Tackling connectivity management issues in the field of IoT

IoT can transform businesses, but to ensure a future-proof, properly integrated solution, enterprises need to deal with security, device and data management, argues Kurt Busch, CEO, Lantronix

Tackling connectivity management issues in the field of IoT

In recent years, the number of protocols for Personal, Local and Wide Area Networks has risen at an unprecedented rate. These protocols have been used for deploying and managing intelligent devices in a connected realm through a variety of intermediates, including gateways optimised for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the ever-growing number of new application areas that accompany it.

The sheer number of network protocols that are available to users all have their advantages, but there are some clear leaders in certain IoT markets. For consumers, the IoT space has gained traction around Wi-Fi and BT, while industrial enthusiasts and the enterprise IoT space are focused upon Wi-Fi, Ethernet for LAN, cellular for WAN and 802.15.4 and LoRA type technologies for power-efficient last mile technology.

Connectivity management silos facilitated by the network technology provide solutions that are highly effective in their platform, but these solutions are often not compatible with other IT infrastructures. With such an insulated model, cross-platform operations are difficult to accomplish.

Solution providers and channel vendors are determined to avoid the obstacles that come with providing a communications service on a large scale with multiple varieties of connected devices. With the implementation of cloud and mobile technologies as intermediaries between the devices and the user, the answer appears to be in sight, although there is still much ground that needs to be covered.

As IoT solutions become more advanced, innovators must be focused on solving problems such as latency and access issues behind firewalls, and expanding the choice of protocols that are compatible with WAN and the IoT. Looking at the wider field of IoT in general, there are three main challenges that need to be addressed as the technology moves forward.

Secure all IoT solutions
There is great potential in the mobility of IoT devices, but there must be solutions in place that protect remotely deployed devices where it may not be feasible to physically monitor the device. On top of this, data protection measures must be in place regardless of the device environment.

These measures can come in the form of encryption, access control and device identification along the end-to-end connection path. All of these essential solutions are easy to integrate with existing IT security policies and can bolster the effectiveness of a business’ security system and allow the company to reap the rewards of IoT technologies.

Manage your devices effectively
Device management tackles the challenge of distributing and monitoring the use of devices from the moment of installation. A well thought-out management strategy will allow devices to be optimised before deployment, ensuring that they operate correctly and efficiently the moment they are connected to the network. In the field of IoT this type of network optimisation is essential, as many IoT devices lack complex User Interfaces (UI).

Although it is an absolute necessity for any IoT-based infrastructure, it is still a challenge to manage the devices while making sure they’re working independently from the network topology. The variation of communication interfaces and the devices themselves are one of the central reasons for this.

Due to the size of the scale of deployment when compared with other PC or mobile computing environments, solutions that address this problem are essential to IoT-conscious organisations.

These solutions can simplify workflow while regulating the large number of deployment methods for devices to significantly improve efficiency in both Operations and Information Technology departments.

Data is key
The final challenge lies in shifting focus to data within organisations. The IoT calls for companies to adjust their functional view for products to a more data-centric model. Traditional business operations must be put aside when dealing with the IoT, as the field develops based upon the information gathered and the insights that analysis of this data can offer.

For many organisations, switching to this service-oriented business model will seem at odds with their ethos. However, it is an essential part of the transformation that needs to be made to have a company at the cutting edge of business technology.

Follow a carefully planned maturity model
As the IoT continues to develop and grow, the challenges associated with its infrastructure must be addressed sooner rather than later. In a recent survey, Lantronix found that 89% of businesses that attended Cloud Expo Europe were unaware of any plans for drones to play a part in their business in the next three years.

Despite businesses being cautious about their use in the current market, 61% believed that drones could play a business role within the next five to 10 years. This shows how, even in a sector with such enormous potential in the growing M2M and IoT markets, businesses can often be reluctant to change their model and adapt it when new technologies are available.
Looking to the future, adopting a sensible IoT solution maturity model will aid organisations in implementing a tech-focused strategy. Detailed analysis will provide businesses with invaluable information to assess their progress and to ensure they are located at the right point of the maturity curve in IoT technology. There are usually certain requirements that have to be met to measure this type of progress:

• Create a secure connection
• Maintain that connection
• Capture data and transform your infrastructure
• Analyse the data for further improvements
• Optimise your solutions based on your analysis.

Development reference models for the IoT, including the model proposed by the IoT World Forum and the ITU-T, should be implemented to help businesses understand what an IoT ecosystem has the potential to provide.

Standardisation activities such as this will give companies a clear picture of how to take the first steps into running integrated IoT solutions, and should also lay out the framework for their development in the future.

About the author: Kurt Busch has been CEO at Lantronix since 2011 and has worked in the networking communications industry since 1990. Lantronix specialises in M2M and IoT solutions providing secure connectivity, device management and mobility.

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