Preparing for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is Enabling a New Age of Connectivity 

Heralded as the next industrial revolution, the Internet of Things (IoT) is on track to change how we live, work and play. According to the latest forecasts by Gartner, 8.4 billion connected things are expected to be in use worldwide this year and that number is set to rise to 20.4 billion or by 2020. Earlier this month, ZDNet identified the top five industries investing the most in the IoT:

  1. Manufacturing 
  2. Transportation 
  3. Utilities 
  4. Healthcare
  5. Consumer electronics and cars

Worldwide IoT spending was $737 billion in 2016 and a new study by IDC predicts IoT spending will reach $1.29 trillion in 2020. 

From consumer products, connected cars and healthcare to smart citiesmanufacturing and Industrial IoT (IIoT), we’re beginning to see the impact, especially on IT infrastructure budgets. A newly released IoT Infrastructure Survey revealed that IoT will have a significant impact on decisions, strategies and budgets. “Given the strong uptake in IoT based technology solutions, enterprise IT buyers are looking for vendors who can add IoT capabilities to the current networking and edge IT infrastructure,” said Sathya Atreyam, IDC research manager. “Further, success of IoT initiatives will also depend on how IT buyers can effectively leverage newer frameworks of low power connectivity mechanisms, network virtualization, data analytics at the edge, and cloud-based platforms.”

Business benefits of IoT

The organizations that have implemented IoT are already being rewarded with improved operational efficiencies, cost savings, and enhanced asset utilization as well as gaining an advantage over their competitors who have yet to start. Last year, Gartner surveyed 465 global IT and business professionals across 18 business sectors and found 43% of organizations were already using or planning to implement IoT and 64% planned to eventually implement. 

Results from a recent worldwide study of 825 senior business executives by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published in the IoT Business Index 2017: Transformation in Motion, found the IoT has:

  • Sparked a new wave of innovation – thanks to data providing better insights
  • Unlocked new revenue from existing products and services
  • Enabled new markets and lowered costs

The study also found a majority of the executives surveyed believe IoT projects are crucial to long-term business success, even though many felt progress is not as fast as expected. To better prepare for the IoT, these executives have learntg from the successes and failures of early adopters and are seeking advice from third-party experts and consultants as well as training staff on the technology.

Obstacles to IoT progress

Some of the biggest challenges of IoT are related to infrastructure, cybersecurity, integration and managing business requirements while other issues are more deeply rooted in cultural changes within the organization requiring the teaming of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology). The merging of IT groups that are accustomed to change and innovation with a more risk-averse OT group has caused some bumps in the IoT journey.

Another issue for some organizations is hiring personnel with the skill sets needed for working with the new technology. The shortage of experienced cybersecurity professionals is an on-going issue but it’s become even more critical in light of last year’s massive DYN attack using hijacked IoT botnets. Additionally, the EIU study identified specific IoT adoption challenges that include:

  • High costs of required investment in IoT infrastructure
  • Concerns about security and privacy
  • Lack of senior management knowledge/commitment
  • Weakness in the organizations’s technology infrastructure
  • Regulations (relating to privacy)
  • Weakness in public communications infrastructure available to the organization
  • Immaturity of IoT industry standards

Despite all of these challenges, executives are enthusiastic about the future of the IoT and the study found that business “are building an IoT built on firmer foundations rather than naive aspirations.”

Is your infrastructure ready for IoT?

There are many factors that can assure the success of your IoT project but your network infrastructure is one of the most critical. As you prepare your IoT roadmap, make sure you do the necessary prep work to understand the architecture and bandwidth capacity you’ll need. You should engage in discussions with your service provider or third-party partners to leverage their experience and help you perform a thorough assessment on your existing network infrastructure. Your service provider can work with you to plan for the capacity you’ll need to avoid latency and performance issues that could sink an IoT project. Focusing on network and bandwidth issues in the early stages of your project can help you prioritize IoT infrastructure investments.