The role of IoT in the COVID-19 crisis
September 16, 2020, by Juan Pérez-Bedmar
During the sanitary crisis, IoT has developed a main role in several industries that have used these technologies to keep their normal operations.
The COVID-19 sanitary crisis has forced the world we live in to radically change. Not only at a personal and social level but in many other aspects too such as health systems, politics, labour, economy and, especially, technology. COVID-19 has accelerated how we handle information, communications and our way of working. The changes due over the next 5 years were completed in just a few weeks after the crisis broke out.
At the beginning of the crisis, companies started to get conscious of the importance of digitalization and began to quickly make decisions and take actions. They realized that connecting certain assets and using certain technologies were key for the continuity of their own business.
In particular, this sanitary crisis has fostered remote working, and has turned what used to be a vague future plan for companies into a reality for most of them in a matter of weeks. Home offices increased from 20% to almost 100% in record time, transforming companies, offices, processes and, in general, our way of working. The Internet is more relevant than ever before.
IoT (Internet of Things), for instance, provided ideal conditions so that home office workers could adapt themselves not only during the pandemic but also in this “new normal” post COVID-19 era.
Remote work has brought an important dynamization of the digital world, with endless advantages such as flexibility for workers, a rise in productivity and a reduction in expenditure for companies. For these reasons, remote work is here for good. According to a report by Gartner, it is very likely that 41% of the employees will keep working remotely, at least part of their time, in comparison to 30% before the virus came into our lives.
Some examples of IoT in the COVID-19 era
IoT has developed a main role in many industries during the sanitary crisis. Sectors such as manufacturing, medical attention, supply chains and governments, have leveraged IoT to facilitate remote work.
In factories, for example, IoT allows teams to do their jobs from distributed locations. When technicians are not able to work on site, they can still keep their business working thanks to remote monitoring and management tools. These solutions use sensors and IoT devices to, for instance, detect and send notifications when machines have unexpected downtimes or to measure productivity. IIoT (Industrial IoT) sensors can deliver information about a machine’s state in real-time and detect vibrations that may indicate a malfunction.
Another example is how the use of IoT technologies allows governments to monitor and control social distancing and trace contacts to prevent propagation of the virus. Also, devices with IoT technology allow ways to track COVID-19 through connected thermometers which offer orientation to people about whether they should seek medical assistance.
Cybersecurity, key in the usage of IoT
Despite the many positive aspects that IoT has brought to this “new normality” such as the time and cost savings for companies, the use of these technologies has also implied new challenges. New techniques for cyberattacks have appeared as cybercriminals take advantage of every new situation, especially those of more vulnerability. Security used to be more related to the physical world but has now suddenly moved to the digital one. Remote work uses new communication channels and much more cloud-based applications. We are more online than ever before and so we are more vulnerable to security breaches in companies.
On top of that, it is important to highlight that 90% of the professional sector in Spain is formed by SMEs, which likely have never carried out big investments in cybersecurity. They have become an easy target for cybercriminals and have suffered information robbery (ransomware), phishing or damage to their infrastructures.
Several studies point to an increase of 71% in cyberattacks since the beginning of the sanitary crisis, with a rise of 55% in phishing attacks and 32% in malware attacks.
This way, companies that use IoT devices to facilitate the “new normality” for their employees, but must also develop frameworks to acquire, implement, secure and monitor their IoT solutions to minimize the exposure to cybercriminals.
Now more than ever, it is important to use tools designed to act as a barrier to cybersecurity threats. Secure IoT deployments will help reduce those risks. There are also other measures that a company can take, such as having a Cybersecurity Manager join their team, hire security audits and educate employees, which typically are the weakest link in the security chain, on the secure handling of information and in the sensible use of electronic communications.
Those companies that did bet on digitalization and the innovation coupled with remote monitoring and control of their assets have now found a chance to keep growing after the crisis with much less impact in their operations.
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