Picture this – your alarm clock goes off, you reach across the bed and take a look at your phone; it’s woken you up 30 minutes early – why? Well you have a meeting at 9:30am, but your car is running low on fuel so filling up will take 15 minutes, and traffic is a little worse than normal, so it will take an extra 15 minutes to get to the meeting. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT) a world where your phone can play your day ahead and your fridge knows when it’s running dry and orders the groceries itself.
IoT has captured the imagination of industry visionaries and the public for some time now; devices sending and receiving data, opening the door to a futuristic world previously the stuff of science fiction.
As the cities we live in grow into digital ecosystems, the networks around us will connect every individual device, enabling billions of new data exchanges. Industries will enter a new era, from medical devices that talk directly to medical professionals, to the emergence of smart homes that manage themselves efficiently, ensuring energy usage is checked and bills paid on time.
In the workplace it’s equally easy to see the potential advantages of the connections between devices, from intelligent service desk support through to printers, computers and other devices interacting with each other to deliver tangible user and business benefits.
The service desk is a key component for businesses in the digital age, acting as a communication hub for IT issues, a reference point for technology requirements and a tool for asset visibility. Organisations must ask themselves if their current service desk has the technological capacity and capability to manage the multitude of device and operational data in an efficient manner. An intelligent service desk can be the lifeblood of IoT implementation within businesses and enable automation to be realised.
A connected printer in a business ecosystem, for example, could effectively self-serve its own peripheral needs and order its own supplies when needed. However, the management of that data, effective registration and logging of the incident, as well as notification to the financial and technical teams would not be possible without an intelligent service desk – especially when you elevate this to an enterprise scale, with possibly hundreds of connected printers or devices.
When discussing the “connected office”, IT managers will understandably raise concerns around security. The more devices that are connected, the further the periphery is pushed, increasing potential entry points there are into a network.
An intelligent service desk will enable whitelisting to be integrated into communication protocols. This is a process which gathers and groups trusted individuals and their devices into a known category. This will enable any unusual requests from either IoT enabled devices or employee requests to be automatically flagged and questioned before action or access is given.
It is in this scenario that IT managers can reap the benefits of IoT, service desk and employee synchronisation. Through the IoT device communicating with the service desk, the service desk effectively managing all end points and the employee working in tandem with the service desk software, the minimisation of internal security risks can be achieved.
While much of this sounds quite out of reach, the benefits of IoT and service desk communication are already evident today, through use cases that are currently very fluid, personalised and often driven by an imaginative use of existing and sometimes emerging technology. Peripheral IT product vending machines holding keyboards and mice, for example, allow the realisation of this relationship to be seen.
However, with so much data being transferred and the IoT still very ‘new’, there are a number of challenges, the most critical being visibility of assets connected and operating under the network.
Communication between all end points and visibility should be fundamental considerations when planning for an IoT based implementation. Intelligent service desks, that can enrich the IT support experience as well as integrate and communicate with the business ecosystem, can host the technology capability to have oversight, communication and visibility of device end points communicating with a network.
While this may appear to be a straightforward concept, often enthusiasm to implement and complexity of service desk and technology transformation has a tendency to drown out and bypass the fundamentals – leaving potential backdoors open.
To ensure that there is a holistic approach toward securing connections with the IoT, organisations must challenge all stakeholders (vendors, integrators and consultants) to apply secure IoT principles to the service desk solution and IT operational unit, right from the “drawing board” phase.
Happy New Year and may 2016 be your most successful and effective yet. It’s the time of year where every analyst, strategist and technologist delivers a number of market or technology based predictions for the year. In reality they are educated guesses because no one really knows what will happen, but the activity is essential (and one you should personally undertake) because it ensures you have an outward focus (external focus) that is as fundamental to your business success (or at least viable) as your internal view. And best of all with market predictions, they are not guarantees of change as they are based on all of the indicators, assumptions, dependencies or guesses remaining consistent. Over the coming months I will share three 2016 perspectives for the Security, Networking and Digital collaboration (UC in old school terms) marketplaces. The views are my own but leverage extensive market and customer research most notably based on real world customer dialogue and challenges through 2015.
The Security challenge in 2016 could be the back breaker the industry is currently dreading. There are numerous forces and events that will ensure 2016 requires so much business change (positive change) that the door will be widened to any party focused on attacks and breaching defences. There are numerous (too many to actually affect or process) security related impacts that any forward thinking enterprise must consider through 2016 – many are documented heavily within industry white papers and vendor solutions updates. However I will concentrate on six, a few common, others not that are currently giving me most food for thought as I work on strategies for 2016.
The relentless rise of the mobile enterprise (Mobility): Mobility delivers one of the most acute security challenges today. The mobile worker, enterprise, user is no longer a fad or a secondary persona – it is the norm for many enterprises and will ultimately become the norm for all. Driven via the smart device (most commonly a phone) bonded permanently to the hand of many a user and an almost infinite pool of “relevant” applications, the need (not desire) for every digital activity to be available, everywhere, all of the time will deliver a security challenge second to none.
