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The burgeoning IoT sensor and device market will generate over a billion dollars by 2025 more than 70 trillion gigabytes of data per year — that’s almost twice the amount at the beginning the decade. 

This flood of digital data will play an important role in all aspects of enterprise operations. From streamlining supply chains and logistics to advanced fleet management solutions to increasing productivity with smart infrastructure, connected work environments, and streamlining supply chain and logistics, it will also help improve efficiency and productivity. But there’s a catch: With data fragmented across a vast ecosystem of web-connected devices, organizations risk losing track of how and where their data is created, circulated and used.

Enterprises can avoid costly data breaches, outages, and other cybersecurity incidents by having full visibility into how data is stored, shared, and transmitted. With more and more sensors and devices in play, achieving this level of data ownership isn’t always easy. However, businesses can still be ahead by using new technologies to control connected dataflows and reap the benefits from the IoT revolution. 

The Blockchain revolution

One such technology is blockchain — the decentralized virtual ledger that enabled the creation of cryptocurrencies. Blockchain allows information to be stored securely and openly, while also providing a record of interactions and changes over the time. This is an important new way to validate and control data that swirls through IoT devices.

Blockchain solutions can be used to track and analyze dataflows for companies that are equipped with IoT sensors or devices. This will give them a clear picture of who, what, when, and where the data was accessed. These insights can be used to improve operational processes and identify and correct errors, and increase productivity.    

Imagine, for example that a food logistics firm has a fleet refrigeration trucks fitted with smart thermometers. A bad sensor could cause a shipment to spoil before it is delivered, which can cost the company thousands. Blockchain could have been used to track, monitor, and distribute IoT data. This would allow for fast remedial action and pinpoint the exact cause of the malfunction. 

Blockchain technology is more than just tracking IoT device malfunctions. Oregon-based fruit distributor Curry & Co has been using a distributed digital ledger to increase visibility Oversaw its environmental, inventory and processing data as well as product inspection data. The results: a more streamlined logistics network and also a robust system to help customers verify where shipments have been, how they’ve been handled and whether food safety regulations were properly followed.

These technologies are valuable from a business perspective. Blockchain technology can be used to validate claims and verify that information has not been altered or compromised.

Know the IoT devices

The tracking and verification of data is only one part of the puzzle. It’s also important for IoT fleet operators to have granular insights into device performance, enabling them to single out which device generated or transmitted which bit of data. It is much easier to trace data back to its source using blockchain technology and to simplify the process for replacing, patching or repairing devices if necessary.

This is a reminder of another crucial step in keeping control over data in an ever-growing IoT universe: making sure you have visibility on all your devices. For companies with a relatively small IoT footprint — a few hundred sensors or pieces of smart building infrastructure, say — this might seem like a simple job. It can be quite difficult to keep an eye on the IoT data coming from larger companies.  

Regular network scans serve as an obvious solution, but conventional scanning tools typically identify only devices they’re already familiar with, making it easy to miss newer or less widely adopted devices and systems. Automation breakthroughs are making this possible. Machine learning-enhanced software can identify patterns of behavior in devices that may otherwise go unnoticed.   

Large IoT operators often use an internal network to connect their devices in order to keep ownership of their data. That isn’t always the best approach, though. If an organization wants to take control of its connected dataflows, it must first ensure network integrity — and giving IoT devices unrestricted network access can create problems by giving hackers a backdoor into core dataflows and networks. 

To defend against such threats, it’s important to ensure you’re using the right connectivity solutions — including cellular networks — and protecting your connected devices with appropriate security gateways and firewalls. Above all, remember that the goal is to keep your data close to home — so don’t accept solutions that ping your data through a scattered network of global servers before it arrives where it’s needed. 

Finding the middle ground

With the rapid proliferation of IoT devicesThe tech-forward organisations face a sinking or rising moment. Will they succumb to an ever-expanding sea of digital information — or find secure and trackable ways to use connected dataflows to drive efficiency and performance enhancements?

To achieve this, it is important to retain a high level ownership of IoT data. For data visibility to be assured, you need to be bold in your search for new technologies such as blockchain. And you’ll also need to get the basics right by keeping track of the devices you have in play, and making network integrity a key priority at all times.

It can be daunting to ensure data security in the IoT. But it’s an area organizations can’t afford to neglect. The IoT revolution will be missed at great cost. Organizations also run the risk losing sensitive and mission-critical information. By taking control of their data, businesses can find the middle ground — and harness the power of IoT innovation as we advance into an era of ever-greater connectivity.  

Frank Stoecker, serial entrepreneur, telecoms expert, CEO and co-founder at EMnify.

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