5 questions every CIO should ask about the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things CIO

Like cloud and big data, Internet of Things, or IoT, is one of those terms you can't get away from, and it covers a lot of different technologies and use cases. And while refrigerators that tell you when the milk is going bad or living rooms that know when to turn on the lights may get a lot of the consumer attention, the Internet of Things can also bring huge benefits to the enterprise.

"The Internet of Things is all about enabling process efficiency within an organization," explains Yasser Khan, founder and CTO of Connect2.Me, a free global database of IoT devices and APIs. For example, he says, using sensors that connect to an enterprise network, local administrators could be notified instantaneously if there is a leak, fire, or other environmental problem at a facility thousands of miles away.

But knowing whether an IoT deployment is right for your business, and if so, what that deployment should be, is not always a simple matter. With a confusing array of options, Khan recommends that CIOs interested in getting started with the Internet of Things begin by asking these questions:

1. What is the business objective of the deployment?

"A lot of processes are already deployed within an enterprise that could be enhanced by adding an IoT layer," he says. "You could enable that process to become much more efficient. So understanding the business objective you're trying to achieve with these processes is the place to start."

2. Build it in-house or buy it from a vendor?

"It depends on the in-house expertise you have with implementation of IoT solutions," Khan says. "There are various aspects to manage. For one thing, there's the threshold of high availability. If your Internet of Things deployment is going to be monitoring mission-critical events, you could wind up with a solution which really won't work for you. You don't want to find out about flooding in a facility after the damage has already happened. So it may depend on the nature of the deployment and whether your in-house team can deploy those highly available solutions."

3. How many vendors should you use?

If you decide to go with a vendor rather than homegrown solution, you will have a huge array of choices, it might make sense to use multiple vendors, Khan says. "It's a vast ecosystem," he says. "You might have multiple providers who can provide temperature sensors and the mechanism for transporting or computing that value, but the applications might be different in a different environment. So you might need a different sensor in a workspace environment than in a manufacturing plant."

4. How will you secure the system?

For obvious reasons, a system that can do things like alert you to a fire in a distant facility is one that needs to be protected from hackers and malware. "If you're deploying a solution that will enable people to control or activate objects from browser-based applications, you need security in place to make sure it doesn't compromise the safety of the enterprise," Khan says. "Security needs to be built in from the start."

5. How will this affect your cloud needs?

Most IoT deployments deliver data to the cloud. But one question to ask is, which data, how much, and for how long? You need to set policies around these questions because data generated from IoT deployments can add up quickly. "You might be collecting temperature and humidity data every two seconds," Khan says. "That can be a huge amount of data that's not that valuable. So you may need a system that allows you to do local processing and determine which data it makes sense to send to the cloud. That will reduce latency and allow you to do a lot more processing of data — what's right, what's wrong, what is or isn't relevant — without throwing a ton of information into the cloud, which can be costly."

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Mike Martin, CIO of nfrastructure, talks about how the Internet of Things is taking shape in his business. Read, "The true value of the Internet of Things."

Mr. Yasser Khan is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Connect2.me, U.S. Yasser is a successful serial entrepreneur and focuses on creating business value through innovative technology solutions. He has helped multiple Global 100 organizations by implementing innovative technology ecosystems. He is founder of highly successful venture called Plasma which has developed a unique BPM solution for Telecom Carriers and Connected Devices OEMs. The solution is deployed by Global Carriers such as AT&T for streamlining the Device onboarding and certification process for the mobile network.  He is excited about how IoT will bring a fundamental change in our lives, far exceeding the change brought in by the traditional internet. He has now forayed into IoT with the launch of Connect2.me in 2013. Within a very short time, his groundbreaking technology has been used at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona in 2013 and 2014.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.

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