The connectivity issue that previously stalled the mobility drive is somewhat alleviated with fast wireless connectivity available in the home and enterprise and pretty fast connectively (sometimes) outside and on the move. That has moved any business obstacles to launch a mobility drive away from networking and connectivity and pushed it straight into the hands of the security team to ensure where a connection is made it is sure, and where data is accessed it is controlled. Some say it is an impossible task but that is conceding defeat too easily. It is a challenging but not an impossible task and an enterprise serious about affecting security change could start with:
- A top down perspective on the attitude towards risk for the enterprise (what really are “business breaking events”)
- A rigorous understanding of the regulatory framework that governs the enterprise (compliance)
- Comprehensive visibility of data assets within (where are they, what are they, how important are they, do they need to be protected, and to what level)
- Full understanding of how can someone get to them (connectivity and access)
- A real time, dynamic view of the secure persona or posture of the users.
I have simplified the workflow and challenge greatly (and many other perspectives must be considered and the order could change) but tools, processes, services and systems exist today that will really make a dent in the “secure mobile enterprise” challenge. It’s too easy to blend a “mobile enterprise” persona into existing and potentially legacy approaches to mobilising users and delivering business services – resist the temptation and use the time for change to undertake a “back to basics” information security review. Do nothing or do slowly because only a small group are mobile is a flawed theory – now is the time to act.
The next big thing – IOT: The Internet of Things (and or the internet of everything) has captured the imagination of analysts and marketers alike. The connected world of “things” sending and receiving data, commonly over IP protocols but others are emerging, opens the door to a 21st century world previously impossible to imagine. Picture the world of connected cites, healthcare devices talking directly to medical professionals, smart homes exchanging data with utility companies – in fact forget the picture those services, solutions and “outcomes” are already here today. And there lies the problem, the IOT use cases are currently very fluid, personalised and often driven by imaginative use of existing and sometimes emerging technology. With IOT implementations and ideas so cutting edge, the challenge of securing the outcome becomes even greater.
At the risk of becoming an innovation “kill joy” only one recommendation exists of real validity, design any IOT / IOE solution with security acting as the core design frame to minimise the unthinkable challenge of a security retro fit to a solution beyond go live. This sounds like a simple and obvious recommendation (obvious yes, simple no) but is often bypassed due to the enthusiasm, complexity and excitement surrounding the implementation or benefit of the “things” solution. It is fundamental to success to challenge all vendors, integrators and consultancies on secure IOT principles as soon as the “drawing board” solution development phase begins. I fear the IOT security challenge with so many current and future unknowns will be one of the ticking time bombs of the greatest impact over the coming years.
It’s too early in the year for extra long blogs (you have barely cleared your Christmas inbox) so part two of this blog will be next week. I hope the richness of the outline above adds colour to your strategy and planning activities through Q1 to allow you to identify security topics that really require top priority focus through 2016. Two more topics next week and before January concludes the complete story will be told.
Until next week
Happy New Year
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK, Networking, Security and Digital Collaboration (UC)
The title of this blog may seem somewhat sensationalist (probably). It was driven by my recent retail consumer navigation (“last minute present time”), common to many through the Christmas season to date. And the aforementioned “valuable currency”, first off to avoid the numerous cries of foul, I will eliminate the obvious and fundamental elements for life (air, food, etc) from the rather grand boast of the title. But I hope on conclusion of this brief scribble its clear why I hold this special “currency” in such high regard.
From the dawn of not just modern society, but any society, humans traded in some way, shape or form. Sellers sought to seller their wares to buyers keen to buy (and sometimes not so keen) with the optimum marriage, a product available for sale at the perfect time (and price) to a surplus number of buyers. The final element has remained the sales Holy Grail and to realise that seller buyer perfect relationship the profession of marketing rose from the ashes with the impossible task of stargazing the wants needs and desires of all. That truly impossible task became probable as marketers leveraged science and human psychology to bind products to potential target customers and often with amazing degrees of effectiveness and accuracy. But still when questioned industry leaders continued to question marketing effectiveness often citing return on investment and other metric driven formulae for less than perfect results. Until now….
Through the advent of a perfect storm of IT systems at the right price / performance levels, secure enterprise grade connectivity “everywhere”, advanced analytical algorithms / models with near human insight, data structures / repositories capable of previously unimagined data storage / manipulation and finally digital data generated by “things” we now have realised our own “digital alchemy” use to create the most valuable currency ever – “big data”.
At this point after such a monumental build up, the temptation for you to yawn and hit delete may appear (suppress it), but that is somewhat premature with more of the story to unfold.
