The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to connect billions of devices over the next few years. Gartner forecasts that endpoints of the IoT will grow at a 32.9 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 through 2020, reaching an installed base of 20.4 billion units. Financially, industrial IoT applications alone will add $14.2 trillion to the world’s 20 largest and fastest growing economies by 2030.
When used in the context of cities, enterprises and utilities, IoT represents the opportunity to create major benefits in the realms of sustainability, safety and efficiency. Picture street lights, for example, that can dim and brighten according to the actual level of traffic in the area, which improves lighting efficiency and improves citizen safety.
There are ten “must haves” that any organisation should be aware of before implementing an IoT platform solution and that serve as a checklist for any organisation looking to find the right IoT platform provider.
1. Must have ubiquitous coverage
IoT network owners and operators should be able to reliably monitor and control their devices even in areas obstructed or excluded from carrier networks. Mesh networks for instance allow IoT devices to communicate with each other and establish multiple paths to the network. Such networks can also adjust to accommodate changes such as new construction, vegetation and weather.
2. Must use a platform that’s been proven at scale
The only real test for an IoT network is actual performance, day after day, over years. As someone installing a major IoT project, you should insist your provider does repeated site visits and testing to ensure the technology is proven many times over and at a scale significantly greater than your own planned development.
3. Must have persistent safeguards from unauthorised access
Cyber threats of all kinds can wreak havoc on networks and those who rely on them. Anyone considering an IoT network roll-out should ensure their network providers have security features such as automated, asymmetric key exchange and rotation, hardened crypto processors used in key generation and storage, AES encryption to protect data in transit, and authentication via certificates at multiple layers.
4. Must be a solution based on open industry standards
Technology is a fluid, constantly changing beast that can be challenging to stay on top of. An IoT network should not be locked into a single vendor’s products, as this will threaten interoperability down the line, which could lead to costly systems integration efforts.
5. Must leverage a large and diverse ecosystem
Network technologies with broad vendor support enable a variety of device options, which ultimately offer an array of features and functionality available at prices driven by market competition. The best way to ensure a diverse ecosystem is to implement open, standards-based technologies that are demonstrated to be interoperable at every level of the system.
6. Must have consistent performance for every device
Critical IoT devices should be able to be located anywhere, including in remote or obstructed environments, and in both sparse rural and dense urban areas. Mesh networking makes use of multiple connections between neighbouring devices. Those connections tend to be over shorter distances and offer multiple paths, enabling devices to select the best performing route for communication.
7. Must power efficient devices that can communicate as often as needed
IoT network operators deserve communication modules that use small amounts power for listening, which in turn extends the service life of battery-powered devices.
8. Must have guaranteed service levels
Many IoT networks are deployed by vendors who do not (or cannot) deliver guaranteed service levels for such vital areas as network coverage. Insist that Service Level Agreements from vendors on the coverage and performance of the network are a part of every IoT network agreement – otherwise, you’re taking a risk with your network.
9. Must understand massive scalability
It is essential to demand data analytics tools that enable you to draw insights from IoT data to improve operations and increase customer engagement. Tools that leverage fully networked sensor devices to centralise, organise, program and use IoT big data for various use cases enable operators to realise the full value of the network.
10. Must have a network that lives long (and without failure)
Networks need to be purpose built for industrial assets, with backwards compatibility, low failure rates and long term warranties. Additionally, they should have reliable connectivity for 15 years, without the need for site visits to fix connectivity. The pace of innovation needs to continue, if not accelerate, in the future. Having a network with the ability to take on additional functionality lays a foundation for ongoing enhancements. Look for an end-to-end solution designed to be future-proof.
The IoT choices you make early in the design process can determine whether an IoT experience is a success. Never settle for less than what you need today and want for the future.
Alex Beveridge is the head of Silver Spring Networks in Australia and New Zealand.