Bring your own Internet of Things: The hottest new business trend?

While technology can certainly make life a lot easier, it also has the potential to create a lot of complications. Nowhere is this truer than in the business world, where companies are utilising different technologies to conduct business more efficiently and effectively, while also dealing with the challenges that new tools often present.

Read more: The challenge of the Internet of Things in the workplace

Some of the more appropriate examples of this are in the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies in the workplace, and the rapid spread of the Internet of Things (IoT). The two trends are closely related, and they're sometimes referred to as bring your own Internet of Things. The combination of these major movements holds a lot of promise for businesses, but they'll also have to address the significant challenges at the heart of adopting the practices.

Defining terms

BYOD is a trend that has expanded rapidly in just the past few years. Companies allow employees to bring their own smartphones, laptops, and tablets to work to use them for business activities. Meanwhile, the Internet of Things essentially stands for everyday objects, from appliances to cars, that are all connected and constantly communicate with each other.

At present, the IoT is more of a concept than a policy or program, but its elements are working their way into the office environment. Imagine if everything you brought to work had a sensor that communicated with everything else in the office. That's the basic idea behind the IoT, so it's easy to see the potential along with the possible pitfalls.

The potential of BYOIoT

The Internet of Things through devices brought to work by employees has the potential to make businesses even more efficient in day-to-day operations. For example, a business could have sensors in each product it makes. Employees would be able to use their own devices to communicate with these sensors, easily keeping tabs of the company's stock of products and tracking them wherever they go. Hospitals could use the IoT to monitor patients through devices they bring to the hospital. The IoT may also be used to improve the use of shared public services and resources, and more businesses could adopt automation and synchronisation.

Challenges

The number one challenge and concern facing businesses with BYOD and the Internet of Things is that of privacy and security. The IoT brings a whole variety of new ways to access a business' network. While this may allow for more convenience and productivity, it also increases the chances that vital information and data could be lost or stolen.

Read more: Are BYOD policies haemorrhaging intellectual property?

There's also the issue of oversight. For companies that use BYOD programs right now, the devices are considered the responsibility of both the employee and the IT department. If nearly every device had a computerised sensor, would they be under the purview of IT as well? There are worries that this could create an added burden for IT personnel, one that would end up becoming too large of a workload unless additional staff were hired, which in turn would increase costs. Some experts believe maintenance of these new sensors in the IoT should be handled by the product providers, but it's still a question without a definitive answer.

Solutions

There may be some real answers to the security concerns. The devices brought by the employees could end up being part of the solution. Since every device has a unique IP address, access to the network through certain nodes may only be granted to devices matching those addresses that have been approved. The approval process for IP addresses can be quick, while at the same time being adaptable enough to change when necessary.

Businesses will also look to avoid any disruptions the adoption of BYOD and the IoT could make through adequate preparation. If employees are trained in managing and maintaining multiple connected devices ahead of time, that will save time on implementing new policies in the office and avoid giving IT personnel an unmanageable workload. Employees will also have incentive to be trained, since they'll be working with their own devices, which may even help them in their personal lives.

Read more: How to prepare your business for the Internet of Things

As the Internet of Things becomes more pervasive, it will likely lead to BYOD programs becoming more widespread too. The two may soon even be seen as inseparable. As businesses get ahead of the trends and learn to maximise the benefits while effectively addressing the potential problems and challenges, they'll be well-prepared to make big strides in the coming decades.

Rick Delgado is a freelance writer with an interest in new technologies and what they can do for us and our planet.