A successful IoT solution meets the needs of IT and OT teams within and outside the organization
Advances in computing power, artificial intelligence, and data collection and analysis are growing exponentially in nearly every corner of the map. Not to be downplayed in this growth discussion is the number of IoT devices worldwide, which is predicted to nearly triple from 9.7 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion devices in 2030.
Most organizations understand that enterprise IoT — even on the smallest scale — can streamline operations and provide insights for innovation. What they may not fully understand is how to connect IoT in a way that ensures their network, intellectual property, and sensitive data remain secure without bogging down resources.
Top factors to consider when connecting an IoT solution
While cost, ease of use, and support are typical points of interest when establishing an enterprise IoT network, they aren’t the only factors that play a role in a successful solution. The ability to secure, manage, and optimize the IoT network are also key elements for consideration that should not be overlooked.
Edge computing capabilities
When it comes to enterprise IoT solutions, the amount of data being transmitted can vary greatly from one use case to the next. While some applications only require small data transfers, others — such as high-definition video surveillance solutions — may have high bandwidth requirements.
Edge computing is changing the game for IoT through improved reliability, enhanced security, and more responsive decision making. That’s because edge computing can help alleviate network congestion by moving components of application workloads to the edge environment, ultimately avoiding the need to send all the data from the edge to the cloud for processing. Edge devices can now monitor applications for anomalies or for important data, and only transmit that data when required. As a result, operational efficiency is improved through enhanced processing speeds, while costs associated with data storage, transmission, and server operations are reduced.
Edge computing solutions also add an element of reliability by keeping a historical record of collected data on the IoT router until it’s been confirmed that the data has been received by the server. This means that if the Internet or infrastructure fails, it is unlikely that data will be lost. Data can also be proactively stored on the router with edge computing. For example, a company can preload digital billboard graphics to the router to avoid pushing a new graphic to the sign every time the content changes.
Enterprise IoT security
There are many ways to connect HVACs, fire alarms, kiosks, and other IoT devices. The challenge, however, is reducing the attack surface by establishing a network architecture that provides secure access to each device without compromising or giving access to other parts of the enterprise network.
Using cellular IoT routers with zero trust services allows for microsegmentation of the network down to a specific port, user, or application, ultimately dramatically improving security and simplifying management. This strategy creates secure paths — without the need for traditional VPN tunnels — between IoT devices and applications in the data center and the cloud.
A Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution can further extend this secure access to third parties who may need to perform maintenance on or gather data from IoT devices, or to internal employees who need specialized access to specific resources. The access they receive is strictly limited, which prevents lateral movement throughout the network.
Centralized network management
Just because an enterprise IoT network is growing does not mean the support staff is following suit. An organization with 30,000 remote kiosks may still only have four people in its IT department to balance the management of data plans, data consumption, security alerts, signal strength, activations, disconnects, and more.
Gone are the days of dispatching a truck roll for every networking snafu. Instead, lean IT teams capitalize on the efficiency of centralized network management, tools, and automations, allowing them to deploy, configure, and troubleshoot IoT router or gateway, connections from anywhere. Not only does this accelerate time to service, but it also reduces operational costs.
Cloud-based management solutions can offer insights that on-premises management platforms cannot. Tools including SIM management, network analysis, cellular health, and more are all accessible from cloud-based platforms and can dramatically simplify the management associated with IoT deployments.
Addressing the needs of IT and OT teams
Successful enterprise IoT solutions accommodate the needs of not only the information technology (IT) teams but also the operational technology (OT) personnel.
The primary directive of an IT team is to make sure data securely gets where it needs to go. To do so, IT will provide users with secure laptops, encrypted VPNs, and a slew of corporate security policies to adhere to. In contrast, OT teams are the users in the field whose goals are to install the physical equipment that generates data. In short, IT needs the device to be secure, while OT just needs it to work.
Occasionally, because of the rigidity of security policies and the unique characteristics of individual IoT devices, IT and OT teams can butt heads. For example, when sensors are installed for a warehouse refrigeration system, IT may require IP-based protocols and levels of encryption that aren’t supported by the equipment OT teams are installing. When legacy equipment can’t support current protocols, IT and OT must find a solution.
A 5G router can provide the link needed to align policies with equipment. Zero-touch deployment of these routers means that configurations, settings, and security policies are pre-provisioned, making on-site activation possible with minimal touchpoints — a win for IT and OT teams. Additionally, cellular routers supporting a zero trust architecture provide protection for the devices behind them, all while ensuring lean IT teams can manage each connection from afar.