How to securely open your doors to connected devices

08/03/20184 Minute Read

Let’s pretend you’re a building manager, and your office is equipped with the latest and greatest of IoT software, connected devices, and security protocols. It’s a crisp Monday morning, and your fresh cup of coffee is steaming next to your building management system (BMS). The screens display all available information about the environment consolidated on one comprehensive dashboard. It’s going to be a scorcher outside, but you can see the air-conditioning systems are humming smoothly and the boss’s meeting room is the perfect, just-cool-enough temperature to put him in a good mood for your upcoming performance review later today.

Some of the minor IoT systems are running low on supplies, but at least the smart coffee machine already contacted the distributor to order refills automatically, including the espresso—the boss’s favourite. Every aspect of your building is monitored by this BMS—environmental controls, meeting room usage, printer supply management, security systems, you name it. Since everything is running smoothly, you lean back, take a sip of your coffee, and start preparing for that meeting with the boss.

It’s a nice scene, right? But that level of seamlessness and security with IoT devices takes work. Thanks to the IoT, the local Australian marketplace for connected devices is starting to take shape, and offices at this level of connectivity are just around the bend. Industry bodies, like IoT Alliance Australia, have hundreds of members, and key IoT devices will improve many aspects of everyday life—from productivity and efficiency to security and the environment. There’s a bright future with IoT, but there’s also a number of considerations to factor in when adopting these devices in your office.

It all starts with hardware

Many modern hardware production companies are ensuring that “IoT-enabled” is at the heart of their development philosophy. The result is IP-enabled tech that works autonomously. This can already been seen with devices like smart printers that automatically call for technicians to come and give themselves a service at regular intervals. The autonomous nature maximises productivity and minimises costs.

Consider the Brisbane City Council: The council has begun fitting trash bins with an IoT device that can send a signal when the bin needs to be collected. The average cost to collect a single bin is $30—regardless if the bin is full or empty. That $30 represents the cost for the technician to drive to the bin, empty it, and take the rubbish to the appropriate refuse centre. However, if the bins are empty, then there’s no need for them to be recycled. These IoT bins communicate with a central server, which schedules when they need to get picked up and also plans the best route for the technician to drive during pickup.

If something as simple as a trash bin can be automated, then at some stage soon, you’ll likely pick up a device that isn’t IoT-enabled and be dumbfounded that it doesn’t connect to the internet—it’s only a matter of time until everything follows suit. It will feel similar to picking up an old telephone that existed before smart phones, and you’ll laugh at the rudimentary technology.

With great power comes great security

While the benefits of IoT are clear, you need to prepare for the security of these devices—it’s a major challenge in today’s hyper-connected world, especially within IT. The IOT Alliance Australia has provided some good, general guidelines of what to follow; the main takeaway being that IoT security shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Think of IoT security in four layers:

  1. Hardware Device Layer (e.g., a smart copier)
  2. Network or Data Transfer Layer (e.g., a TCP/IP Wi-Fi Network)
  3. Application Layer (e.g., bespoke IoT applications monitoring the hardware)
  4. Analytics or Reporting Layer (e.g., a BMS dashboard showing information about all devices in the building)

Corporate responsibility with each of these four layers needs to be addressed smartly and intelligently. For instance, the best way to ensure that potential security risks are mitigated with layer 1 is by ensuring they work with trusted brands. To address security at layer 2, you can turn to LoRaWAN, which is a specific low power and secure Wi-Fi protocol for IoT devices.

Improving productivity to make sure that people are in the right place, at the right time, and in the right environment is a no-brainer. Smart environmental controls in offices can automatically adjust lighting, air-conditioning, security, and much more. With these controls, your office could use less electricity, directly and positively affecting your budget and the environment—two birds, one stone.

The future’s bright with IoT and connected devices—as long as you tackle the security considerations. Just because a device is IP-enabled doesn’t mean it’s IoT ready. You need to follow the top security standards, like IoTAA guidelines, deploy networks that adhere to proper security protocols, like LoRaWAN, and rely on devices with built-in security features, like smart printers. Doing so will set you on the right path to adopt IoT devices safely and securely—leaving your business free to take advantage of all the benefits.

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