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IT asset disposition in the age of IoT

Disposing of IT assets has become even more challenging in the age of the internet of things (IoT) and the industrial IoT (IIoT). Electronic devices contain toxic components, which can be harmful to the environment. These devices often contain personal and proprietary data, too. But there are other potential uses for end-of-life electronics, beyond simply throwing them away.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, the world produces approximately 45 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) each year, and that number is expected to keep rising.

A contributor is the ongoing explosion in smart, mobile devices and in the number and types of devices connected to IoT and IIoT networks. By 2020, Gartner expects that there will be more than 20 billion IoT devices, according to its Market Guide for IT Asset Disposition.

When the useful life of these devices has come to an end, how to properly dispose of each, actual device is an ongoing challenge.  For example, toxic e-waste illegally dumped in developing countries is currently a major threat to the health of millions of people worldwide. The StEP Initiative launched by the United Nations is one of several efforts to address this challenge on a global scale, however, more needs to be done to ensure the safety and well-being of today’s global population as well as future generations to come.

It’s also worth noting that the continuing rise in the amount of e-waste poses two types of major risks to a company’s brand equity: environmentally safe recycling and data security. In addition, companies must manage compliance with ever-changing regulations from multiple regional, national and global sources.

Electronic devices contain toxic components, which can be harmful to the environment if they are improperly disposed. Because these devices often contain personal and proprietary data, improperly disposing of them also leaves sensitive data open to exploitation. As the average cost of a data breach continues to rise (according to IBM it is nearing $4 million), this is a growing problem as well.

There are solutions

Identifying and properly disposing of IoT devices requires a transparent, robust IT asset disposition (ITAD) process. Thorough, certified data sanitization that is performed to accepted industry standards is the first step in sustainable technology management. But what comes next?

There are four potential uses for end-of-life electronics. Technology that’s still functional may be refurbished, redeployed within an organization, remarketed as used equipment or donated to a reputable charity to extend its useful life. When an electronic device can’t be reused as a whole entity, it’s possible that some of its components might be safely recovered. Otherwise, the device can be recycled according to best-practice industry standards.

  • Redeployment – Many businesses want to redeploy their electronics within their own company. It’s important to know in advance that simply deleting files isn’t enough to protect sensitive data. Smartphones, for example, hide data in many places that require specialized knowledge to locate and erase it. Sensitive data found by anyone other than its intended owner is still a data breach, regardless of where the device is reused, and organizations can be held liable under data protection laws. Thorough, professional data sanitization and refurbishment of electronic devices is, thus, key to their successful redeployment.
  • Reuse/Remarketing – Used technology that is still functional can be remarketed if a company doesn’t want to redeploy it internally. Old electronics that have been securely sanitized of data can be repaired and reimaged with new operating systems, remarketed and used “like new” so that a portion of the expense from that piece of technology can be recovered. Professional ITAD providers will ensure that data security and environmental standards are protected throughout this process.
  • Donation – Many people don’t have access to technology today. Leading businesses often want to donate used electronics to a non-profit that can help bridge the digital divide. To donate effectively, it’s critical to work with a professional ITAD provider.
  • Recycle – The most important step in the process of recycling electronic devices is ensuring that they are recycled according to the highest environmental standards available and that they don’t become e-waste. In some cases, it may be possible to recover valuable components from a device for reuse in other electronics. When that’s not possible, it’s vital to break down the remainder of the device into its core materials so that they can be sold and turned into new products.

Example: Arrow Electronics’ lifecycle management

In 2017, leading ITAD provider Arrow Electronics processed more than 6 million devices, kept 49,000 tons of electronics out of landfills, found new life for nearly 3 million devices and returned more than 13 million pounds of materials to the manufacturing stream.

In addition to working with a respected ITAD disposition partner, IT asset managers must show that their company’s assets are managed, from the design phase to deployment, as well as end of life. This is lifecycle management. ITAD is only one part of Arrow’s greater end-to-end lifecycle portfolio of services. In addition to providing support and ITAD services, this breadth of offerings helps companies create, build and deploy their electronic assets with design, integration and installation services. As a leader in technology lifecycle management, Arrow operates from a single global standard across the largest global footprint in the industry.

Arrow is a trusted partner to over half of the Fortune 100, as well as to other top global corporations and OEMs. In servicing industries with a reliable sustainability solution, it strives to provide the highest ROI from refurbished devices:

  • Arrow provides businesses a variety of options to properly sanitize data and extend the life of electronics.
  • Before any device is refurbished, resold, donated or recycled, Arrow ensures that all data on a device is removed. Data sanitization methods are aligned with U.S. NIST SP 800-88 guidelines.
  • Arrow’s reuse-first philosophy helps companies find meaningful life for their used technology, including revenue-generating opportunities for used equipment or components. For example, if donation is selected as an option, Arrow ensures that secure data sanitization occurs, the device has a licensed operation system and the electronic assets are donated to a reputable charity efficiently and safely.
  • Every step of Arrow’s process is designed to protect companies and their data from security and environmental risks. All processes are traceable and auditable. Each device is individually tracked, and a Certificate of Data Destruction is provided.

Interested in learning more?

For more information on this topic, or to get in touch with engineering specialist who can help answer any questions you might have, head to

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