Four Things to Consider From IoT World 2017

IoT

IoT Drives Changes in Network Architectures 

Last week’s IoT World 2017 conference, held in Santa Clara, Calif., was an exciting spot for vendors and attendees alike, given the role of IoT at the forefront of technological innovation and public imagination.

Here are a few key takeaways from the team that attended on behalf of Cradlepoint.

The IoT is expanding to more verticals and applications.

Perhaps the most apparent — and exciting — takeaway from IoT World 2017 was that the size of the industry is growing. This isn’t a surprising change, but from Cradlepoint’s perspective, it’s one worth noting. Some companies developing IoT solutions do not have long backgrounds in this market, a fact that carries advantages and challenges. New players in the IoT space create new opportunities and bring different perspectives to the conversation around these technologies.

At the same time, they bring new communications protocols, differing security strategies, and other technological variances. This is on top of the existing differences among even established IoT vendors. 

The ever-growing group of IoT technologies and applications creates challenges, then, for interoperability and security. This is an area where the industry is already struggling to keep up; a number of panels and consortiums are working to implement common standards, but in the meantime, more and more technologies are being developed.

Given that no single set of standards has yet emerged, it’s important that IoT buyers take their own steps to ensure the security of their network, with an underlying infrastructure that maximizes device visibility and makes it easy to keep IoT devices separate from, for example, payment card data.

Taking the appropriate steps to build a secure network architecture doesn’t resolve interoperability challenges, but it helps reduce the risks associated with a fast-growing and largely unregulated technology sector.

Data = Currency.

Cradlepoint’s staff found a bit of time to get off the exhibition floor and listen to conference speakers. One keynote speaker stated, “Data is the new currency.” That saying is growing in popularity, but it’s worth examining what it really means.  

For most organizations, the highly valuable, actionable data has always been generated outside the company headquarters. For example, healthcare providers have worked for generations to get a better picture of patients’ behavior, vital signs, and activity levels at home; today, IoT wearables and at-home monitoring systems allow them to gather that information accurately rather than rely on patients to reliably relay those facts.

Similarly, agricultural operations have always relied on factors such as soil moisture, temperature, and weather forecasts to manage their crops; IoT devices in the fields can provide more frequent, up-to-date, and objective data.

The business proposition of the IoT is that, for the first time, the data that’s generated away from company headquarters can be gathered more accurately and comprehensively, and can be analyzed (and responded to) in real time. That’s what the saying “data is the new currency” gets at: Thanks to the IoT, data is now so abundant, objective, and actionable that it can be relied on to improve margins and drive profits.     

This is a monumental shift for businesses, and it requires restructuring the network to adjust for the fact that much of an organization’s most important network activity is now happening at the Edge.

Machine intelligence at the Edge is an exciting (and necessary) development.

Given that much of the most valuable data is being gathered at the network’s Edge, it also makes sense that emerging solutions are running data analytics and associated machine intelligence closer to the network’s Edge. In other words, data analysis is taking place closer to where that data is actually being captured by IoT devices.

This is an important feature for systems gathering time-sensitive or highly unstructured data. It’s also important for use cases in which data security represents a major risk; processing closer to the Edge reduces opportunities for data to be compromised.     

Again, legacy network architectures are being restructured to enable processing of big workloads at the network’s Edge, as well as enhanced utilization of many of the cloud apps that help businesses interpret and act on big data. It’s becoming more important for certain traffic to go directly to the Internet without backhauling it to company headquarters; other traffic needs to be processed, relayed, and acted upon without leaving its original location.   

Engage experienced partners to implement IoT.

Given the enormous competitive advantages of the IoT, enterprise IT teams are being looked at to help their companies implement projects that can help address evolving demands and get ahead of the competition. Those organizations must determine whether to build their own IoT projects from the ground up, purchase a ready-made solution, or strike some balance.

Given that many factors surrounding the IoT remain in flux, along with the major investment and demands for ROI associated with IoT projects, most organizations should look to experienced partners with solutions engineered specifically with the realities of today’s enterprise networks in mind. Typically, the costs and risks of developing an IoT project in-house outweigh any potential benefits of reaching a solution that’s designed for a single company or use case.  

Here are a few factors to consider when seeking partners to help implement IoT projects:

  • What is the potential partner’s security stance? How do they ensure that the IoT doesn’t pose a business-critical security risk? 
  • Does the potential partner have clear experience empowering IoT projects?
  • Is the partner selling legacy solutions marketed as enabling IoT projects, or are their solutions truly engineered for the realities of today’s enterprise networks?
  • Does the partner’s solution help simplify and scale deployment and management of IoT technologies?

Live Webinar: 'The Gateway Crisis of IoT'

Join this webcast on June 15, 2017, with Perry Lea, principal architect and IoT strategist at Cradlepoint, for insight into the “Wild West” of IoT interoperability, recommendation, and predictions on how smart gateways will evolve in the near future.