There is no shortage of apocalyptic predictions about the many dangers and security risks of connecting internet of things (IoT) devices to the corporation. The sheer volume of connected things and the data these devices generate is staggering. It makes the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon experienced shortly after the release of the first iPhone seem miniscule.

IoT, and the Industry 4.0 revolution it is spurring, represent a seismic shift in the way products are produced. This fourth revolution makes big promises, from increasing productivity to improving operational efficiency and increasing profit margins by reducing downtime. But with estimates pointing to as many as 75 billion connected devices by 2025, a significant device management challenge looms.

The BYOD explosion proved to be a catalyst for mobile device management (MDM), which is designed to address the needs of corporations having to wrangle with all those devices. Then, as the consumer device market expanded in both scale and diversity, additional data, applications and devices became the next new thing. With each shift, concerns remained the same, from securely connecting the device to the enterprise to the ability to configure, update, monitor and retire the device. MDM became enterprise mobility management (EMM) and then unified endpoint management (UEM).

Leave IoT madness for method

The scale of connected devices brought by this fourth industrial revolution is unprecedented, but corporations need not fear that they are taking a leap of faith. They can use a three-step process to begin developing a smart workplace:

  1. Define the business problem. Ask yourself whether excessive production downtime is impairing profit margins due to unforeseen maintenance and repair operations. Are regulatory compliance requirements taxing existing resources, hindering production times and affecting profit margins? Is inventory loss increasing production times and costs due to asset-visibility issues? Perhaps worker safety and accountability during hazardous events are concerns.
  2. Determine the data that needs to be collected to solve the business problem defined. Information to consider includes location, temperature, vibration, pressure and velocity.
  3. Investigate what devices, or things, are able to collect data. The critical point in the investigation is to apply the same methodology that has been used for nearly 20 years to securely connect traditional endpoint devices such as cell phones and laptops to the enterprise. Can the selected devices be securely connected or provisioned? Once connected, can the devices be configured, updated, monitored and retired? A positive determination here will reap valuable rewards when the project begins, mitigating security and data risks.

This three-step approach is not intended to minimize the complexity of IoT, as there are special considerations for projects to succeed. The scale of connected-device deployments must be carefully managed by IT staff familiar with the integration of operational technology throughout the projects’ life cycles.

Apply lessons learned

Only a handful of platforms exist that can adequately handle the scale and diversity of today’s IoT upheaval. That is why it is critical to define the project scope and desired outcome so the  workplace IoT solution can provide the bandwidth you need. Don’t make the focus the number of connected devices, whether that’s 25 billion or 75 billion or even one trillion. Traversing the management gap between the traditional endpoint and the new edge need not be a leap of faith. Principles endure, and the device management methodology used for the last two decades can be applied to an increasingly connected world.