2016: another strong year for IoT

04 Jan 2016: another strong year for IoT

Joel Dolisy, CIO and CTO of SolarWinds argues the Internet of Things will continue to grow in the public sector in 2016, but warns that security must remain front-of-mind

It has been an exciting year in the world of IT with key technology trends set to impact the public sector from national to local governments, including the UK healthcare industry into 2016. This last year saw the adoption of virtualisation changing perceptions of the cloud and a number of extremely high-profile breaches changed the conversation around how security and IoT are “game changers” across both the public and private sector.

In 2016, we believe IoT will offer cost-savings as well as new solutions in healthcare and also expect the public sector will reap the benefits of cloud computing. As systems become digitised, it’s important security remains front-of-mind, and encryption is used for a healthy future.

IoT continues to grow in the public sector

The UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser recently highlighted the opportunities IoT brings to the public sector, noting it is “well placed to be amongst the emerging world leaders reaping the benefits.”

According to Juniper Research, by 2020 there will be 38 billion connected “things” in use, and the opportunity for the UK government is clear. IoT is a ‘game-changing’ technology and has exploded over the past year and will continue to offer cost-savings throughout the public sector. IoT technology is capable of helping organisations achieve many public-policy goals, including delivery of public services, increased economic growth and improvements in environmental sustainability, public safety and security.

Earlier this year George Osborne pledged £40m towards the research and development of IoT and the UK government recently launched its national IoTUK programme to “convene and amplify” the UK’s IoT industry. Its goal is to increase adoption of IoT technologies and services in the public sector by improving the quality of people’s lives through everything from better healthcare to education.

This will help impact everything from sensors on roads and in cars which will be able to tell drivers of dangerous driving conditions ahead; to hospitals, where patients will wear medical devices that will communicate data remotely to their doctors; in cities where street lights will inform maintenance crews which bulbs are out and rubbish disposals will tell crews when they’re ready to be emptied.

IoT has even proved revolutionary in defence, with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently unveiling ‘smart uniforms’ for the British Army that include smart glasses and a smart watch. Frontline connectivity will soon improve situational awareness and create connected command centres able to better position vehicles and manage supplies.

The biggest challenge facing the future IoT in the public sector is security. A recent HP Research study revealed that 70 per cent of IoT devices are vulnerable to attack with at least one security flaw. With this in mind, the public sector needs to ensure it is prepared for IoT as more devices connect to the network. The introduction of new security procedures to protect expanding networks presents a challenge.

Whether talking about mobile devices or smart devices that are connected throughout the network, the government might struggle with security processes because in many cases the firmware updates are manual. Many connected devices also have their own proprietary operating systems that can’t be managed in the same way as traditional systems. These devices are often not designed with security at the forefront, which presents a real challenge to those adopting them.

Securing the future of healthcare

With the digitisation of healthcare and the growth of IoT in the public sector, hospitals are becoming increasingly connected, and, therefore, increasingly at risk. While there have not been any hospital hacks in the UK, there have already been reports that drug pumps can be hacked and controlled. Hospital networks are increasingly relied upon to manage x-rays, Bluetooth-enabled defibrillators, and temperature settings on blood and drug storage units; thereby opening themselves up for severe breaches.

Similarly, healthcare records hold a gold mine of data that is valuable to an attacker. Medical records and patient data are some of the worst protected personal information on file anywhere. As healthcare systems become digitised, they become more vulnerable than they have ever been. Therefore, in 2016, it is extremely important that security remains front-of-mind, and encryption is used for a healthy future. As with all security issues, education and regular checks and balances decrease the frequency of incidents and this will need to remain a key priority for the public sector into 2016.

Cloud computing in public sector

As fear around moving to the cloud has lessened, the government is rethinking its IT infrastructure. The ability to move more applications and infrastructures offsite is opening the door for the public sector to reap the benefits of cloud computing, namely improved on-demand services, scalability, and portability. As for security concerns, many believe that 2016 is the year that the first cloud service provider will be breached. The repercussions will hit businesses hard but the public sector should come out relatively unscathed.

 

Source: Government Computing

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