How to Plan for IoT Success: Strategy and Recommendations

The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to deliver substantial economic and operational value to almost every business process in every industry. As a matter of fact, McKinsey estimates IoT has a potential economic impact between $2.7–$6.2 trillion by 2025.1

Gaining this value depends on the successful marriage of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), with each bringing a diverse mix of systems, business process knowledge, and services to the table.

This is because IT expertise and tools are critical to connecting traditionally unconnected operational technologies, ranging from kidney dialysis machines and video surveillance systems to interstate toll highways, aerial drones, and mobility-based voting booths.

IoT can be the driver of a powerful marriage between OT and IT, but as with any marriage, there are potential pitfalls and difficult decisions to be made along the way.

The Twin Challenges of Security and Data Management

IoT generates huge volumes of data, and much of it is produced by simple devices with little or no security. Securing an IoT implementation from the sensor to the cloud or data center and managing the data it generates present two huge challenges.

Data management and security cannot be accomplished simply by bolting on applications or dedicating individual servers and storage to IoT workloads. New solutions for data control, security, devices, connectivity, and more are required to ensure that data is managed for maximum efficiency, scalability, flexibility, and adherence to data governance models.

A New Architecture for IoT

For IT and OT systems to work together seamlessly, a new IT architecture is needed to control, manage, and secure things, applications, data, and processes from the data center to every operational center in the enterprise. An IoT architecture comprises two main elements: the content plane and the control plane.

The Content Plane

The content plane refers to the data flowing from the edge of the system to the IoT platform, which is typically located in a traditional data center, but which could be in an operational facility.

Within this platform, data is sorted, analyzed, and used for applications such as supply chain automation and customer experience management.

The Control Plane

The control plane refers to the infrastructure, security, and management tools required to implement an IoT solution: from endpoints such as sensors back to the data center or the cloud where IoT workloads are hosted. It is often overlooked during the early stages of an IoT project, causing headaches and delays when scaling from proof of concept (POC) to production.

Many enterprise IoT use cases include remote, unmanned devices. They need to be monitored to determine whether they are operating correctly, and when maintenance or replacement are required. Over time, they may need firmware updates or to be remotely restarted. These are all critical functions of the IoT control plane and IoT infrastructure management.

Monitoring, managing, and securing millions of disparate things like sensors, devices, or edge gateways is a challenge for an administrator. The control plane needs a “control center” to manage all the “things,” and to monitor their health and behavior. Ideally this should be accessible through a single management console.

This console should enable services to be orchestrated for IT and business process automation. It should reduce human touch points, and free up both IT and operational personnel for analytics-based decision making.

IoT Infrastructure Management Blueprint

A blueprint has emerged for the functionality and capabilities necessary to manage the IoT control plane in enterprise-scale production environments. Key requirements include:

  1. Support for diverse protocols. IoT infrastructure management tools should provide vendor-neutral management for the wide variety of protocols and data formats.
  2. Ability to orchestrate data. It is essential that IoT infrastructure management is capable of providing complete control of data and managing it according to preset rules.
  3. Security by design. Any IoT infrastructure management solution should provide security at all levels of the device and data lifecycle.
  4. Automated detection, configuration, and management of edge systems. Good IoT infrastructure management solutions automate onboarding, software updates, and timely action according to preconfigured rules.
  5. Scalability in building and deploying enterprise-grade solutions. It is critical that IoT infrastructure management is able to manage both legacy and new architectures seamlessly, while having the agility to easily scale up or down to meet changing business needs.

Planning for IoT infrastructure management early in an IoT project ensures the successful marriage of IT and OT to deliver business value and ROI quickly and efficiently. IoT at enterprise-scale is rewarding but challenging, so plan ahead for success.   

Download the full whitepaper, “How to Plan for IoT Success: Strategy and Recommendations.”

1McKinsey Global Institute analysis