How IoT could unprecedentedly scale the value of data

By William Girling
Susan Bowen, CEO of Aptum Technologies, discusses how IoT may hold the secret to unlocking the full potential of Big Data and enterprise systems...

Please tell me a bit about yourself and your day-to-day role at Aptum.

I’m Susan Bowen, I have been the CEO and President of Aptum Technologies, formerly Cogeco Peer 1, since May 2019. Prior to this, I held the position of President at Cogeco Peer 1 and before that Vice President and General Manager of EMEA for three and a half years, based in the UK. As CEO and President of Aptum, my purpose is to guide and empower the Aptum organisation to drive growth for our customers and our business, enabling data as infrastructure globally.

During my first 150 days as CEO of Aptum, my time has been occupied with establishing goals, building a knowledgeable and experienced leadership team and creating a strategy to achieve those goals. Creating the new foundation for the business has been extremely exciting, and our dedicated team has embraced our vision and made its success possible.

Any organisation is only as good as its employees, and as CEO, it is vital to empower employees to propel the business forward.

Last year, you were accepted into the exclusive Forbes Technology Council. What did this honour mean to you and how will it shape your approach going forward?

To be accepted to join the Forbes Technology Council, and the members that uphold that prestigious name, is an achievement of which I am extremely proud. The opportunity to become part of this community of fellow esteemed tech professionals is testament to the work we have done at Aptum. Our unique approach of helping businesses unlock the potential of their data as infrastructure has proved successful.

The Council isn’t just about recognition, though. It encourages contribution and creation of debate, with the overarching goal of driving society forward through technology. Being able to collaborate with industry leaders in this private forum will expose me to new and original perspectives which I will take back to my own forum at Aptum. We are always looking for opportunities to discover new insights, and where better to receive it than from my colleagues on the Council?

Your company’s name literally means ‘adaptability’- is this an important quality in a tech company, particularly one investing in digital infrastructure?

Due to the ever more complex and unpredictable economic, political and social environment in which we currently find ourselves, adapting is crucial not only to a business’ success, but to its survival. The speed, intricacy and global nature of today’s disruption is at a different scale than ever before and businesses must be conscious of that.

While technological change has continuously brought about unprecedented opportunities for those capable of innovation, it can also be the downfall of those who are inflexible and reticent to change. Adaptability, then, becomes an indispensable trait for businesses that want to succeed. Due to the highly competitive market, businesses must keep up with the rapid pace of change. The key to this is placing an emphasis on developing and establishing a mindset which favours adaptability into all levels of the workforce, from the boardroom, through to a business’ IT infrastructure.

Businesses today are encountering amounts of data that grow at an exponential rate, which means they require the appropriate technology to exploit it. Reliable platforms which harness the power of their data enable better decision making and generate new insights and deeper customer engagement.

With a 20-year heritage helping customers maximize technologies to store, manage, move and secure their critical data, Aptum is one of a select group of companies able to offer true hybrid infrastructure solutions with secure data centre, cloud, connectivity and managed services across North America, Latin America and Europe.

Data and IoT are intrinsically linked. How does your approach to their utilisation distinguish itself?

At Aptum, we believe that data should be treated as infrastructure. As the source of insight into performance, markets, and innovation, data should be considered the backbone of the modern enterprise. We help businesses discover the true value of their data and support them on the best ways to utilise their data sets for their desired business outcomes.

IoT has the potential to scale the value of data at an unprecedented rate. Data from hordes of sensor points across an IoT network can be transmitted and processed in real time. Aptum’s approach helps organisations cleanse, process and manage this data in order to generate analyses that optimise processes. IoT devices are just one component of an IT ecosystem designed to enable businesses to unlock their data potential. But, the sheer volume of data IoT devices promise means their value is integral to that ecosystem.

Many in the industry postulate that 5G networks are set to revolutionise IoT. Do you agree and why?

The benefits of 5G will revolutionise IoT. More bandwidth, higher reliability, lower latency and the ability to support a vastly greater number of connected devices will propel IoT into the mainstream. The diversity of IoT means that each use case can take advantage of 5G in different ways. For example: higher processing speeds will enable faster production in manufacturing; lower latency means remote control of machinery from production plants to hospitals will be possible; air traffic monitoring would need high reliability and service quality; and smart cities will be able to leverage a higher density of devices.

5G will indeed transform IoT, but it is important to recognise that this revolution will not be quickly realised across all applications. Due to the gradual nature of 5G’s implementation, where 3G and 4G sites are developed or new infrastructure is built, IoT development will in turn be slow and complex. Some use cases will involve a large amount of data, many devices, autonomous machinery, and advanced analytics. 5G will develop at the same time as these systems, so due to the sheer scale of the task, a speedy timetable is not likely.

Are there any significant industry hurdles that will need to be overcome before the capabilities of IoT can be fully enabled?

The main challenges facing IoT is security. Recent increases in distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks have brought attention to the issue, and beckoned calls for action in IT communities. Put simply, as an emerging technology, solutions for many unforeseen problems simply do not exist yet. Software that secures laptop, mobile, and server endpoints are not as far developed for IoT devices as they are harder to identify.

This is where the fundamental problem lies. For secure control of IoT devices, visibility over all assets is necessary. Panaseer commissioned a study of 200 enterprise security leaders. When asked about the assets into which they had least visibility, IoT devices topped the list. An IP address can rarely be found on an IoT device, and even if it is found it is difficult to tell what the device’s function actually is and what it is connected to. With multiple networks in different locations, containing multiple devices, visibility naturally decreases. This leaves security teams completely in the dark of the risk individual devices pose and what vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers.

However, companies that work with technology partners with experience in securing these technologies will have the best expertise available to them to help secure their IoT devices. When first enrolling IoT devices into an ecosystem, they undertake rigorous checks, reviewing the manufacturing guidelines on the best ways to securely configure a device. A full inventory will then be undertaken mapping out each device and its function to increase visibility. Crucially though, it is the role of a technology partner to be experts in emerging technologies. As new methods of securing IoT devices are developed, the partner will be in an informed position to conduct their implementation.


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