Momentum is growing for the Internet of Things—Forbes estimates that there were 8.4 billion connected devices in 2017, and that number is projected to more than double by 2020 to over 20 billion. At the same time a number of IoT challenges and issues are being revealed, related to everything from security to connectivity to integration. Many of these issues are intertwined.
Surveying the current IoT landscape, four big issues facing future IoT technology are power management, connectivity, hardware, and integration.
Power Management: An IoT Research Challenge
The creation of battery-powered sensors and controllers has fueled much of the growth in IoT, but there’s more research to be done around ways to better address demanding power budgets while achieving the desired battery size, form factor, life, and cost. Battery life in particular can be a big cost driver, especially in non-consumer IoT devices, due to the cost associated with changing out batteries or taking devices out of service for battery charging.
For example, it will be expensive to maintain a hospital asset tracking system that requires location tag recharging every three months for every tracked asset. Stretching the time horizon out to three years, however, changes the ROI for the entire system.
One way to overcome this IOT challenge is to use a tracking system like AirFinder, which leverages the power of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to achieve longer battery life than what is possible with other tracking systems. More solutions like it will be needed to help address increasing power demands and fuel the rapid growth of IoT.
IoT Connectivity Challenges
In order to have an “Internet of Things,” the things must be able to connect to a server that can capture and process the data. IoT technology, for the most part, operates wirelessly.
The typical go-to for IoT connectivity is WiFi. It works well for the consumer market but takes on more complexity in business use cases, since every device must be programmed with the WiFi credentials. In addition, many IT departments will not allow third-party devices on their networks due to security concerns.
Cellular is another popular choice; the downside is the recurring monthly charge for data use, which varies depending on the amount of data used, the number of connected devices, and the provider’s contract terms.
Link Labs’ Symphony Link essentially creates a parallel WiFi-like system to connect devices while isolating them from the existing WiFi computer network. This addresses IoT security and privacy challenges by sequestering the business’ computer network from the security risks posed by third-party devices.
Bluetooth technology, widely used for wireless connections for consumer devices, is also finding use in business applications as a solution for IoT connectivity. AirFinder leverages existing Bluetooth technology to connect devices in an isolated network to protect computer networks from security risks.
IoT Hardware Challenges
For basic use cases, many off-the-shelf devices or components will work. The flip side is that off-the-shelf solutions tend to be crowded spaces for new business opportunities.
Design of new, novel products to address unique needs provides the best business opportunity, but developing new IoT products is a complicated, expensive, and time-consuming process.
Creating a new IoT product begins with industrial design of the new device, and further depends on choosing the ideal enclosure, circuit board, connectors, battery, and charging solution; verifying battery safety; studying how people interact with the device; and more.
The software that runs the new device generally requires one or more revisions. Bugs must be worked out and sometimes changes need to be made to align with the way people actually use the device.
Businesses entering the industrial IoT space with new solutions for specific uses often need substantial financial resources, and should anticipate a long design process before bringing a new device or application to market.
Change Management: An IoT Integration Challenge
Aside from IoT considerations related to device and system design, integrating IoT solutions into a business is equally challenging. Business leaders must implement processes to monitor the data from connected devices and respond appropriately. A temperature sensor that monitors a refrigerator storing expensive medications is only useful if someone is monitoring it—and is responsible for addressing the problem when an alert occurs.
As with all new technology, it is unreasonable to expect employees to automatically adapt. Expect IoT integration challenges to be at least as difficult as selecting and deploying an IoT system. To ease the transition, choose an IoT system tailored to fit your specific needs. Avoid complication by ruling out systems with features and options you don’t need, and look for a system with an intuitive user interface. An intuitive UI in particular can minimize the difficulty of integrating a new IoT system, since it both simplifies the user experience and reinforces training with each use.
Need help with your organization’s IoT challenges?
IoT has transformative potential for both businesses and customers, but adopters should plan for challenges at every step. Acquiring the technology and implementing it to get the ROI you want is a complicated process, and there will be friction points before you achieve the desired result. To smooth the transition, contact us at Link Labs for assistance in selecting and implementing the best IoT solution for your business.