Outnumbered by devices – a not too distant future

Posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2016
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By Brian White
Senior SAM Consultant


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Concluding our series of blog articles examining IT Asset Management, our final instalment steps into the (not so distant) future and the impact of the personal device explosion every modern enterprise is now facing as the Internet of Things (IoT) gathers pace.

Incredibly there are now more mobile devices in the world than there are people. Not only that – devices are multiplying five times faster than we are too! A few years ago bring-your-own-device (BYOD) was being discussed amongst industry commentators as a revolution in end-user computing where users working from privately owned devices would be the standard. Whilst it's perhaps not unfolded as some may have predicted, without doubt there are significantly more privately-owned devices being used at work now than ever before.

This is a sign of the times, and as the digital era continues to develop, the proliferation of personal technology we see today is arguably only a preamble to the vast advances that we'll see made in this regard in the next few years as the IoT really starts to take hold. Internet-connected devices will be everywhere and not just for personal use. Industries of all kinds are exploring 'things' left, right and centre to aid performance, production and scalability or foster improvements in processes or exploit new opportunities.

Tech tidal wave

This tidal wave of tech will be largely driven by the millennial generation's demand for consuming IT. In the next 5 - 10 years, wearable, more interactive technologies will become a commonplace part of people's lives. The recent development of new entertainment devices such as Virtual Reality headsets, like the hugely-anticipated Oculus Rift, or the inter-connectivity between all kinds of smart devices, will entirely alter people's consumption of IT on a daily basis. It's almost impossible to forecast the applications these devices will be put to, but this new generation of employees will naturally expect support of these devices within the workplace. In the coming years, much of the workforce (including senior management) will be people who have known easy consumption of IT their whole lives; people who have been brought up with an iPad in their hands and have never known a time where smartphones did not exist. For these people a seamless interchange between home and work will be the norm. 

With the boundaries between home and work blurring all the time and ever-increasing numbers of personal devices on the horizon, the average IT team will have considerably more assets to manage and perhaps more importantly, to secure. This is brought into sharp focus by how users will want to use their devices to interact with company data. They want to be as productive as possible, make better decisions and add value, so will demand that they be able to interrogate data using a variety of applications, probably in the cloud and frequently using a device you don't own. Equally, if IT teams are seen to stand in the way, users will push back or find other ways to work round the system.

The Internet of... so many Things

Beyond the narrow world of personal computing we understand today, the IoT will (and already is) changing the IT landscape forever. Perhaps it's first worth illustrating an example of where 'things' are breaking new ground. For example in the healthcare industry, the IoT is enabling private healthcare institutions to get extensive visibility into the care given by nurses and doctors who can now be tracked by GPS, monitoring their movement between different wards and reporting back where they have been working and for how long. Printed hospital charts are being replaced by tablets that deliver patient information direct from the data centre where this data can be managed, stored and protected accordingly. Elsewhere, in the healthcare sector, medicine stores are being monitored and protected by card-entry systems and use new facilities that weigh what medicine is available and track what is being used and by whom, to prevent substance abuse and over-ordering of supplies.

The challenge this astounding degree of connectivity presents is an influx of new devices and assets that IT teams will need to manage and account for in day-to-day operations – a list that could be vast. Likewise, the security measures necessary to secure all confidential data passed between them will be substantial. Just look at the forecasts for Apple Watch – 20 million devices are expected to sell through 2016. Whilst this may not be the best indicator, wearables are arguably the start of the IoT revolution for consumers, and many of these devices will start to connect with enterprise networks as a new wave of assets to manage.

Balancing act

This will present an unenviable balancing act for IT that simply adds to the dilemma being toiled with today. How do you give users the freedom they expect without compromising the security of your business? Likewise, we can't accurately predict how many Internet-ready devices will exist in 10 – 20 years' time, nor can we possibly imagine what the IoT will ultimately become; we do, however know that it will have serious ramifications on asset management. Unquestionably, smarter asset management is going to play a huge role in how you tackle this challenge. Tools, processes and governance that work together in real-time will be imperative as the volume of devices, variety of assets and potential security exposure will be unmanageable without it.

The question is, will you be ready for this before your users or paymasters knock on your door to ask for it? It's time to start planning for a future that's just round the corner.

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