As an increasing number of businesses embrace the Internet of Things to create more efficiency, reach new market segments, and innovate for the future, they are facing IoT challenges along the way. For some, the question is one of clarity in purpose. For others, the details of implementation don’t get enough attention. For almost every business, defining a comprehensive strategy for IoT remains an obstacle. A number of experts in the IoT space weighed in on the issues their clients typically encounter on the road to a more connected business.
Reality based goals and objectives
Kevin Saye, Technical IoT Specialist at Microsoft, pointed out the obvious limitation of connected sensor technology. It is just a means to an end. “IoT is simply the ingestion of data. Analytics transforms it into something real. If you fail to consider this, you aren’t going to accomplish what you need. In conversations with clients, it’s about getting to the real why that determines the architecture, the data, and the security posture.” The big picture thinking is usually coming from business stakeholders rather than internal IT. While these decision makers often have an eye for spotting opportunity, they require education to grasp that they may not be able to afford everything they think they need.
For example, in today’s world massive data storage has become relatively cheap. As a result, organizations assume they can receive an almost unlimited amount of information from their IoT network without feeling it in their bank account. That’s not true. Kevin said many businesses are missing the boat on this topic. “The amount of data being brought in is an issue. They are sampling way too much data. In IoT, every message costs a fraction of a penny. These add up.”
Companies must reevaluate their priorities when it comes to sensors. “I often have to talk clients off the ledge of wanting several pieces of data every second. Do you really need to know the temperature in an HVAC system every 5 seconds? Could you check it every five minutes?” The bandwidth, the service, and the devices all play a role in cost for transmitting data. Sometimes, real enough is more feasible than real time. Businesses need to establish a clear purpose for their IoT implementation to determine how to size the device, the architecture, and the input of data.
Security and management common IoT challenges
Well publicized IoT-enabled attacks have recently highlighted the problematic nature of having too many connected sensors and too little planning. Businesses that want to protect their assets, their customers, and even the internet itself would do well to consider how they design, deploy, and manage their IoT infrastructure. Saye noted, “They need to look at these devices differently. They may not be dealing with assets behind a classic firewall. They need to learn to defend themselves.”
Ranga agreed. “You need to make sure there are detection systems in place to monitor remotely and be able to shut off rogue devices. This means understanding where your devices are deployed and how they can be controlled.” Strong authentication, unique identifiers for end points, and the use of third party auditing to find potential vulnerabilities are all smart ways to start beefing up IoT security.
While it may still be fairly new technology, IoT is a long term commitment. Businesses are starting to wrap their heads around application lifecycle management. But they haven’t yet considered what it takes to manage their investment in the Internet of Things. This isn’t just about governance, development, and management of assets that are located within on-premise infrastructure or in the cloud. There are physical components distribute across a wide geographic area. Ranga Vadlamudi, Azure Data Solution Architect, revealed that this is a common issue with clients. “Overall, we see customers are having a challenge with how to operationalize. They don’t know how to manage it over the lifecycle and how to make it work in the long run.”
IoT innovation remains a hit or miss proposition
For companies that choose to invest in development of new IoT solutions, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around which markets are set to be the next big adopters. Companies like Senet are placing their bets on verticals like agriculture, and oil & gas to be big spenders. They also expect to see an increase in demand for smart city and building solutions. But in some sectors, even high demand may not be enough to prompt the development of IoT solutions. When connected devices are subject to regulatory approval, the time to market may be unacceptably long.
Ranga disclosed that, although the healthcare sector could see a huge benefit from IoT innovation, it’s a fine line to walk. “You have to be careful about what solutions you are building. There are two aspects since the device itself and the software on it must both go through a certification process. It takes longer. So, the sales cycle lengthens and is difficult to sustain over this kind of timeline.” The FDA has determined that not all healthcare related smart devices and apps need to go through the extensive application process. But there will be many that are subject to this intensive oversight.
Ranga predicted that this is why most innovation in this particular area is unlikely to come from startups. “They can’t wait too long to begin generating revenue. Even larger companies could face challenges with this.” Perhaps universities and businesses working in tandem will be able to foot the bill and survive the lengthy certification process to bring these solutions to the marketplace.
In any event and in every vertical, IoT isn’t a question of if, but simply how and when.