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Zebra Survey Shows Security, Management Planning Driving IoT Growth

The company's 2019 "Intelligent Enterprise Index" finds greater planning is taking place among Internet of Things adopters in retail, manufacturing, health care and logistics to ensure that systems are secure and that data can be potentially shared with partners.
By Claire Swedberg

What was unique to the latest survey, Ehlers says, was the amount of planning around data management and security. For example, 58 percent of those using IoT solutions in 2018 were monitoring their systems for security in real time, whereas the percentage this year has risen to 62 percent.

Both privacy and security concerns are typically worked into the planning phase, the survey indicates. "Security today is at the forefront," Ehlers says, so that companies can ensure data is protected from unauthorized parties. That requires security built into IoT devices at the physical layer, as well as into the wireless connection as data is transmitted to the cloud, and also at the application layer. "There's vulnerability at all these points," he says. "Security must be planned and budgeted for, and it must be kept up to date."

In the past, Ehlers says, "Some folks deployed IoT solutions and thought about security after the fact." That meant they had to determine how to secure data they were already collecting. Now, he adds, partnerships are considering security as part of their deployment planning. "It's very proactive now," he states, "with plans for mitigation factors and for future vulnerabilities." Then there's the question of data management. While 39 percent said they planned to share information from their IoT solutions with employees in real or near-real time in 2018, 50 percent now do so, potentially by text or voice mail in the case of actionable data.

Typically, companies in the retail sector are using the technology to meet the needs of consumers for knowledgeable service and fast delivery. For instance, the IoT—using RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or other wireless communication technologies—can help sales associates better know who enters a store, as well as quickly access data about the products they seek. The "buy online, pickup in store" (BOPIS) model is enabled with RFID since it can help automatically identify where the merchandise a consumer seeks is located, and then make it available to that individual within hours. The technology also helps transportation companies to reduce delivery times and manufacturers to boost efficiency so that goods are readily available when and where they are needed.

Manufacturers are beginning to use IoT technologies to improve the management of materials, the survey found, and to feed RFID or other wireless data into a blockchain, so that they can leverage contracts with suppliers and payments for goods received. "You can take the data points being collected [via the IoT] and register those to a blockchain layer," Ehlers explains, and thereby use that data to create smart contracts that confirm when goods arrived and whether they met the contract's conditions. A payment can then be made accordingly.

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