CDW has been in the networking business for a long time, and over the decades, we’ve seen amazing innovation while working with partners like Cisco Systems and Intel. Indeed, that’s been my experience in my six years with the company. But nothing compares to the sea change we are experiencing now with the Internet of Things (IoT). The transformation is stunning, and nowhere is it more pronounced than in the arena of transportation.

An IHS Automotive survey projects that the number of Internet-connected cars on the road will grow to 152 million in 2020 from 23 million in 2013. IoT integration is expected to drive massive growth in the adoption of fleet management technologies, with adopters seeking to improve operational efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, lower fuel consumption, boost regulatory compliance and speed up accident response.

The growth of IoT systems can be seen throughout the transportation industry: private automobiles, truck fleets, school buses, municipal transit and emergency services, as well as the road and rail infrastructure that serves them. In-vehicle sensors and systems are proliferating to create valuable information flows around every sort of transportation scenario. A few examples include:

Smart parking: IoT-enabled parking garages can monitor capacity and report on the number and location of available parking spaces as drivers enter a facility.

Predictive maintenance: In-vehicle sensors can analyze engine loads, track driver behavior and compile a vehicle history that can be used to optimize scheduled maintenance.

Optimized routing: Analysis of traffic conditions, fuel consumption and vehicle idle time between routes can determine the most efficient routing for a fleet of vehicles.

Video surveillance: By linking dashboard cameras and other video sources with cloud storage, organizations can stream video for immediate review. This allows for the capture of traffic incidents as they happen and can secure vehicle inventory against theft.

Rider services: Bus and train services can provide real-time route data to customers’ smartphones, showing where the next bus is and when it is due. Departing riders can be alerted to nearby restaurants and shops.

IoT Attitude

Approaching an IoT build-out is a very different challenge from a typical network deployment. It’s important not to get caught up in the granular stuff, such as the in-vehicle routers, sensors, cameras and access points, and to instead think conceptually about what you want to accomplish. Organizations looking to deploy IoT capabilities should develop a scalable vision for the rollout and engage with knowledgeable solution providers that can help to realize that vision.

Two words to keep in mind as you start your IoT journey: management and security.

On the management side, it’s critical to work toward a single platform that can act as a unified portal or dashboard for all your IoT activity. If you think you are supporting a lot of IoT sensors and devices today, imagine three years into the future. The planning and forethought you invest today will enable compelling IoT solutions in the future.

Regarding security, IoT can undermine old-school, perimeter-defense concepts in much the way that cloud and device-borne mobile computing have. Security must be baked into the fabric of your IoT solution, from servers on the back end to in-vehicle devices at the edge. Data must be encrypted, and stay encrypted, throughout its life.

There’s a lot to take in and even more at stake, so don’t be afraid to seek help. Established vendors such as Cisco (network components), Microsoft (cloud platforms) and Splunk (IoT analytics) have a lot experienced staff and resources to offer. And CDW can also help orchestrate IoT build-outs, ensuring that various solutions work together seamlessly, scalably and effectively.

Learn how IoT can combine existing technologies to improve a business’ operations and bottom line with this hands-on video of a game-changing fleet management system demoed this past week at Cisco Live 2016.