4 obstacles to IoT adoption & how to fix them
Given the possibilities of IoT and the enthusiasm of its proponents, one would imagine people lining up to get their hands on the latest IoT devices. Unfortunately, that is not (yet!) the case. So what’s stopping people from adopting technology that promises to make life so much easier for everyone? Here are a few thoughts and solutions.
From talking fridges to self-driving cars, the Internet of Things or IoT as it’s commonly called, has made science fiction look like everyday life. As technology has shrunk smaller and smaller, it’s possible to program the most obscure of things to make life just a tad bit easier for us.
Given the possibilities of IoT and the enthusiasm of its leading proponents, one would imagine people lining up to get their hands on the latest IoT device. Unfortunately, that future where everyone embraces IoT as a necessity of life is still quite far away (although Alexa and Google Home are as common as the Walkman in its heyday). So what’s stopping people from adopting technology that promises to make life so much easier for everyone? Here are a few thoughts, for starters.
Until a few years ago, the worst thing that could happen to your computer was your data being hacked and accessed by some third party. With sophisticated new cybercrimes like ransomware, entire cities can be held hostage to unscrupulous attackers out to make a quick buck. With internet connected devices, it’s not just computers anymore either. From baby monitors to cars to home thermostats to hospital equipment, the entire gamut of IoT devices is vulnerable to cyber criminals.
This poses a huge risk to both personal, governmental and corporate data. However, not adopting IoT for fear of being hacked is like never having a meal for fear of being poisoned.
Your network of IoT devices is only as secure as its weakest link. A study by HP revealed that over 70% of IoT devices are vulnerable to attack. A security breach can occur at any point in your network, not necessarily your IoT devices.
Some simple ways to prevent such threats is to invest in strong firewalls for your entire network, adopt commonsense password security rules across the organization, thoroughly vet any new hardware or software that enters your network for security loopholes and finally, maintain constant vigilance of your systems for any potential security concerns before they blow up into major issues.
Compatibility with existing technology
If you’re an iPhone user, you will probably recollect the last few times your phone’s touch simply died on you. If you look up a guide on fixing an unresponsive touchscreen, you’ll find that often the issue is non-compatibility of your iPhone with something else that you’re using along with it – a low-quality screen protector or even wearing non-touch friendly gloves. While this may be an oversimplification of the problem at hand, the crux is the same: incompatible technologies.
With so many companies in the fray to make their mark on the fast-growing IoT sector, the approaches they take to develop their unique devices and software are equally varied. Different types of devices also use different protocols to transmit data or connect with your network.
For example, for certain devices, an internet connected security system for your office premises needs constant connectivity to the network and the ability to monitor and share data round the clock. On the other hand, an activity tracker would only kick into action when you are on the move and can remain dormant otherwise. The device architecture, protocols used, different operating systems are all variables in each device that often don’t fit together seamlessly, and need expensive additional hardware and software to communicate with each other.
Recognizing this need to establish some baseline common standards in the IoT world, organizations like the IETF, IEEE, and others have developed open standards and architecture models that enable cross-platform deployment. While IoT developers pick the standards that suit their specific devices best, it’s your job as the end user to check the system requirements these devices have before embarking on an IoT adventure of your own.
Bandwidth issues – Technical and financial
Most companies operate with a centralized server and connection hub which control all the other devices in the network. This centralized approach works well from the point of view of security, better control of devices, administrative ease, etc. This system also works just fine when the number of devices it manages number in a few hundred.
Trouble is, as the size and complexity of your devices grows; getting all of them to connect to the same single hub becomes more and more complex. Bandwidth gets spread too thin resulting in system outages or insufficient computing power across the network. Data storage and management needs soar, forcing companies to invest in additional (and expensive!) cloud or physical storage options. Processing power requirements grow exponentially with hundreds of IoT devices on the network, resulting in less than optimal device performance across the board.
It’s important for companies to recognize that the IoT is not going away anywhere. The smart light fixtures, connected security systems, and intelligent thermostats are just the tip of the iceberg. A strong cloud infrastructure that can support your entire network of devices is a must and should be seen as an investment in your company’s future. Exploring alternate network designs like a mesh structure, where every node connects to another instead of a hub and spoke model may reduce the load on a single system by spreading resources across a shared network of devices in real time.
Implementation & support problems
You may have the fastest car money can buy, but being forced to drive it on terrible roads is a complete waste. No matter how awesome your IoT devices may be, if you haven’t set them up right, you may as well not have bothered getting them in the first place. Setting up IoT devices can be as simple as setting up an Echo smart speaker or as complex as setting up and running a smart city. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that organizations (let alone individuals) still have extremely limited confidence and understanding of IoT.
These teething troubles of setting up devices right and offering them support and service over the course of their lifetime is a challenge that many companies face, especially given the pace at which some of these technologies have developed. Finding the right talent that is capable of managing such networks smoothly can be tough and is a problem that cannot be overstated.
While it’s common sense to say that you must only invest in devices that your team knows how to set up and service right, the choice is often not so easy. In cases where you are short on the skills needed to manage IoT devices that need to be installed, investing in training sessions from the device vendor is a must-do. Getting the device manufacturers to offer round the clock support and service is another way good way to ensure a smooth user experience.
IoT devices across all categories are becoming mainstream, getting more integrated with other devices, and making more use of consumer data. In the same vein, they are evolving to enable more use cases in everyday business operations. Therefore, organizations and corporates need to speed up their understanding of IoT and take concrete steps to take advantage of the possibilities and opportunities in this space.
Is there an awesome solution you hit upon to introduce IoT in your home or workplace? We’d love to hear from you!