really Out There

Donald Rumsfeld once famously said “there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown knowns”.  Simply put, we know what we know and sometimes what we don’t know, but mostly don’t know what we don’t know.   That is very true of IoT futures.

For example, ten years ago, who would have predicted driverless vehicles.

Optimists

Optimists see IoT devices, including robots and androids taking over most of the mundane tasks we currently carry out at home and at work. Some even see the IoT removing the need for human involvement in some work environments.

Pessimists

Pessimists point out that at some point, usually called the singularity, the intelligence of IoT devices will exceed that of humans. Some observers put the singularity as happening in around 2030.

At that time, particularly if AI development follows the same trajectory, humankind will be relegated to second-tier status and ultimately wiped out by a new race of androids.

We, therefore, need to be very careful when using IoT without implementing substantial upgrades to IoT security.  It’s easy to see how a ransomware attack on a moving driverless vehicle could have fatal consequences.

The tinfoil-hatted are seriously concerned about IoT and the proliferation of intelligent and semi intelligent robotic devices, especially nanobots.  They point out that without proper design, management, and control, they have the potential to wipe out all biomass on Earth at worst or create a real-life Terminator environment at best.

Overall, the IoT has the potential to make significant improvements in our lives but will require careful management to ensure that the social changes in its wake do not overwhelm us.

 

The Internet of Things in Industry

The Internet of Things in Industry

Manufacturing industry has been looking at automation as a means of boosting quality and productivity for many years, from the days of Henry Ford inventing the production line to the increasing use of robots and the IoT.

Today’s critical industries encompass both the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.  A new suite of low-cost energy-efficient devices, accessible through WiFi provides the ability to link with Cloud-based applications such as Big Data analytics.  

Some commentators refer to the new era as Industrial IoT (“IIoT”) or Industry 4.0.  Adding IIoT to the mix brings a whole host of new opportunities to continue the process.

On the downside, the relative newness of Industry 4.0 brings new risks as it is deployed. Increased state surveillance, increased criminal activity and supply chain risks follow on from incomplete, missing, or defective cybersecurity included in the new device’s firmware and software.  It clearly needs a stable power and communications infrastructure to operate successfully.

Having accepted all that, and that we need to have robust backup systems to keep the IoT devices running, what are the areas that will benefit from the IIoT?

A Brief Overview of IIoT

IIoT uses much of the same technologies as the broader IoT.   At the end of 2019, there were around 27Billion IoT devices, and over 30Billion are expected in 2022.    The IIoT market is expected to have reached $200Billion in 2021.

IIoT includes the pre-existing Systems Control and Data Acquisition (“SCADA”)  and Industrial Control Systems (“ICS”) systems that are in operation in industrial control and management environments and infrastructures.

IoT brings them together with the objective of enhancing efficiencies and optimising production in manufacturing and the wider delivery of products and services. There will also be benefits in safety improvements and cost reductions.   Many ERP systems can now use data supplied by IoT devices to track and analyse the real-time production process, monitor the condition of manufacturing equipment and provide input to predictive analytics. 

It has also provided new network infrastructures. In the early days, all IoT transactions were sent to core systems for analysis and response.  This generated large volumes of network traffic that could reduce service levels in other applications.

After some thought and research, it was realised that many trans actin were ignored by the core processes.  Moving the analysis functions to the edge of the network would significantly reduce the network traffic, saving cost and improving service levels.  Cloud technologies gave the opportunity to do this, and so, the concept of “Fog Computing” was born, in essence, having many semi-independent network clouds at the network edge.   Transactions were processed in the local cloud, and only the summary transactions needed for overall monitoring were passed back to the core systems.

A new breed of IIoT devices has recently come to the fore,  autonomous transportation.  Just like driverless cars, factories can now use driverless vehicles to transport work-in-progress and finished goods between production steps and finished goods warehouses.   The difference between the prior automated transport systems and the latest driverless vehicles is that the new vehicles are not limited to pre-determined routes laid out as tramlines.

What’s Next?

What is to come rather dep[ends on the continuing development of the hyper-connected Internet environment promised by recent advances in 5G, WiFi and fibre technologies.   Some countries are rolling out smart cities with ubiquitous WiFi coverage and Fibre to the Home.    As infrastructure developments continue to roll out, the ability for Industry to connect factories, suppliers and customers will improve.

Large amounts of data that need to be processed by advanced analytic software will travel on these new superhighways and will need to be met by significant processing and storage capacity.  The growing adoption of Cloud Computing will enhance the process.

A new factor that has emerged over the last two years, following restrictions imposed by the pandemic is the increased use of remote working, both from a mobile perspective and from the new working from home paradigm.

This will change how industry operates, particularly in the service industries, and will build on the infrastructure improvements currently underway.   As an example, 5G, despite its health risks and WiFi communications will allow seamless broadband communications from areas currently underserviced or not serviced at all.

