IoT, Linux And Why You Can't Manage Without Us

A graphic image of an eye

In this new blog series, Jason Wyjad, Director of Business Development at SOTI, discusses some of the challenges facing those deploying Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and the value that Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platforms provide in supporting key business processes across various industries.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) proliferates, cutting costs and simplifying management, while maintaining system performance is not only desirable but essential. Many deployments, however, suffer from low ROI, and high software, hardware, and deployment costs limiting the potential for value to the enterprise.

The “IoT” has a different meaning to just about everyone you talk with, so I am going to float an inclusive definition to consider. The term Internet of Things was first introduced almost 20 years ago by Kevin Ashton at MIT when he presented Internet-connected, intelligent RFID “things” to Proctor and Gamble. Things, however, have long been connected, at least since the telegraph and the public switched telephone networks (PSTN) were invented. Likewise, intelligence was found in devices like micro-controllers and computers over half a century ago.

The ‘Things’ are increasingly connected, smart and most importantly, multiplying! Some estimates place the number of traditional IoT devices at twice the smartphone market size by 2020 Any typical deployment may include an endpoint device – perhaps a simple sensor, or scanner, or maybe a tablet or wearable device, even a complex composite system formed of multiple devices like a vending kiosk or factory machine. These are often supported by modems, gateways, routers, thin clients, firewalls and frequently contain applications that communicate with cloud or server-based applications.

On top of this, at a higher process level, a typical checkout process in retail, touches logistics devices – like scanners and electronic logging devices (ELD), warehouse devices like wearables and radio frequency identification (RFID), retail systems, like point-of-sale (POS), printers, digital signage, people sensors, and automated retail kiosks.

As a business process becomes more integrated, and the device components, more intelligent, the entire end to end solution network becomes more difficult to maintain and manage. Each ‘thing’ needs to be configured, secured, deployed, monitored, repaired and replaced. This is all feasible when you have five or ten ‘things,’ but what if you have 500, 10,000 or even 100,000? The cost and effort needed to execute an IoT strategy can be enormous!

Siloed management systems that do not address all connection points in an IoT process flow make this a challenge. Traditionally, EMM platforms have addressed phones and tablets, while Dev-Ops and Sys-Ops tools aim to manage server and network components. IoT platforms provide solution specific capabilities or a set of tools, but often focus on application and data functions, leaving problems like deployment, monitoring, and maintenance to other solutions. With all these moving pieces and constantly changing technology, is there a platform that can provide visibility and management to IT Operations across all components in the IoT business process flow? Where does one turn to find out?

I would argue that mobile phones and scanners are the original IoT devices and that EMM platform providers have been addressing the needs of sophisticated edge attached systems like tablets, laptops, and kiosks for years. Advanced and proven capabilities like configuration management and remote access have been refined to accommodate low bandwidth network connections, limited battery life, and integrated multi-party ecosystems. With new support for Linux (The OS of the IoT), it is becoming evident that EMM solutions are well positioned to fill cross IoT management needs. 

As part of this blog series, next, we will explore the challenges of supporting use cases across a wide variety of device types.

If you are an OEM with a device, customer with an IoT strategy or integrator looking for solutions, learn more at SOTI Linux Management.