Internet of Things Isn’t New! Why the IoT Call to Action Now?

The AV industry has dabbled in the Internet of Things for more than a decade, but 1) It hasn’t fully capitalized and 2) It needs to own the IoT security risks.

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Tim Boyd, president and CEO of Save Electronics in Richardson, Texas; Bruce Kaufmann, president and CEO of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Human Circuit; and Jay McArdle, CIO of ZDI in Normal, Ill., discuss IoT at 2017 CI Summit in Orlando, Fla.

“This is nothing new, guys.” Whenever you try to talk to technology professionals about an emerging technology, you usually learn that it’s not as new or emerging as you think it is. Such was the case when talking to a panel of integrators about Internet of Things (IoT) at CI Summit, part of Total Tech Summit, in Orlando, Fla., in November.

IoT is a “bunch of sensors in an environment connected to a network,” summed up Jay McArdle, CIO of ZDI in Normal, Ill.

So, yeah. For integrators, it’s nothing new.

In essence, AV integrators have been dealing with sensors and connected networks for quite some time. “We’ve been talking to motion sensors and making something happen. We’ve been having a button press do something else,” McArdle said.

Fellow panelist Bruce Kaufmann, president and CEO of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Human Circuit, agreed. “A lot of people have been doing this kind of remote monitoring for 15 or 20 years.” Of course, back in the day, “It wasn’t called Internet of Things.”

However, IoT has become one of the buzziest terms in technology, let alone the AV integration market, and for good reason, said panelist Tim Boyd, president and CEO of Save Electronics in Richardson, Texas. He sees excitement about IoT in both the residential and commercial markets since his firm serves both.

Integrators, he said, “should be using it in every aspect of their business.”

Kaufmann and McArdle, meanwhile, each presented IoT as not so much an opportunity for AV integration firms but as a trigger to elevate their services – and, to a certain degree, a transition from traditional offerings.

IoT Should Be AV Integrators’ Domain … But Is It?

AV integrators have been in the “if this, then that” business for the past two to three decades, McArdle says.

“The difference now is it’s all going onto a central network where that data can get exported. But if we haven’t taken advantage of it to this point and understood the value of the sensors and the value of that data we’re collecting we’re really missing the boat.”

That would be a shame, he added. “Nobody else is positioned as well as we are to take advantage of the internet of things as we are at this point.”

Related Resource: State of Internet of Things

McArdle doubled-down on the concept that AV integrators are in the best position to leverage Internet of things. “

IoT is in every environment and the AV integration firm is the master of the technology environment,” he said.

“We don’t own the network but we do own the environment and are responsible for the different technology that goes into the environment.”

IoT Impact on Automation

It’s not so much that integrators should be excited about the proliferation of IoT, Kaufmann said. Instead, he suggested a healthy amount of paranoia.

A big impact of IoT, Kaufmann contended, is how artificial intelligence will change expectations when it comes to automation.

“There’s going to be something like 50 billion [IoT] devices by 2020. It’s just more in-bred to the products now,” he said, citing Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

A big impact of IoT, Kaufmann contended, is how artificial intelligence will change expectations when it comes to automation.

It’s already happening and “all the ’trons and AMX” should take note, he said. “It’s not about the proprietary hardware anymore.” Now, he says very smart devices are already hooked up to the network. They already have diagnostics.

IoT Impact on Security

Then there are the IoT related security and privacy issues which are legit.

The fact that those now-smarter devices are hooked up to networks and have built-in diagnostics creates security concerns, Kaufmann said. With 50 billion of those devices, he expressed security concerns about what is being monitored and how it’s being monitored.

“I live in a very paranoid society of Washington, D.C., and we have a huge number of customers that cant’ have that constant connectivity. It doesn’t happen,” he said, citing federal government clients.

“My family is paranoid about Alexa just being on the counter listening to our conversations at night.”

Overcoming Security Challenges

One integrator in the audience, Conference Technologies chief technology officer Eric Snider, challenged the panel on their IoT positions. “I’m actually seeing a reverse in the industry from the corporate 100,” he said.

“They don’t want you on their network. Those devices can’t pass. You can easily break through a smart TV and hack a network.”

“We have to be better as an industry. Network security is something that needs to be taken seriously and understood,” says Zdi’s Jay McArdle.

McArdle acknowledged those obstacles, but repackaged them as a challenge for the AV integrators.

“We have to be better as an industry. Network security is something that needs to be taken seriously and understood,” he said.

“There is that paranoia there that has to be addressed.”

McArdle also challenged AV manufacturers, contending that too many “don’t know what [Cisco] ISE 802.1x implementation looks like and that “their devices can’t load that certificate to go on somebody’s network.”

He added, “That’s where you’re going to see those companies left behind, because IT is going to demand that you put it on their network.”

It goes without saying, McArdle added, that customers’ IT directors, CIOs or chief security officers will insist that it has to be secure. “That’s where you’re going to get these separate networks popping up, because ‘it’s not going to be on my network.’ But at the same point in time they don’t’ want rogue networks.”

Ultimately, McArdle said he expects to see “a transition from traditional control systems if they don’t deal with security appropriately — and if they don’t deal with the passwords and the back doors and the network security and all the different port-based security that’s happening today.”