Cloud: The fundamental foundation for the Internet of Things

Toshiba Europe’s Neil Bramley looks at how the cloud will be crucial in examining the data coming from Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

CIOs have guided corporations through a range of technological evolutions over the years, from recommending and implementing the first desktop PCs and Wall Street-style mobile phones, to the rise of laptops, tablets, smartphones, mobile applications and the cloud. But navigating through these cycles of innovation hasn’t always been plain-sailing, and this is often the result of two consistent challenges: technological integration and buy-in from the board.

These hurdles don’t appear to be going anywhere as the Internet of Things edges ever-closer, with increased employee expectations of using their preferred, personal proliferation of devices to access company data in the office and beyond. Recent research we conducted found that today, 67 percent of staff in the UK are using personal devices such as a personal mobile, laptop or tablet for remote working, but as technologies such as smart watches and smart glasses creep into the mainstream, the challenges facing CIOs are set to increase again, creating a perfect storm of devices and data that they will need to tackle.

‘Things’ in less tangible territory

CIOs are already juggling which solutions should be kept on- and off-premise and which devices and operating systems should be given access to the company network in as secure a way as possible. To assist with this, selected Toshiba laptops feature Active Management Technology (AMT) which provides IT teams with a remote oversight of device performance, meaning that if a virus is detected, devices can be remotely isolated from the network. However, IoT is set to take this challenge of device management to a new level. Gartner forecasts 5.5 million new ‘things’ will get connected every day, with the number installed in a business environment increasing exponentially this year.

There are clear productivity benefits to enabling employees to access company data whenever and wherever they need, and on whichever device they prefer, but IoT shifts the challenge beyond traditional hardware and infrastructure to less tangible territory. CIOs will be responsible for interconnecting a vast range of technologies while enabling seamless access to data. It’s the equivalent of attempting to format all the road signs across Europe to ensure they look the same and point tourists towards the same destination, wherever they are.

How can a CIO even begin to tackle this, and equip themselves with the buy-in they need from the board to successfully implement this next level of integration?

Related: Shining a light through the digital fog of IoT

Foundations in the cloud

Global IT spend, according to Forrester, is set to reach $2.9 trillion in 2016. We believe this will be driven by savvy senior IT staff, who will be laying the technological foundations they need to manage this proliferation of ‘things’ in as swift and secure a way as possible.

Some boards might recommend a CIO develops their own in-house management solution, but as the landscape continues to evolve rapidly, we recommend CIOs steer the C-suite to existing corporate cloud services. IT teams have plenty to juggle already, so they shouldn’t be reluctant to lean on outsourced solutions which enable the central, multiple device management they need and offer a scalable and secure service to store company data. The cloud can house the common technological thread companies needed for consistent data access, creating a web which catches and collates data from these different devices and stores them in one central location. This future-proof scenario should be appealing to the board. But what if they require more convincing?

Paint an empty picture

While a picture of productivity gains is easy to paint, it’s also one of the easier appeals for a board to reject because it can be perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’ when many business budgets remain modest. A CIO can put themselves on a firmer footing by flipping this scenario, and bringing to life what a business without this technology could become. In this case, CIOs should underline how they can’t afford not to embrace the cloud today, our research has found that it is already being considered as a top investment priority with 52 percent of IT decision makers in the UK planning to invest in cloud security. CIOs will need to bring the cloud to life with specific examples of how it can benefit the company’s different departments and key stakeholders in a variety of tailored, specific ways.

From foundation to fundamental

As we head into the next innovation cycle with IoT, any CIO with a foot already in the cloud will be well placed to keep a step ahead of the competition. They will be able to embrace more tailor-made solutions more swiftly. For example, we believe we’ll soon see solutions which are configured for a company’s unique needs, allowing IT staff to control access rights, prevent misuse and store all company data centrally – entirely away from a specific device.  We’re already developing a Zero Client service which will allow CIOs to cater to these expectations, helping to ready a CIO’s navigation of the next technology tempest of ‘things’.

Neil Bramley is B2B PC Business Unit Director at Toshiba Europe

Related: Excuse me, where’s the Global IoT Analytics Unit please?