How to take back control of your data in a connected IoT world

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By 2025, the burgeoning world of IoT sensors and devices will generate more than 70 trillion gigabytes of data per year, nearly double the amount of data present in the entire digital universe at the start of the decade.

This flood of digital information will play a vital role in all types of business operations, from optimizing supply chains and logistics through advanced fleet management solutions to increasing productivity with intelligent infrastructure and connected work environments. . But there’s a catch: With data fragmented across a vast ecosystem of web-connected devices, organizations risk losing track of how and where their data is created, circulated, and used.

Only by ensuring complete visibility into the ways data is stored, shared, and transmitted can businesses avoid costly data breaches, service outages, and cybersecurity incidents. With more and more sensors and devices in play, achieving this level of data ownership is not always easy. But with a willingness to use new technologies to take control of connected data flows, companies can stay one step ahead and mitigate risks while reaping the rewards of the IoT revolution.

The advancement of the blockchain

One such technology is blockchain, the decentralized virtual ledger that enabled the creation of cryptocurrencies. By allowing information to be stored openly and securely while providing a verifiable record of interactions and changes over time, blockchain offers important new ways to validate and control data as it flows through fleets of IoT devices. .

For companies teeming with sensors and IoT devices, blockchain solutions can forensically track data streams, offering a clear understanding of how, when, and where data is accessed. That information can be used to improve operational processes, identify and correct errors, and increase productivity.

Imagine, for example, that a food logistics company has a fleet of refrigerated trucks equipped with smart thermometers. A faulty sensor can mean an entire shipment goes bad before delivery, costing the company thousands of dollars. If blockchain had been used to record, monitor, and distribute IoT data, on the other hand, it would be possible to pinpoint precisely where, when, and why the malfunction occurred, allowing quick corrective action.

However, Blockchain technology can go beyond simply tracking IoT device errors. Oregon-based fruit distributor Curry & Co has been using a distributed digital ledger to increase visibility into its environmental, inventory, processing and product inspection data. The results: a more streamlined logistics network and also a robust system to help customers verify where shipments have been made, how they have been handled, and whether food safety regulations have been correctly followed.

From a commercial point of view, the value of such technologies is obvious. If someone were to question the quality of a service or product by questioning the credibility of relevant IoT data, blockchain technology could allow all parties to verify the claims and confirm whether the information has been compromised or tampered with in any way.

Know your IoT devices

Data tracking and verification is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s also important for IoT fleet operators to have granular information about device performance, allowing them to identify which device generated or transmitted which bit of data. By using blockchain technologies, it becomes much easier to trace data back to its origin and streamline the process of patching, repairing, or replacing devices when needed.

This speaks to another important step in maintaining control over data in the expanding IoT world: ensuring you have visibility over all of your devices. For companies with a relatively small IoT footprint—say, a few hundred sensors or pieces of smart building infrastructure—this may seem like a simple job. However, for larger organizations, managing the data generated by a rapidly expanding global IoT portfolio can be a daunting task.

Regular network scans serve as an obvious solution, but conventional scan tools typically identify only devices they’re already familiar with, making it easy to miss newer or less-adopted devices and systems. Advances in automation are helping to rectify this, with improved machine learning programs able to identify patterns of device behavior that might otherwise go unnoticed.

One solution used by many large IoT operators is to connect devices to an internal network in an attempt to maintain ownership of their data. However, that is not always the best approach. If an organization wants to take control of its connected data streams, it must first ensure network integrity, and giving IoT devices unrestricted network access can create problems by giving hackers a backdoor into the streams. data and core networks.

To defend against such threats, it’s important to make sure you’re using the right connectivity solutions, including cellular networks, and to protect your connected devices with proper security gateways and firewalls. Above all, remember that the goal is to keep your data close to home, so don’t accept solutions that ping your data through a dispersed network of global servers before it gets to where it’s needed.

find the middle ground

With the rapid proliferation of IoT devices, advanced technology organizations face a sink-or-swim moment. Will they succumb to an ever-expanding sea of ​​digital information, or will they find secure, traceable ways to use connected data streams to drive efficiency and performance improvements?

If you aspire to the ultimate, maintaining a high degree of ownership over IoT data is crucial. You need to be bold and look for opportunities in innovative technologies like blockchain to ensure data visibility. And you’ll also need to get the basics right by keeping track of the devices you have in play and making network integrity a key priority at all times.

Ensuring the security of IoT data can seem daunting. But it is an area that organizations cannot afford to neglect. The opportunity cost of missing out on the IoT revolution is too great; so is the risk of losing control of sensitive or mission-critical data. By taking control of their data, businesses can find the middle ground and harness the power of IoT innovation as we move into an age of ever-increasing connectivity.

Frank Stoecker is a serial entrepreneur, telecommunications expert, CEO and co-founder of emnify.

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