A recent story about a group of hackers that gained access to a network of over 150,000 cloud-based surveillance cameras in hospitals, prisons, banks, and schools highlights some of the existing concerns over IoT security, safety, and the potential risks of the ongoing digital transformation of cities and communities. But it also highlights something else: the need for organizations, vendors, and IoT policymakers to remain focused on the “human side” of IoT management.
By now, there should be great confidence in the potential, and indeed the existing benefits already being seen in “smart cities” around the world, of the digital transformation to improve our work, industries, and everyday lives. Jeff Merritt, head of IoT, Robotics and Smart Cities for the World Economic Forum, has written, “this technology has the potential to improve our lives — it can help keep us safe, reduce traffic, improve disaster preparedness, provide reliable access to the internet, and decrease pollution.”
But he also, in the same article, states: “Now is the time for residents, business, governments, and civil society to set new rules to ensure that the technology and data it captures are used in a responsible and ethical way. There is too much at stake to leave our future to chance.”
This is the point I’d like to pick up on for this post. A responsible, forward-thinking provider of IoT management and deployment solutions will always keep the “human side” of digital transformation as a top priority: not only for data security purposes but because at the end of the day, it’s people who are going to have to deploy, utilize and manage these tools and devices to realize their efficiencies and advantages. An IoT partner that takes a committed “managed services” approach will work to understand your industry’s unique requirements, along with existing systems you have in place, and be nimble enough to adapt and adjust to these needs.
We are in the midst of a major effort, spearheaded by the World Economic Forum but also involving the G20 Economic Forum and multiple countries and cities around the globe, to establish and advance a new set of frameworks and policy tools for improved planning and deployment of IoT technologies. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the critical role that IoT infrastructure now plays in our society on a global scale – from public health care delivery and management to global supply chain integration.
But these efforts have also exposed and highlighted some significant gaps in the governance of these technologies, especially how companies, communities, and public facilities can be made vulnerable to security risks – sometimes for the most obvious and basic of reasons, like failing to properly manage and keep track of user names and passwords!
In response to all of this, credible IoT vendors must be vigilantly focused on helping their clients and partners to manage this “human side” of IoT security and deployment. Being able to offer a credible and diverse package of IoT tools is obviously essential, but the value of these resources is at best incomplete, and at worst compromised, if they don’t come with the training, security measures, and expert advice to help organizations maximize and protect these investments.
When evaluating IoT technology partners to help strategize, guide and manage your organization’s or city’s digital transformation, the first thing to do is make sure they have experience in deploying IoT tools on a broad scale. What other clients, communities, and industries have they worked with? Do they have state or Federal governments as partners? Do they offer a variety of cloud-based and on-site managed firewall services, as well as comprehensive DDoS protection?
Secondly, how responsive and reliable will your IoT partner be in terms of training, access to all of your devices and services whenever you need them, and managing all of your data via easy-to-use software platforms? Considering the complexity of most IoT deployments—multiple devices, facilities, workstations, assets, and connectivity endpoints to manage—you will want to make sure your vendor can make it easy for your team to understand and manage this information so that your network is always protected.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider partners who understand and have experience with “Zero Trust” security models. Given the rise in damaging cybercrimes across complex networks even in the past few years (like the Verkada security breach cited above), organizations and municipalities are increasingly moving towards security measures that verify any connection to their networks, whether they originate from within or without. With more and more devices and datapoints connecting to the cloud all the time, being extra cautious about network authorization and access just makes good business sense.
Yes, the digital transformation of cities, offices, and supply chains comes with challenges when it comes to IoT security and protection of your data. However, IoT partners who have considered and designed solutions considering the “human side” of these deployments are already proving that our communal, physical, and logistical workplaces can become more adaptive, efficient, and secure to meet the needs of the future.