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Half of UK businesses looking for internet of things lead roles

Research suggests enterprises are looking to recruit chief internet of things officers (CIoTOs) to lead their forays into the hyper-connected world

Over half of UK businesses – particularly those in the education, retail and telecoms sectors – plan to employ a chief internet of things officer (CIoTO) in the next 12 months to help plan and manage their growing IoT spend.

With enterprises expected to spend 42% more on IoT projects in 2016, in a recent survey 54% of businesses said they needed someone to guide them through the process. The survey was commissioned by security supplier Webroot and datacentre organisation IO.

The report said 68% of UK business leaders expected to reap tangible benefits from their IoT investments this year, and one in five were already seeing the benefits. Overall, 94% of businesses claimed to be making preparations for the IoT, spreading their investments across infrastructure, security, R&D, skills and personnel.

Most of this early investment appeared to be in network infrastructure, with 71% of respondents saying improving their network capacity would be a primary focus, driven by the inadequacy of their existing set-ups. Around a quarter said their current ICT infrastructure was a barrier to adoption.

This tallies with the verdict delivered by a panel of experts at London’s IoT Tech Expo fair last week (10-11 February 2016), who said smart city projects were doomed to fail without adequate investment in underlying networks.

“In recent years, we have seen a large and growing infrastructure investment to build digital infrastructures for the future. We haven’t seen the tipping point yet, in how that has been utilised, the type of traffic and utilisation that will flow through both datacentres’ network infrastructure and devices,” said IO director Andrew Roughan.

“There are some initiatives that can drive change quickly and deliver some customer-facing and online benefits, but this is about more than that – it’s about defining the next era of the enterprise, beyond five or ten years. The infrastructure to support IoT needs some careful consideration, as typical enterprise-scale infrastructure investments won’t enable the IoT to scale economically.”

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Security and skills a barrier

Although much early investment appears to be heading towards the network, the survey also found that 80%, of business leaders were increasingly aware that security was a barrier to successful IoT innovation and adoption.

However it also found a substantial disconnect between what they were thinking about cyber security, and what they are doing. Only 27% of respondents said they were re-engineering security to cater to the needs of a more connected organisation.

“The speed at which the cyber criminals innovate is generally faster than the speed at which enterprises can react. The enterprise can only hire so many security professionals – and they need to make sure that, when they do, they invest in the best technologies, processes and training too,” said Webroot vice-president of strategic partnerships for the IoT, John Sirianni.

“We have already seen every piece of critical infrastructure hacked – nuclear power plants, oil and gas refineries, and aeroplanes. They have all been compromised at some level. A lot of the cyber criminals have new toys to play with in the industrial base. ‘Can I get into this building? Can I get into that control valve?’ The only good news is that they have not yet figured out the best way to monetise that.”

Finding people with the right skills to run IoT projects was also identified as a key issue, with 72% of businesses finding this a problem, while a third believed that a lack of skills in the business was a hindrance to wider innovation around the IoT.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Maria Hernandez, IoT lead at Cisco UK, said: “The first internet wave was about making information digital, then we moved into making processes digital, particularly with e-commerce. The third wave was about making interactions digital with cloud, mobility social media and video.

“Now the fourth is about making everything digital – organisations, cities and even countries. We believe that this wave is going to make more impact than the previous three waves together,” she said.

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)