The internet of things offers vast potential for supply chains, but also risks

When it comes to internet of things (IoT) in the supply chain, the potential is huge. We’re already seeing a move from concept to reality, and when it comes to manufacturing there is one key focus – streamlining operations – both through cost reduction and operational efficiency.

IoT has applications in shipment tracking, automation, and even (in the future) delivery drones. Through the potential to seamlessly connect touch points, processes and devices, IoT has the power to completely connect the supply chain ecosystem, providing a platform that speeds up operations at every stage.

Gartner predicts that IoT will generate revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020. In fact, the firm has already crowned IoT as the most hyped emerging technology of 2014, overtaking the likes of Big Data and hybrid cloud computing. But as IoT spreads through the supply chain, it brings with it new security risks and vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Access to information about the supply chain and exposure to cyber risk are serious pitfalls for businesses if they are not well prepared to deal with the additional complexities that IoT adoption brings.

Gartner states the coming flood of billions of new internet-connected devices will not only “significantly alter supply chain leader information access”, but their “cyber-risk exposure” too. This year, as increasing numbers of machines and devices hook up to a fully connected supply chain, it is essential that robust security practices are put in place to deal with potential attacks through this new channel.

Since IoT devices communicate through application programming interfaces (APIs), one of the most important places for organisations to look is the API layer. APIs are the "remote control" layer for IoT devices. As the supply chain becomes more reliant on APIs to connect, a new area of attack is being made available for hackers to exploit. With this in mind, it is crucial tighter security is established at the API layer as the new first line of defense. After all, without this other layers of security quickly become meaningless.

This is why API management tools such as API gateways are essential. These offer organisations the ability to more easily manage and secure their APIs, ensuring increasingly broad and connected networks don’t fall victim to costly security breaches. It’s never been more important to secure the supply chain, and those who act swiftly to close off emerging vulnerabilities will be free to enjoy the benefits that the IoT brings without fear of being left at risk.

☛ Mark O’Neill is vice president of innovation at Axway

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