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Could Blockchain Solve I.T.’s Biggest IoT Headaches?

Proponents of the Internet of Things (IoT) believe it will connect everything and make every object “smart,” which could unlock tremendous value throughout the enterprise. However, the vast scale of networked devices proposed for even a single company’s IoT ecosystem is among the challenges creating sleepless nights for the information technology professionals tasked with deploying IoT solutions.

According to the IoT World’s What’s Keeping IT Executives Up at Night 2018 report, more than 43 percent of surveyed respondents said their company can accommodate up to 1,000 IoT devices. However, more than a quarter (nearly 28 percent) indicated that their employer can handle less than 100 devices. Not quite one third (nearly 31 percent) expressed confidence that their company could successfully manage enormous quantities—upwards of 100,000—IoT devices.

As companies move from IoT proof of concept to scaling their networked ecosystem, many encounter challenges on a number of front. Above all, more than 53 percent cited the headache of managing legacy devices and software that wasn’t designed or prepared for the current era of technology. Coming in a close second, nearly 46 percent said IoT’s reliance of highly specialized solutions is their biggest burden. Because devices networked through Internet of Things touch numerous departments across the enterprise, more than 37 percent cited managing which units will be responsible for IoT-related sensors, gateways, networking equipment, analytics, hardware and software as their most pressing concern.

Data security has become a high-profile concern as a result of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and fallout. So how are IT execs ensuring their IoT networks are secure against outside threats and manage data responsibly? They’re taking a two-pronged approach. More than 72 percent of respondents said they’re baking security right into the design, embedding it into the devices’ product life cycle. What’s more, more than 61 percent are either drafting or enforcing an explicit IoT security policy, making it clear to stakeholders how to effectively and securely manage this growing array of networked devices.

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However, not even two-thirds of survey respondents claimed to up to date on the patches and other security fixes necessary for a truly secure IoT network, and nearly 58 percent aren’t training their IT staff on new developments in IoT security mechanisms.

Blockchain has emerged as a potential solution and complement to the challenges of Internet of Things.

“Currently, the centralized enterprise security model is struggling to meet the demands of IoT, but blockchain’s decentralized nature offers scalable with stronger data protections,” the report noted. “That’s why early adopters are already doing some serious company soul searching about their future with blockchain.” In fact, 46 percent are mulling blockchain applications in their Internet of Things strategy.

The biggest benefits of blockchain in IoT include reducing the risk of collusion and tampering (15 percent), enhancing user trust with blockchain cryptography (13.9%), enabling near-instantaneous transaction speeds (12.9%), and slashing overhead costs associated with middlemen and intermediaries (4.3%).

“IoT is still very much at the base of the hockey stick in terms of its current deployment and potential growth,” Gavin Whitechurch, founder of IoT World, said. “As the enterprise becomes increasingly serious about IoT investments, cross-sector collaboration and knowledge-sharing from early IoT deployment experiences will be what drives our new connected world forward.”