The exponential growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) over the past few years has been nothing short of phenomenal. The number of IoT devices is estimated to reach a staggering 75 billion by 2025. It is also predicted that as of 2023, global spending on IoT will reach 1.1 trillion USD. However, while year-on-year spending on IoT continues to rise and the use of IoT across industries gains traction, several challenges exist that hinder widespread IoT adoption.
This article will explore some of the challenges facing IoT implementations and how best to overcome them.
Also see: Trends Shaping the Future of IoT
The first and foremost issue with IoT devices is security. Each connected device adds an entry path for hackers to penetrate and possibly knock down whole networks.
For example, in 2016, hackers launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that targeted popular companies like Amazon, CNN, PayPal, Reddit, Netflix, NYTimes, and Twitter. The attack involved millions of IP addresses and reveals the dangers IoT devices can be subjected to if they are left unsecured.
Several factors give rise to vulnerabilities in IoT devices. The most common ones are:
- IT staff don’t bother to change the default passwords that come with IoT devices. It is these weak and easy-to-guess passwords that make it easy for hackers to compromise the IoT environment.
- IoT objects have limited computational abilities, which makes them susceptible to vulnerabilities.
- The use of insecure interfaces and outdated components increases the attack surface.
- End users of IoT devices lack security hygiene, putting their devices at risk.
A few best practices to secure IoT devices include:
- Regularly apply patches and check for vulnerabilities.
- Encrypt your information.
- Use multi-factor authentication(MFA) whenever possible.
- Keep patches up to date.
- Replace factory default passwords with strong passwords.
- Audit frequently.
Interoperability is the capability of computer systems to connect and exchange data with each other effortlessly. Naturally, a lack of interoperability prevents devices from engaging or sharing data with each other, acting as a barrier for organizations to derive actionable insights from IoT.
In its latest comprehensive report on IoT, McKinsey describes the IoT landscape as “walled garden ecosystems” that are “dominated by fragmented, proprietary, supplier-specific ecosystems.” The same report also mentions how interoperability is required for 40% of IoT devices on average and even 60% in some settings.
It is clear: Without IoT’s ability to connect disparate technologies, organizations would not derive the value that has increased IoT adoption to achieve business goals. However, it is easier said than done.
The widespread use of IoT devices, each with its own technology, makes for difficult working. And that is the biggest impediment to integration. A common framework for IoT devices will help, but it is hard to come by.
Still, manufacturers can make IoT devices interoperable by:
- Supporting devices with multiple protocols.
- Designing IoT installations while keeping interoperability in mind.
- Adopting open-source development protocols to bring about greater integration between different user applications.
Also see: Containing Cyberattacks in IoT
Lack of Regulation for IoT
The availability of hundreds and thousands of IoT devices has made the large-scale adoption of IoT possible. But, keeping track of each and every device to check its compliance is difficult. To manage the sprawling IoT landscape, governments have brought in regulations to offer businesses guidance on managing IoT technology.
Some examples are:
- The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 sets security standards for IoT devices owned by the federal government.
- States like Oregon and California have passed IoT cybersecurity laws.
- The EU has introduced ETSI EN 303 645 V2.1.1 for consumer IoT products.
- Singapore has issued an IoT Cyber Security Guide to help vendors and end users secure their IoT systems.
Yet, despite all these laws, there is still no universal standard that can be enforced on IoT devices globally. So, until we have clear-cut rules, developers and manufacturers must frame their own policies. They can do so by:
- Outlining secure privacy policies.
- Identifying the security gaps in their networks and deploying advanced tools for protection.
- Performing regular audits.
- Educating the workforce about IoT compliance policies.
- Adopting IoT protocols like Zigbee, Z-wave, and IEEE 802.11ah.
- Using public key infrastructure (PKI) technology to encrypt data safely at rest and in transit.
IoT connectivity is about how the various components of IoT systems, like sensors, devices, apps, and user interfaces communicate with each other. Good connectivity between all of these elements is crucial for a seamless transition from one device, sensor, or app to another.
According to insights by Inmarsat, 75% of businesses struggle to start IoT projects due to connectivity problems. It is, therefore, necessary for IoT organizations to scrutinize their connectivity providers well and select one with a good track record.
McKinsey suggests the following measures for better connectivity between IoT systems:
- Sign up with a single mobile network operator (MNO) or mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that provides global coverage through a single platform. This approach will minimize the complexities associated with having multiple network operators.
- Enable intelligent mobile switching and intelligent platform switching. Intelligent mobile switching lets IoT devices shift effortlessly from one MNO or MVNO to the other, while intelligent platform switching allows devices to transition seamlessly among “unlicensed, cellular, and mobile platforms depending on their data-transmission requirement.” Although these are new technologies and still in their nascent stage, they have the potential to take off in a big way.
- Choose vendors with specialized knowledge of your industry and who can provide customized plans when required.
Also see: 7 Enterprise Networking Challenges
IoT Device Management
IoT device management is another challenge that IoT systems face. When IoT deployments are set up, they must be monitored regularly for device health and other parameters. While there is no doubt that effective IoT device management is necessary for the proper functioning of the entire IoT environment, in reality, it is difficult to execute.
Servicing a large number of devices, possibly running in the thousands in a single organization, is hard. It is especially so when you consider the entire IoT architecture, comprising sensors, actuators, gateways, data centers, and cloud. It is not only hard but impossible to monitor and manage.
Nonetheless, there are ways you can work around the challenges and receive real-time information on all your IoT installations.
- Use a robust device management software that integrates with most software and monitors your devices spread across large geographic swathes.
- Employ an effective dashboard that actively monitors your device health and provides real-time status updates on the state of your device fleet.
- Choose networks and devices that optimize battery life.
Also see: Best IoT Platforms for Device Management
IoT Skill Gap
The IoT skill gap is real. According to the IoT World Today’s 2020 IoT Adoption Survey, 45% of respondents feel the primary hurdle to IoT deployment is the availability of skilled IoT staff. This is expected as IoT is a fairly new field, and not all IoT professionals have the skills required to operate in this field.
The best way to handle the IoT skill gap problem is to upskill your workforce and offer them training programs. After all, your current employees need to be in sync with the developments in the IoT world, and for that, they need to stay updated.
Apart from supporting internal teams, you can also partner with external organizations that are knowledgeable in the IoT field and can offer you proper guidance. Further, when hiring, look for candidates with the requisite skills who can quickly adapt to new technologies.