At first it feels funny: That in a field as full of Geek Speak as Information Technology they would call it the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). One would expect a string of words that most people never heard before, but okay, we’re in.

What is IoT?

First, it deals with the internet, of course, but the interesting part is what the ‘things’ are. In IoT, a thing will be some sort of connected device. This can range from the chip in your German Shepherd to your ‘smart commode’ (yes, they are out there). The pacemaker Grandpa had implanted is one of these things. So are sensors in your automobile. If you have a smart litterbox (yes, they are out there too), then Captain Fluffymuffin is also (sort of) connected.

If it has been assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address and has the ability to transmit any type of data over the internet, it is now a Smart Thing.

So what does this mean? In order to go about your day relaxing, jogging, having a sauna or hot tub, are you going to need to have an IT support and services team on speed-dial? That reality may not be far away at this point. But, if every single one of your gadgets goes haywire, as long as you can still Google ‘IT Support Los Angeles’, you can get the cavalry to ride to your rescue. If you are a severe gadgeteer and a remote worker as well, you may want to look at Managed IT Services.

For the time being, you can probably still rely on the nearest 13 year old for your IoT issues, but if you are strictly a consumer, you should at least find a good IT services person nearby, just in case.

While it does sound like a gadgeteer’s dream, there is a deep-seated usefulness to all of this – and deep-rooted dangers as well. No – not Skynet destroying the world and enslaving the few remaining humans to oil the Terminator-making machines, but once you’re online, you’re swimming with Cybercriminals.

There have been cases reported of Ransomware attacks that hacked into a home Smart HVAC system, turned it to 100 degrees, and wouldn’t reset it until a Bitcoin ransom was paid. That would be where you call IT services rather than the A/C guy.

IoT and Business Networks

This goes well beyond the aspects of consumer IoT – and beyond having your smart coffee machine plugged into the network. IoT for business has far-reaching ramifications and tangible benefits to productivity.

Every type of business can use integrated IoT to their advantage, but industries like manufacturing, or companies that use various types of machinery generally receive the full gamut of benefits. For example, Amazon uses AI robots that can sort and inventory items without human help, and Drones that deliver packages fit the description of IoT to a tee. In many large corporate office environments, robots can deliver mail, snacks, and beverages to workers – keeps them working – not hanging around the break room. Remember the ill-fated Solyndra? They didn’t produce product, but they had robots that wandered around playing Show Tunes. Makes you wonder why they went broke.

But it’s not just about robots. IoT allows sensors to render important feedback that allows you to efficiently monitor and track your assets – from farmer’s threshers and concubines to delivery vehicles and to any type of equipment that until IoT was not considered to be part of the network.

For Small and Mid-Size Businesses (SMBs), your Managed IT Services provider or even some ‘Break & Fix’ IT services can set up the monitoring and data flow from peripheral devices into your network.

If your infrastructure is IoT enabled, you will find that IoT can provide these benefits:

Saves time and money
Ability to use time and money saved for increased revenue generation
Improves worker productivity
Better integrated sophistication for business models
More informed business decisions
Better monitoring of all business processes
Improved customer satisfaction

For any business to integrate IoT into their network, it needs to be supported by qualified and experienced IT support, preferably a Managed Services Provider. The IT Support Los Angeles community has been working with IoT for business since its inception, and they will know your network and will be able to identify trouble-spots and potential data logjams. IoT is not the easiest thing to integrate into a network infrastructure – it is well beyond the average abilities of your typical free-lance ‘IT services guy’.

IoT Q & A

Q: What are some of the business challenges with IoT?

A:  When technology advances, vulnerabilities appear and are ready to be exploited. The main concerns:

1)  Increased AI Attacks: If you incorporate a lot of IoT into your network, you need a truly top-notch Managed Services Provider to tighten security, spot and prevent any ‘back door’ intrusions – your college kid ‘IT guy’ is probably not going to cut it here.

2)  Improper or Non-Existent Logging: Specifically, technology is struggling to catch up with apps that accurately log and manage the constant flow of data from IoT devices. What good is all that data if you are not analyzing it to improve productivity?

3)  Cloud Attacks: Cloud hosting companies are a prime target. While their own internal IT support and services teams work very hard at maintaining high security – just as your IT service provider does for your network, cybercriminals are working just as hard to get around defenses.

4)  Privacy and Data Security: Just consider the fact that Microsoft and Apple have been subject to data breaches. Your Managed IT Services   team needs to be ever- vigilant the ‘Technology Times They are A-Changing’. Forbes states that the FBI warns that hackers are using ‘innocent’ IoT devices to stage ‘drive-by’ data breaches.

Q: What are 3 challenges IoT is currently facing?

A: This is a relatively new and fast-moving technology. In a way, it can be a Pandora’s Box of surprises. The top 3 challenges IoT is dealing with:

1) Proper integration with existing technology. Even in your own network, apps and devices don’t always ‘play well’ together – especially older apps like Word Perfect. IoT is still in a ‘wild’ stage and can become unwieldy if not integrated and secured properly. Experienced IT support only need apply.

2) Business: With heavy regulations and severe fines for data breaches, as business continues dipping its toe into this new stream, the need for the highest level of security is paramount. IoT experts still have a lot of work to do to get all the potential bugs out.

3) Society: Don’t kid yourself – many people are afraid of IoT: They’ve seen the Terminator movies and they know what happened when Skynet became self-aware. There is some potential truth here, and the fact is that no one can completely appease consumer perceptions an apprehension. Rest easier, though – it’s still highly unlikely that your smart toaster is going to kill you.

Q: What devices are IoT?

A:  This list grows every day – some of the devices that seem ‘frivolous’ are pointed out above. Basically anything that can connect to the internet: wireless sensors, appliances, wearable health monitoring devices, security systems, factory equipment – even your home sprinkler system. A VoIP phone system  is IoT. Get it connected with an ability to accept commands and it’s IoT.

Q: What are the main parts of IoT?

A: There are 4 components necessary for a device to be IoT: Connectivity, sensors, data processing and a user interface. Leverage explains how it all works HERE.

Q: What is IoT support?

A:  For consumers, on a given device, it may be the manufacturers customer service department. For business, this needs to be IT support from a highly experienced Managed Services Provider or any type of IT support and services company.

Q: How do IoT devices connect to the Internet?

A: Once you have a connectable IoT device, you need Internet access, Application protocol, Gateways, Network servers, and Cloud applications. DIGI offers an excellent rundown HERE.