The Five Keys to Successful IoT Initiatives

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly moving from niche use cases to normal business. According to research firm IDC, about three-quarters of respondents have IoT deployment plans, or already have efforts underway. Most enterprises don’t view IoT as a sideshow or something that will provide peripheral benefit, but see these efforts as strategic to the business.

The amount of data that IoT devices will generate will be staggering--as will the ability to control devices in the physical world as any other networked or Internet connected device. New business models will rise, and existing businesses will become much more efficient and effective as they learn more about their supply chains and their customers than was ever before possible.

One area that is often overlooked when it comes to successful IoT initiatives is the infrastructure. But it takes an infrastructure that is agile, scalable, and secure in order for any IoT deployment to be sustainable over the years. Here are five of the key attributes that must be in place:

IoT Key #1: Build the right infrastructure. All the devices that you are going to deploy and connect are going to be very data chatty. This is going to strain existing networks, new wireless networks, storage, and your analytics tools. It’s crucial that you build an infrastructure that is agile, adaptable, and can scale. This is going to, for most enterprises, mean a cloud infrastructure.

Based on conversations I’ve had with CIOs and DevOps teams that have gone down the IoT path already, one of the biggest snags they eventually ran into was having to redesign their supporting IoT infrastructure. Many times they simply tried to extend their existing storage, servers, and network connectivity and found it wasn’t up to the job, or they ran into challenges maintaining their private cloud. Planning ahead can go a long way to avoiding a lot of unnecessary headaches.

IoT Key #2: Secure by Design. The IoT deployment is going to increase the attack surface of the enterprise. The devices and network connections will be exploitable, and access to the devices will be vulnerable to denial of service attacks, and the tele-metrics from the data will be snooped upon and spoofed. So it’s important that the inherent security of the devices from the manufacturer -- including their API security -- be taken into account, in addition to network security, access control, and the security of the stored data.

These assurances are important as, according to Gartner, by the year 2020 more than a quarter of known enterprise attacks will have something to do with their IoT.

IoT Key #3: Choose the right platform. IoT platforms have surfaced everywhere. Large enterprise vendors, cloud platform services providers, and public cloud services providers are all offering their own IoT platform solutions. There’s also networking equipment makers, and quite a few point product IoT vendors with their own technologies.  

There is a lot to consider here, such as:

  • How well the platform will interface with all aspects of the infrastructure
  • How well does the platform support various development language platforms and APIs
  • How are devices supported and how many different types of devices and manufacturers can it support now, and five or 10 years from now
  • How does it support your existing data analytics efforts
  • How dynamic is the platform, for instance, can you create self-defined rulesets and act upon device data.

IoT Key #4: Vendor confusion. Not only are the number of IoT platform vendors growing, so is the number of device manufacturers, security vendors providing IoT add-on technologies and so on. Beware IoT vendor sprawl where you end up having to support dozens of vendors, run into costly integration issues, and standards battles where your IoT efforts take the hits. There’s no doubt that there will be a lot of volatility ahead as new vendors enter the market, and smaller vendors are acquired by their larger counterparts and open standards battles are fought out over time.

Consider this: IDC predicts that IoT will be a $1.46 trillion market, worldwide, by 2020, up from $700 billion in 2015.

IoT Key #5: Extend DevOps, Agile practices to IoT. Just as it’s important to keep the application and features pipeline flowing to web applications and mobile apps, it’s the same for IoT. And IoT will require all of the same agility and continuous delivery that DevOps and Continuous Delivery teams provide today. This is so not only for new updates, but also for software quality. Firmware and failed software updates are costly: and no organization is going to want to have to spend unnecessarily to push updates to far-flung devices that are a security risk, or not functioning properly because of poor software quality control.

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August 12, 2016 / IoT

About the Author

George Hulme

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