July 12, 2021

Getting to Grips with IoT: Q&A with Our IoT/OT Thought Leaders

From sensors to security cameras, and from connected cattle to body-worn tech, our world is being changed by a wealth of smart devices. For organisations, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents enormous opportunity, but it is not without its challenges. We caught up with Kingsley McGarrigle, Data#3 General Manager – WA; Graham Robinson, Data#3 National Practice Manager – Cisco; Chris Raper, Data#3 Principal Architect; and Eden Galea, ANZ IoT Channel Sales from Cisco, for expert advice on harnessing the IoT potential while avoiding the pitfalls.

Chris Raper Principal Architect, Data#3

Graham Robinson National Practice Manager – Cisco, Data#3

Kingsley McGarrigle General Manager – WA, Data#3

Eden Galea ANZ IoT Channel Sales, Cisco

(Q) It was predicted that there would be 150 billion IoT devices by the end of 2021, what is driving that trend?

Kingsley: It is about the drive for business insight that will help to make better supported decisions for the right outcome. The cost of connectivity has reduced, and there are more options, with public and private networks and 5G making more possible. Chris: The business always wanted the insight, but now they can get it. Digital devices that are connected to the network are more available at an affordable cost. For example, in agriculture, we had the ability to have moisture sensors in fields ten years ago, but the price was prohibitive to most. Now, that technology is inexpensive. Graham: As consumers, we want better experiences. When consumers and workers are using devices, businesses can capture information about each interaction, using it to gain insights, and turn those insights into action. The result is that they deliver a better experience to the user, whether that is a floor manager in a factory, or an individual using a government service.

(Q) Which industry sectors do you see as having the greatest to gain from a strong IoT strategy?

Kingsley: We’re seeing big gains in mining, oil, and utilities, but the reality is, businesses in all industries are finding significant advantage. Eden: [We’ve seen] double-digit growth in key areas, with a 16% growth in discrete manufacturing, 12% growth in utilities, and 10% growth in public sector industries. Chris: What might have the most profound effect on the human race is the progress in digital health. A lot of us have a watch on our wrist that monitors our heart rate, if we need help from a paramedic, they are likely to use body-worn technology that helps them to get better patient outcomes. Graham: If we look at this in terms of the industries that are the most disrupted, then transport would be a good example. It is an industry where incumbents could be destroyed by competition using driverless vehicles, and more efficient methods. Government, too, is among the fastest growing economic sectors, and technology will play a big part in building a more egalitarian society.

(Q) How has COVID affected adoption of IoT in the operational space?

Eden: Due to COVID, there has been a significant rise in the need to access, control and administer changes to remote and mobile assets. Coincidentally, over the same period, whether it be from COVID, social distancing, or the Government’s attention towards critical infrastructure, we have seen a huge rise in interest for visibility, policy and access and control security on OT operators’ networks. Graham: We are living in 2031 instead of 2021 as a result: we are seeing a level of technology adoption that was not forecast for another five plus years. Kingsley: Agricultural businesses are facing an issue getting people in Australia now that they cannot get labour from overseas. They are using IoT in soil monitoring, even picking fruit – agricultural IoT solutions have definitely accelerated due to COVID. Smart organisations are using the experience of COVID, and planning disaster recovery and business continuity now for future disruption. Graham: Many services we take for granted now happened when the cost of humans became more costly than the technology, but few anticipated a time like 2020, when humans were unavailable.

(Q) With 75% of security vulnerabilities found in IoT/ICS devices, what should organisations be doing to reduce risk?

Kingsley: There are often so many devices on the network that automation of security is of critical importance. Otherwise, that is a lot of updating a lot of IoT devices, and something could be missed. Chris: Certainly, on the technology architecture side, businesses must ensure they have appropriate controls between operational IoT and organisational networks. Also, consider process control around patch management and best of breed lifecycle management: lots of breaches happen when organisations have not managed IoT devices properly. For example, there was a case where a connected fish tank at a casino was compromised. Staff plugged in a monitoring device, and someone hacked it, then got into their CCTV network. IoT does increase the attack vector, so it is vital to control the process and architecture. Graham: Organisations need to have similar controls to their corporate network. Sometimes the data may not seem as important, but it should be treated the same. We focus on people, process, and technology, because it takes the combination of those factors to keep any environment secure. It is important to educate and inform the workforce. Eden: A network built on a single operating system from enterprise to industrial edge that provides a logical network; and segmentation with an automated approach to policy enforcement that simplifies the delivery of highly secure OT network. Kingsley: When you look at IoT security, you must consider that when you’re dealing with something as critical as medical devices, security is of vital importance. If you don’t secure those devices, and someone hacks them, the threats become about more than money. Cisco has introduced a range of applications and solutions that help with operational and IoT security, from perimeter security such as industrial firewalls through to the Cyber Vision platform, which gives insights into actual threats. This level of visibility and insight means you can make better choices about how you handle security incidents.