My Christmas social and retail journey is a current storyboard of the stealth like use of big data today that helps to optimise many of my interactions with people and systems. Websites that know who I am and offer me gift ideas aligned with the season for friends and family based on my past purchases and an awareness of their demographic. Retail stores track my in store movement as a mobile user and leverage my location and browsing habits to make products for sale more attractive to me (via price or enhanced visibility). Payment systems utilise my smart watch which in turn leverages multiple data driven security authorisation/authentication and financial information stores to validate me based on behaviour, location and activity to confirm that I have indeed attempted a financial transaction. I could continue and include my previously low tech bank debit card that has now unleashed via contactless transactions has the potential to be much much more in future. And the unifying factors behind it all, secure network connectivity of people to things to allow them to do previously unimagined “things” but with real-time availability / accessibility to a bordering on human store of digital data insight we now called “big data”. The highly pervasive, always on, now always everywhere, NETWORK is making big data – bigger!
Big data is no longer a “fad” or something leveraged by others – it is fast becoming “the” most “valuable currency” ever. It has the potential to digitally stargaze via advanced data analysis & data joins and deliver a result at an accuracy level and a speed impossible for a human (or banks of humans) to achieve (have a quick look at IBM Watson). Now is the time to make big data less of a conversation for technologists and instead the heartbeat of business. At Computacenter we are not waiting, we deem it so paramount we have our own data analytics Chief Technologist (welcome Aleem Cummings, look out for his blog). The importance enterprises are now placing on the need to leverage and maximise big data to propel business forward makes it a top “C suite” priority.
The network provides the secure connectivity layer to allow “things” to interact with other “things” and for humans to personally, socially and emotionally benefit from that interaction (I promise no mention of IOT, ooops too late). And the information created with that data whether small or big will be the “digital currency” that delivers evidence based proof of value.
Big data doesnt just help to create / find answers its so valuable it can be extracted and traded in its own right. And if this digital, big data is such a value personal and business asset, validated security and secure interaction becomes a precursor to future success. “but is it?”. One for another day I think.
Until next time
Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2016
Colin W @colinccuk – Chief Technologist, Networking, Security and UC.
A few months ago I scribbled about the need to develop and deploy Information Technology systems (“IT”) now with 2020 in mind. In “Arthur C Clark” style I discussed the need for a change of thinking and the importance of considering all of the interconnected elements (many quite embryonic), due to the astonishing level of business change currently affecting us all. Through 2015 it has become apparent that the year 2020 shouldn’t be deemed a distant milestone, we need whatever we envisage “IT” will deliver in 2020 – today.
Data isn’t exploding, it has already exploded and will do every second, minute, hour of every day. We may never successfully control it but many will harness it to unlock unimaginable personal and business value. The connected society will continue to be the heartbeat of everything we do (and I do mean everything) and both personal & business expectations will increase every time benefits are realised. Whether it’s the relentless march of smart devices (even I have an Apple watch), the rise and rise of the “app for everything” culture (ok, nearly everything), the Internet of things optimising our everyday existence or always available (but not always effective) Internet / device connectivity – we are now a “connected device” dependent society. Our imagination is the catalyst for digital entrepreneurship energised by the view IT “can”, but the gloss is not without a little “matt”. If digital business gain must be balanced or is tempered by digital data loss is it really at gain at all. Maybe agile security is the new must have security persona as systems that learn and evolve as threats and attacks evolve must be the only effective way forward
And that means the personal and business outcomes previously considered “too radical” or “far out there” are many of the outcomes EXPECTED today. We have been here before and dare I say it, many times through previous IT revolutions or business evolutions. Each time the step change was delivered in somewhat controlled proportions and allowed the essential but at times loose coupling of IT and business to be maintained. But it feels different now, very different. The expectations of enterprises today buoyed by the belief that software can achieve “anything” and the connected enterprise can stitch together the business fabric required, is straining traditional IT operational models, architectural frameworks and delivery outcomes. The people change impact is underplayed, often overlooked but key to the successful and long lasting evolution to a truly digital enabled enterprise. The fallacy that IT and business can run as separate entities is misguided. IT & the business must be interlocked to such an intimate and fundamental degree that even non IT bound businesses may fail to be effective without IT in the midst of the current “digital economy”.
The expectation of “IT 2020” realizable today is effecting application development and release to a profound degree. The change can no longer be avoided and even for the more traditional enterprises, accelerated/iterative development (“agile like”) and operational styles are no longer activities undertaken by “others” but essential modes required to keep up (forget about even moving ahead) with a business landscape changing at warp speed. And as the power of “IT 2020” really accelerates with the IOT/IOE quasi social experience becoming the norm, we will start to experience today the benefits of people and systems intimacy that will underpin our societal existence in 2020.
Things really are different now and for me different is good unlocking possibilities and opportunities for all. With the market change agents continuing to blaze the trail with everything from healthcare via video or personal payment systems on a watch to home energy management via a Smartphone, the IT systems of today must change to ENABLE or they will hinder change. That’s why 2020 is too late for 2020 IT – that time is now.
Until next time.
Chief Technologist, Computacenter UK – Networking, Security, UC