What area of enterprise mobility is slated for major year-over-year growth across virtually every industry? A powerful one: mobile devices in support of the Internet of Things (IoT). These sensors, gadgets, appliances, and other wireless equipment unlock nearly limitless opportunities for data collection and efficiency improvements across the board. IoT device management is on the rise. Ericsson estimates there will be 24 billion IoT devices by 2050, meaning almost every object around us – streetlights, medical supplies, electric meters, cars, even animals – will be exchanging data and critical intelligence in real time.
Enterprise IoT already accounts for about 75% of the overall IoT market, but more devices mean more spending and complexities around utilization. From procurement and setup to maintenance and monitoring to device lifecycle management, how do companies handle an onslaught of IoT considerations without overburdening their IT departments or going into the red?
This article will look closer at what IoT device management is, the challenges of managing IoT devices, and how to position your company for success.
What Is IoT Device Management?
IoT device management involves the centralized management of IoT devices, from procurement to decommissioning. This process can include anything from smart devices like sensors and cameras to gateways and controllers. IoT device management includes support for services such as deployment and device setup, inventory management, and security updates. It also includes remote management and troubleshooting, including help desk services for those who need technical support for IoT devices.
A crucial part of managing IoT devices involves collecting data about device location and usage. This process also includes analyzing that data and taking relevant actions related to maintenance, repair, optimization, and replacement. As IoT devices proliferate at the enterprise level, cost-efficient management becomes even more important to business success.
What are the Challenges of Managing IoT Devices?
Managing IoT devices is a cyclical process that starts with procurement and ends with decommissioning. This cycle also includes expense management and other financial considerations. The variety of manufacturers, providers, and IoT systems further complicates this process. Here are some of the biggest challenges associated with managing IoT devices.
Keeping Up with a Growing Number of Corporate IoT Devices
Inventory management is the process of creating a catalog for deep visibility into every detail about the fleet of IoT devices, including device type, assigned user, manufacturer, any accessories as well as any associated services and service cost. This type of visibility is especially important for finance and IT leaders. Organizations need to track direct and indirect IoT device expenses including purchase costs, maintenance costs, and service fees, which can only be done with an accurate, real-time count of the inventory currently in use and any surplus hardware or equipment stored and waiting to be deployed next.
Procuring a Fleet of IoT Sensors or other Equipment
Procuring IoT devices involves several steps, from identifying cost-effective devices and suppliers to order management and supply chain tracking. Decision making can be challenging due to the sheer number of options available. From there, teams have to consider whether their desired devices are in sufficient supply at the right price point.
Even when ordering goes smoothly, there’s the risk of delays caused by supply chain and shipping problems. Any of these issues can extend the timeline for device deployment, leading to reduced productivity, increased costs, and project delays.
IoT Security and Compliance
IoT device compliance includes corporate operational and security guidelines as well as regulatory and legal requirements related to data privacy and cybersecurity. IT teams need visibility into configurations, software versions, and mobile device security protocols. Businesses also need to monitor the status of their devices alongside regulatory changes, especially when expanding operations into new jurisdictions where operational requirements might be different.
Managing Physical IoT Devices
Deployment, shipping, kitting, and other logistics of getting devices into the hands of users is a significant challenge when managing IoT devices. Companies and their IT organizations must get devices to the right location and properly conduct initial setup and configuration, as well as ensure devices are securely installed and connected to the IoT network. With high volumes of equipment to prepare and ship, IT teams can quickly get overwhelmed by device logistics management.
The responsibility for managing physical devices continues throughout the lifecycle. Companies must have processes for managing the maintenance and repair of IoT devices – something that can be especially difficult for global companies and remote areas.
Repairs, Maintenance, and Software Updates for IoT Devices
At some point, an IoT device will need inspection, maintenance, or repair, whether to the device itself or its software. When employees experience an issue, they need quick and easy access to support such as a live help desk. As more devices are integrated into the enterprise, keeping track of updates and repairs can quickly become overwhelming. Contracts, schedules, and operating systems vary across devices. Businesses need a central way to track this activity in a cost-effective manner.