(Q) Why has Cisco earned such a strong reputation for IoT security capability?

Eden: Cisco is in a great position after seeing the rising trend for ICS/IoT security vulnerabilities coming. We acquired Sentryo in 2019, which gave us unparalleled device visibility in OT environments, and allowed us to build Cyber Vision. We were then able to combine OT visibility with our major differentiators. Graham: Cisco is the world leader in networks, period. Cisco is a leader in micro-segmentation, enabling greater control of the network, so you can isolate IoT devices. They have tremendous experience, and they took the IP that they created for the connected world, and put it into IoT/OT, so they can connect and securely control moving parts, such as boom gates and factory conveyors. Cyber Vision from Cisco looks at operational technology data flows, and applies an understanding of the physical OT world, using their outstanding security intelligence.

(Q) What are the greatest barriers to successful introduction and management of IoT? How can these be addressed?

Kingsley: My observation has been that where there is a stronger relationship between technology and the business, it leads to stronger IoT implementation. For example, in a mining company, even planned outages potentially stop production, which is expensive, and the tech teams wants to help get product out of the ground in the most effective way, but there is often a disconnect. If the business understands the value, they will invest, but IT is treated as a cost, not a business return. Eden: IoT/OT/IIoT/ICS is a traditional business. The biggest thing we see with successful implementation is a motivated OT or IT team. Chris: With one food manufacturer, environmental conditions in refrigerators were having an impact, with staff unaware of issues across an entire weekend. That type of situation results in a lot of waste, and well managed IoT has clear value. Having a sponsor of IoT solutions in the business leadership team helps with successful implementation.

(Q) What interesting ways are you seeing customers using IoT?

Eden: Across the board, we are seeing a huge rise in the edge. ‘Edge’ or ‘Fog’ computing has been a concept we have been working with for the last 5 years however, now we’re seeing the industry evolve to this trend. Edge computing for us is leveraging the network devices you have to run software or algorithms to extract, transform, govern, and deliver connected asset data from the IoT edge to multi-cloud destinations. We have customers using this capability currently to achieve greater results for video as a sensor to send an alert when something visually changes. Or leveraging the edge compute in the network to run SCADA applications or our OT Visibility application Cyber Vision.

(Q) Why talk with Data#3 about your IoT plans?

Graham: In a hyper-connected world, Data#3’s expertise in network connectivity, security, and data analytics is what gives our customers the edge. Our approach links customers’ investments with their business opportunities, and creates transformation momentum in their business through our consulting, deployment, adoption, and managed services teams. While our extensive certifications and IoT industry award highlight the team’s capabilities, our customers’ satisfaction is testament to what we can achieve with progressive customers who want to take advantage of the rapidly evolving opportunity. Kingsley: Data#3 is placed as the experts in managing an IoT lifecycle engagement, through IoT consultancy delivered by Business Aspect, to world-class IoT network infrastructure and software with our global partner Cisco, along with professional services delivery, and management of the solution. Data#3 holds the highest level of Cisco certification, and the knowledge to deliver real-world solutions that make a difference. Eden: Fundamentals are key. IoT is a journey and without a strong foundation, network and security policy, IoT projects present risk. We are so lucky to have a partner like Data#3. They understand the importance of technology, networking, security for critical infrastructure. They are a leader in this space working with a number of public sector and large mining accounts to ensure they have a robust foundation and are ready for Australia’s Critical Infrastructure Security Requirements, and to gain business efficiencies in a secure, flexible business foundation.

Questions about IoT/OT for our experts?

As an Australian leader in the Cisco IoT / OT portfolio, Data#3 are uniquely positioned to help you further your IoT strategy and solution. Talk to our Cisco experts to learn more about how the unparalleled Cisco IoT / OT portfolio could help you turn edge device data into operational gold.