Artificial Intelligence

Strictly speaking, Ai is not part of the IoT, though it will leverage the benefits flowing from the adoption of IIoT in the workplace.   The significant amounts of raw data generated by IIoT can be processed by an Ai engine to increase understanding of the data and the information hidden in it.  For example, it is already starting to be used in the mining and petrochemical industries to analyse survey results and indicate where minerals or oil could be found.

In general terms, AI, linked with IIoT can be used in machine learning to allow individual IIoT devices to improve, alert and on occasion decide how best to operate.

Summary

IIoT Is here to stay in industry, in both the manufacturing and service sectors.  The benefits that accrue from being able to process, and with AI, analyse large amounts of raw data can mean the difference between a cost-effective and a redundant process.

To be sure, there are significant cybersecurity issues to be addressed and overcome, but experience shows that is a struggle between the black hats and white hats that will continue.  This time the difference is that failure can have very serious consequences.

Overall though,  industry is embracing IIoT.

Internet of Things – Security Concerns

Internet of Things – Security Concerns

Security has always been at or near the top of the to-do list for all heads of IT.  The last two years have given security considerations a savage twist.   Working From Home and providing remote access to systems and data has become a necessity for many organisations.   Because IT has little or no control over remote devices, that in effect, is an implementation of an IoT environment.

Simply put,  IoT expands the attack surface exposed to threats and potential malware attacks. Add to that, many organisations don’t have the resources or skills to implement the best practices in IoT security.   The increasing spread of IoT devices into homes also opens domestic networks to attack. 

Estimates put the number of IoT devices in 2022 at over 50Billion worldwide. 

IoT Security – Why is it Important?

One simple example illustrates the point.  Driverless Vehicles.  Hacking into a sensor or control mechanism could have serious or even fatal consequences.   Extend this to automated manufacturing environments, and the seriousness of potential malware attacks on IoT devices is obvious.

IoT devices are not just for businesses.  Fibre to the Home and domestic WiFi has brought IoT into the front parlour.  A smart home could have a security system with IP cameras, smart locks and motion sensors.  Individuals could have smart devices, laptops, digital wearable devices like watches and fitness monitors.  Internet attached Smart TVs have recently become common, with the children using gaming consoles to compete on Internet gaming platforms.   Some cable companies offer an Internet-based streaming service. 

The wide diversity in IoT devices brings security and operational issues in its wake.  Currently, there is a determined move towards standardisation and compatibility between devices, but this is by no means complete.  Device portability also raises security concerns.   These gaps are exploited by hackers to carry out information thefts and attacks on corporate and increasingly on home networks.

Unfortunately, as described below, as yet, IoT security has not had the rigorous attention as have other aspects of network security.

IOT Security Issues

Device Vulnerabilities

Many IoT devices have not been designed with security in mind, and many lack the capacity to operate a security environment.   Another reason is the short development cycle of secure firmware and limited budgets intended to ensure a fast time to market and a low price point for the devices.

Two malware attacks have been recorded on IoT devices, URGENT/11 and Ripple20.

A second attack surface is the applications software used to manage the IoT device, which sometimes is not part of the anti-malware defence environment.

Device portability is also an issue.  Users can bring flash drives, smart devices and e-readers from home to work and attach them to the corporate network.   Even if they do not carry malware, they can be used to steal confidential information.

Hijacked Devices

This is a particular issue of home systems, where users don’t activate or configure the inherent security features in their IoT device.   They may also use easily hacked passwords.  Hijacking an IoT device can be used as a prank or can be used as an entry point to a domestic or corporate network.

Malware

Cybercriminals are increasingly looking at IoT devices as a target in themselves, or as an entry point to networks and systems.  One recorded exploit was when the Mirai botnet downed major websites and services worldwide.   Ransomware is a recent and rapidly growing threat.

Compromised IoT devices can also be used as the base for DDoS attacks, as the source for infecting other devices, or as an entry point to a corporate network.

Data Security

Quite apart from using an  IoT device as the entry point to a corporate network, some devices store information that could be stolen.  In a research environment, this could be valuable IP data.

Operational Issues

The FBI say that most successful malware attacks are because of actions, malicious or otherwise, initiated between the keyboard and the back of the chair.  A complex network (some home networks are at or beyond this status), needs proper management, an understanding by users of what constitutes a  cyber threat, and what to do if they suspect they have found one.

One other operational issue is the misconfiguration of IoT devices, or not setting up the security features at all.

Protection

Step 1 – Does it need to be on?

Look at all your IoT devices.  Not all will need to be switched on and connected 24/7/365.   Switch them off when not needed.

Step 2 – Create a separate network for IoT devices

If a hacker does manage to break into an IoT device, limit his ability to move on into the corporate network by having all IoT devices on a separate logical network.  This means that your router needs to be completely secure.

