The IoT Introduces Opportunities for Authentication, Access and So Much More

By Steve Hegenderfer, Director, Developer Programs, Bluetooth Special Interest Group

Steve Hegenderfer, Director, Developer Programs, Bluetooth Special Interest Group

Wireless technology, and the wave of mobile devices it has spawned has frequently been seen as a thorn in the side of IT professionals. BYOD was, for many years, a dirty word (or acronym) for corporations looking to keep their intellectual property secure. However, the times have changed significantly and bring your own device (BYOD) has given way to the Internet of Things (IoT) or bring your own sensor (BYOS). While this new influx of devices can seem daunting to a corporation, the benefits for security, authentication and access are staggering.

"While data collection is an essential part of the IoT, only targeted, quality data will provide value to your business"

Let’s look first at authentication. A lost tablet or laptop can open up an organization to a slew of security concerns. Using personal sensors, like a Bluetooth enabled smart watch or smart fitness tracker, as an authentication key to unlock devices can ensure that even if a laptop or tablet is left behind, the content is still secure. Paired with a password, using wearable sensors for authentication makes for an easy-to-implement, two-factor authentication using a personal device that is less likely to be lost or left behind. This same combination can be used to verify your identity online. Currently, the FIDO Alliance and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group are working together to standardize this type of authentication process.

Physical access can also very easily be granted via a wearable sensor or through an employee’s device. Access cards, frequently lost, misplaced, forgotten or stolen, are an incredibly weak link in physical security systems. By embracing BYOD and enabling an employee’s phone to grant physical entrance, corporations are providing access via a smarter, more trackable device. Wireless technology, specifically Bluetooth, makes two-factor authentication seamless for physical access. An employee’s phone would never need to leave the user’s pocket and a password or code simplifies physical access and makes it more secure.

Beyond authentication and access, the potential for the IoT in smart cities and buildings is substantial. Bluetooth wireless technology is currently in a wealth of automation systems for industrial and building operations. Bluetooth, with its low energy functionality, is uniquely suited to provide quality assurance and cost-saving measures for corporations far beyond the energy savings that are typically promoted as the primary benefit of building automation. Location-based beacon technology can offer unique insight into building usage as well as reporting preventative maintenance needs, saving time and money from costly repairs. The ubiquity of Bluetooth technology is a key part of what makes this possible. Bluetooth, the technology behind location-based beacons, is a well-established standard that is easy and inexpensive to develop for, making it easy to create custom location-based solutions for any company, retailer or organization.

The IoT also stands to change completely the way companies do asset management and tracking. The trend toward a more mobile working environment has led to company property, from laptops to monitors, tablets, peripherals and phones, to leave the office space, resulting in a higher risk of loss for IT professionals. Asset tracking, enabled via wireless technology, gives corporations a way to securely and in real time track and manage property.

According to a recent report from Gartner, smart buildings will lead the way in IoT implementation because of the context IoT data can bring to facilities management as well as advanced service operations through the collection of data. Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president at Gartner, said, “Especially in large sites, such as industrial zones, office parks, shopping malls, airports or seaports, IoT can help reduce the cost of energy, spatial management and building maintenance by up to 30 percent.”

While it may seem overwhelming to manage the influx of data and mitigate the security risks of the growing BYOS world, there are two steps CIO’s can take to do just that. First, develop a smart strategy for your smart infrastructure. While data collection is an essential part of the IoT, only targeted, quality data will provide value to your business. Work diligently during the system design stage to identify obtainable goals and establish a clear process for collecting and analyzing the data that will help you meet those objectives. Secondly, mobile devices are commonly protected by PIN, gesture, or biometric authentication - and these security standards continue to advance. Your smart strategy should also include a Culture of Security to empower employees to use these tools available to them. As the IoT becomes ingrained in business, and as more employees bring their personal sensors into the office space, it is up to the CIO to understand, embrace, and make this technology work for the betterment of the business.