Decommissioning and Recycling IoT Devices
IoT devices continue to present challenges after they’re removed from services, notably with how to dispose of them (companies may choose to repurpose, dispose, or recycle devices). Data security is a key concern here, as devices shouldn’t leave the business with any potentially sensitive data.
Another option is a device buy-back program, where businesses sell used devices back to the manufacturer or to a third-party company that reimburses them with cash back for every piece of hardware.
Managing Vendors, Contracts, and Invoices for IoT Hardware and Services
IoT expense management and cost optimization are crucial for effective device management. Companies need to track and manage the costs associated with purchasing, maintaining, and repairing IoT devices. These costs include hardware and equipment, mobile service charges, invoices, and payments. Other expense considerations include cost validations, reconciliations, and allocations to whatever project, department, or activity should be accountable for the expense.
Expense data must be complete, visible, properly assigned, and updated in real time. Only then can companies make truly informed decisions about upgrades, replacements, and investments. Poor expense tracking and management leads to inaccurate cost assumptions and forecasts that create overspending and underutilization.
Optimizing Costs for IoT Programs
Identifying opportunities to reduce cost is an ongoing challenge for enterprises, particularly with the growth of IoT devices scaling up all the time. Cost optimization can manifest itself by preventing or avoiding overspending, but it can also take the form of reducing the contractual rate you pay for hardware and services. Device management services provided by a third party can also help reduce the total cost of ownership of an IoT program.
How Does a IoT Device Management Service Improve Auditing, Expense Management, and Optimization?
Effective IoT device management provides a centralized approach to managing connected devices. Here are three ways IoT device management improves auditing, expense management, and optimization processes.
- Auditing the Corporate Fleet and Managing an Inventory of Every Device
Effective IoT device management starts with an audit of all devices. You also need data on usage, users, and device upgrades, especially for point-of-sale (POS) and mobile devices. These upgrades require coordination with service providers and can be costly if not managed properly.
IoT device management solutions provide deep visibility into the corporate fleet of devices, their status, and their usage data. With this visibility, you can make informed decisions about allocating resources and optimizing workflows for large fleets across the lifecycle of every device.
- Device Expense Management for IoT Programs
IoT device management, as part of a larger Managed Mobility Services solution, helps businesses streamline both the invoice and billing process. By tracking all invoices and consolidating all expenses related to IoT devices in a single platform, businesses gain a clearer understanding of their spending and reduce the time and effort it takes to manage hardware and services, vendors, payments, all while keeping devices running 24/7.
This improved visibility helps businesses make data-driven decisions about costs and further optimize their spending. Taking advantage of features such as bill pay services and proactive contract monitoring prevents unexpected problems and reduces the risk of downtime and nonpayment penalties.
- Optimizing Utilization – so Every IoT Device is Put to Good Use
With advanced analytics and optimization tools, businesses can identify IoT devices that are underutilized or can be reassigned. These solutions can also help businesses identify the most cost-effective service plans, devices, and other options.
Manage and Protect your IoT Devices with One Platform that Does it All
Organizations need an IoT device management strategy, but studies suggest that many in-house initiatives hit snags or outright fail. Many companies have found Managed Mobility Services to be the best path for solving these challenges and getting the most value out of their IoT investment. Tangoe’s Managed Mobility Services, as part of our flagship technology expense management platform, Tangoe One, enables you to embrace IoT with uninterrupted clarity into your device fleet.
- Simplify the management of all individual IoT devices across their lifecycle using a single, comprehensive platform for technology expense and lifecycle management.
- Leverage streamlined services to accelerate deployment processes like device setup and give your IT team much-needed time for other critical tasks.
- Unified endpoint management (UEM) minimizes network vulnerabilities and protects IoT devices from security threats. Get ongoing threat monitoring, mitigation, and cross-platform mobile security from a single location.
- Monitor, diagnose, maintain, and update all devices from one simple platform with dedicated, 24×7 help desk support from Tangoe’s IoT experts.
- Get a single source of truth for understanding device usage, performance, and where expenses can be reduced to make more informed decisions around cost optimization and IoT device expense management.
- Get immediate visibility into other areas of financial management like billing and contract information to start improving cost validation and expense allocation.
- More efficiently use resources, improve overall financial management and, best of all, increase profitability.