Step 3 – Check for Updates

Regularly check for firmware upgrades for your IoT devices.

Step 4 – Check your Anti-Malware Software

Make sure you are using anti-malware software that provides coverage for IoT devices. Not all do.  If necessary change.

Summary

IoT security can be a minefield, particularly for the home user.  However, there are tried and trusted solutions and techniques too make an IoT environment as secure as possible.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things

Internet of Things – What is It?

The scope of the digital revolution has spread over the last few years to devices we would not imagine needed a digital connection.   The media have latched onto this, calling it the Internet of Things (”IoT”). We’ve read of web-enabled fridges that will automatically order replacement food, robot cleaners that will make your home sparkling, and that the day of androids taking over mundane tasks is nearly here.

The reality is a little more prosaic, being the development of driverless cars, smart microwaves, and other digital improvements in transport and manufacturing.

In this series of four short articles about IoT, we will look in hopefully a non-technical way at what is meant by IoT, security concerns around its implementation, how it is affecting manufacturing and what is coming up.

IoT – a definition

Broadly speaking the IoT is about extending the power of the Internet beyond computers and smart devices to other devices, environments, and applications.   One commentator has put it very simply as connecting everything in the world to the Internet.

The process has been underway for a few years and is predicted to accelerate in the next decade.

Why does the IoT matter?

Connecting stuff to the Internet allows them to communicate. A good example is listening to music on a smartphone.  Your phone doesn’t store the music, just pulls it down from a storage location somewhere on the Internet.

Low-cost computing and ubiquitous connectivity enable synergy between the cloud, big data, analytics, and mobile technologies.  In a broader sense that makes devices smarter, and they can carry out mundane routine tasks previously made by people.   One commentator described it as “The physical world meeting the digital world—and they cooperate”.

The Technology base of the IoT

Most of the technologies used by the IoT have been around for a while.  It is only relatively recently that advances in different fields have come together to make IoT a practical proposition:

  • Micro-technology.  Low-power and low-cost sensors.
  • Ubiquitous Connectivity.   The expansion of cellular and WiFi coverage has made it possible to remain connected while mobile.
  • Standards.  New connectivity standards and protocols have made it a lot easier to connect devices for easy data transfer.
  • The Cloud.  Cloud platforms are  more and more common, allowing businesses and individuals to scale their infrastructure without needing to manage it.
  • Machine Intelligence.  There have been significant advances in machine learning and analytics recently.  Applying MI to Big Data gives businesses a competitive edge and can further allow IoT devices to carry out tasks previously carried out by humans.
  • Artificial Intelligence.  Having the data, and connecting to the devices that supply and use it, is not much use if it needs to be processed before acting on it.  New AI environments using natural language processing like Siri, Alexa and other conversational AI systems take the reach of the IoT into both business and the home.

How does it work?

A typical network has a central core where the main processing happens with devices at the edge, such as the PCs and smart devices that people use connected to it.   The Internet is simply lots of these networks all linked together.  An IoT network is exactly the same.

As an example, in an IoT smart manufacturing environment, the edge of the network is a mixture of sensors, operational devices like computer-controlled devices (“CNC”) and user-managed devices.  The sensors record what is happening, pass the information back up the network for processing, and the CNC devices act on the instructions passed back to them.  Operators and managers can see what is happening using their personal devices and if necessary can pass control instructions to the CNC machines.   A loop, if you like.

Why Use IoT at Home?

To take a very trivial example, you wake at the same time every working day when your alarm clock goes off.  Some days, everything goes well, other days things go wrong.  Your train is cancelled or it’s raining, so it will take longer to get to work.

If your alarm clock was an IoT device with an AI capability, it would know these things and reset your wake-up time to earlier to compensate for these problems. A really smart alarm clock would communicate with your IoT coffee maker to tell it to start percolating earlier so your coffee is ready now you are up earlier.

Why Use IoT in a business?

IoT provides better insight for a business into both internal and external operations.  The detailed level of information can be used to identify and implement new efficiencies in an operational process, improve the management of physical assets and assist with compliance with regulatory requirements.

It can also create an entirely new business model.  As an example, in the motor industry, a manufacturer’s involvement with a vehicle ends when it ships to the dealer, where the new owner purchased it.

Having a connected car means that a link between the manufacturer, dealer and owner is established.  Rather than an outright purchase, the owner pays a usage fee to the manufacturer or dealer based on how much they drive.  The manufacturer can also continuously upgrade the vehicle software.  One commentator, rather tongue-in-cheek referred to the concept as MaaS (Motoring as a Service).

Summary

IoT means many different things to many people.  As technology in its infancy and one with the power to generate profound social change, it has a long way to go.  Industry and commerce are already using IoT, linked with other emerging technologies like AI to improve their businesses, both internally and in terms of customer service.

To quote someone or another, I forget exactly who, “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.