IoT Assessments Provide Better Outcomes
The ongoing buzz around the Internet of Things is a blessing and a curse. It draws attention to the technology but also pressures businesses to adopt new solutions without clear goals or proper planning. And you know what happens to projects with poor planning—unwanted outcomes.
That’s why MSPs and integrators must never let clients overlook planning. Good planning, moreover, starts with an assessment of what technologies are already in place and which ones can be included in an IoT project. Then you can determine what new systems to deploy to meet specific business goals.
What’s the Problem?
Before launching an IoT project, set an objective, says Alan Crooks, head of U.S. business development for ActionPoint Technology Group. Based in Torrance, Calif., the company makes IoT-Predict, a plug-and-play IoT monitoring solution that offers predictive maintenance insights for industrial and warehouse environments.
“We start with a conference call and walk through the difficulties the business is having. A lot of people want to do IoT but they don’t really have a problem. There has to be an actual problem they’re trying to solve, and we have to try to determine what that problem is,” Crooks says.
Focusing on the pain points, such as excruciatingly slow manual processes or chronic equipment failures, helps determine if there is a need for the real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance modeling, and analytics capabilities that IoT-Predict delivers.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
Sometimes clients don’t know their pain points. Brad Miller, president of Orbis Solutions, an Aurora, Ill.-based IoT security provider, says clients don’t always recognize the security implications of IP-connected devices, and that any device connected to the network must be secured to prevent hacking.
Once he’s made that point, Miller proposes an assessment that includes scanning the network to identify all connected devices. Orbis then develops a plan to secure those devices with a combination of solutions, including firewalls and security information event and management software.
Customers are usually surprised by the assessment’s results. “It’s really more about the scale of it,” Miller says. “They know they have sensors in place, but they don’t know they have 1,000 sensors or that a machine is hooked up to the internet.”
Reining Them In
Dave Seibert, CIO of IT Innovators Inc., an MSP in Irvine, Calif., employs tactics similar to Miller’s. He will ask clients about IP-connected devices such as time clocks, VoIP phones, and surveillance cameras. Often clients don’t realize those devices are connected to the internet, so IT Innovators scans the network to find them.
A good assessment will unearth more than just nontraditional IP-connected devices, Seibert points out. A common occurrence, for instance, is when a customer “goes rogue,” buying a router and connecting it to the network without following proper procedures. Such a device can actually stop new computers from getting IP addresses. “It can flood your network to the point that other people can’t do the basic job you pay them to do,” Seibert notes.
But Is It IoT?
Siebert doesn’t mention “IoT” with clients. They don’t know or care what it is. The point is to ensure that all internet-connected devices are accounted for and properly managed.
For his part, Miller discusses IoT-connected devices in the context of security. “It’s part of the overall security discussion. I just throw it in as one more box to check,” he says.
Sometimes, says Crooks, you have to say “no” to IoT solutions. Either the client doesn’t have a need for one or has to be stopped when trying to unwisely broaden a project’s scope. But you can’t really know without an assessment.
Pedro Pereira is a Massachusetts-based writer who has covered technology and the IT channel for two decades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.