The rise of the Chief IoT Officer

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Half of UK businesses (54%) plan to employ a Chief IoT Officer in the next year, especially in the education (63%), retail (63%) and telecomms (64%) industries, according to Webroot and IO.

This comes as 94% of all UK businesses claim to be investing in initiatives to prepare for the IoT, spreading those investments across infrastructure, security, R&D, skills and personnel – at a substantial rate.

Chief IoT Officer

The survey of 500 CEOs and senior decision makers in the UK also showed that this year, 60% of UK businesses are increasing their investments in IoT projects, by an average of 42%.

Crucially, they’re doing it because they expect real, tangible results; not just pilot project data but increased revenues and greater competitive advantage. 68% of business leaders are expecting to reap actual benefits from their IoT investments in 2016; a huge progression from the one in five who are seeing benefits today.

Investment

Network infrastructure is attracting the bulk of investment with 71% of business leaders agreeing that improving network infrastructure and capacity is a primary focus, often driven by the inadequacy of their existing networks; nearly a quarter of businesses (24%) say that their current ICT infrastructure is a barrier to successful IoT adoption.

IO’s Director Andrew Roughan said: “We’re definitely seeing a move in enterprises. 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 terms of how that has been utilised, the type of traffic and utilisation that will flow through both datacentres’ network infrastructure and devices.

“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”.

Security matters

Top of business leaders’ list of potential barriers is security; an issue which 80% of them believe to be impeding innovation, but which only a quarter (27%) of businesses are re-engineering to cater for greater connectedness across their organisation. 37% of respondents expressed specific concerns about data security, which they think is impeding progress; and 57% of business leaders think that security in general is likely to be compromised as organisations try to innovate quickly.

Webroot’s VP, Strategic Partnerships, IoT, John Sirianni, agrees that security concerns are warranted in the IoT era, and that organisations will need to adopt some new thinking: “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.

“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”.

Skills could be an inhibitor

Today, 72% of UK businesses say finding people with the right skill-set to take advantage of the IoT trend is a key issue; while a third of businesses believe a lack of skills in the business is preventing innovation around IoT.

“If there were doubts about just how seriously UK businesses are taking the Internet of Things in 2016, this research goes a long way to dispelling them. The fact is that everywhere you look, companies are preparing to reap the potential rewards that they see in the IoT – regardless of their size, location or industry.

“However as the IoT evolves in the business world, the pace at which it does so will inevitably be governed by people with the right skills to make it happen,” adds IO’s Director Andrew Roughan.