Breaking Down Silos

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According to market research firm Gartner, the number of Internet-connected devices -- from smart homes to smart cars -- is projected to reach 26 billion units by 2020.

This enormous number of devices, together with the staggering volume, velocity and variety of Internet of Things (IoT) data easily challenges traditional voice, data, network, storage, and data center infrastructures and capacity. More devices means more data that has to be transported, processed, and stored.

IoT not only means connecting more devices and capacity, it also means connecting more employees, business partners, and customers. This will require integrated unified communications platforms; integrating voice, data, messaging, networks, and business applications which allows the delivery of IoT data in real time to provide that competitive advantage that every business strives for.

IoT data can be accessed from any device. For example, data from smart water meters in San Francisco allows water customers to track their use and how much they conserve in real time. It also alerts the water utility of leaks and excess usage, prompting interventions. In such a case, IoT and UC can improve response times. When IoT and UC are combined, seamless communications occurs, between technology and people.

For this convergence to be successful, business and IT managers need to work together to break down traditional siloed systems and processes. Managers need to consider how IoT and UC initiatives impact not only their processes, but related issues such as user experience (including mobile), governance, change management practices, system integration requirements, and security. Running security on the same network, for example, makes it much easier to manage.

Speaking of security, this can be a main challenge resulting from convergence. Although traditional security products and services can still be used for protecting IoT devices, security managers need to address different IT strategies. Securing smart water meters or smart energy sensors requires that IT security managers address new issues such as the physical security of those devices and their interaction with UC. With the increasing scale of IoT devices comes increased risks. Governance and security policies and procedures will need to change to address these new challenges.

When focus is put on integration, the networks for voice, data, physical security, audiovisual, and smart IoT and UC devices become one single network. Benefits of the integration can be quantified in hard dollar savings on cabling infrastructure, network equipment, and technical support. Some of the dollar savings can then be reinvested in additional network equipment and strategies to improve essential network availability.

To take full advantage of IoT and UC integration, business and technology management will need to deploy forward-looking infrastructures that provide the capacity and support for enterprise collaboration. This will reduce technical incompatibilities between IoT and UC and boost real time access to data that is critical for competitive advantage.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.