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Growing Complexity: Challenges in large-scale IoT adoption

September 25, 2017

Over the next few years, the internet of things (IoT) is expected to disrupt almost every industry, redefining the way people perform and manage their day-to-day tasks. By integrating advanced technologies such as analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and robotics, IoT will help enterprises better manage their operations and offer advanced products, solutions and services to their customers. However, it will also increase the complexity in existing systems, giving rise to a multitude of challenges.

tele.net takes a look at the key challenges faced by enterprises and individual consumers in the IoT space...

Security-related challenges

The rise in the number of connected devices is opening up avenues for hackers and cybercriminals to breach security. A single weak link in the IoT ecosystem can allow access to the entire dataset in the ecosystem with serious implications. In government departments, a flawed security framework can lead to leakage of sensitive government documents and tampering of official records.

These security concerns are limiting the large-scale adoption of IoT. According to T.V. Ramachandran, president, Broadband India Forum, “Consumers are worried that a smart home security system that records everything in their homes may also be a way for hackers to breach their home security system. IoT involves billions of new terminals, all connected via IP addresses. Unsecured devices increase organisations’ vulnerability to cyberthreats.” Further, many IoT devices allow users little or no real visibility into their internal workings. As a result, there are several instances when the user believes that an IoT device is performing certain functions, when in reality it might be performing unwanted functions or collecting more data than the user intends.

Complex user interface

IoT sensors gather data from a heterogeneous set of devices. After the collection of data from diverse sources, the information has to be made accessible on various platforms such as computers, tablets, mobile phones and to various entities such as owners, developers and technicians. The involvement of multiple devices and players in the value chain increases the complexity of the user interface, thus hampering the user experience. Moreover, most IoT devices do not have a user interface that can configure privacy preferences.

Quantifying return on investment

The involvement of multiple components makes it challenging to assess the value of IoT in a specific business scenario, thus making it difficult to quantify the return on investment and take decisions on IoT strategies. IoT projects are significantly different from traditional IT investments such as virtualisation. Virtualisation enables companies to maximise their server infrastructure usage and operate more efficiently, which is easier to measure, but does not fundamentally change the way they conduct their business. IoT, on the other hand, has the potential to transform business processes, the impact of which is difficult to quantify. Also, the successful working of IoT requires that all divisions of a company be connected and integrated, which is a complicated and time-consuming process. IoT solutions also influence a large number of components including devices, connection methods, data storage decisions, analytics platforms and security. These components must fall within the budget, deliver the necessary functions and be interconnected.

Privacy issues

Smart products selectively transmit data to a cloud server for processing, which may be accessible to a third party. Thus, users could end up sharing data with unknown entities. Further, the data often needs to be shared across multiple verticals, which requires proper monitoring of the entire process of data collection, transmission and dissemination.

Interoperability

While the IoT ecosystem is rapidly evolving and a number of IoT platforms are emerging, the different IoT platforms and systems are not able to communicate with each other. The majority of the IoT devices are fragmented and lack interoperability because of different operating systems, vendors, versions or times of purchase, incommunicable connectivity frameworks, and inconsistent communication protocol standards.

The way forward

Going forward, there is a need to address the aforementioned challenges in order to drive IoT uptake. This will require concerted efforts of all players in the IoT value chain including vendors, consumers and the government.

Building the user’s trust in the machine is important to encourage the mass adoption of IoT. To this end, it is necessary to deploy appropriate security safeguards in the hardware of IoT devices as well as in the overall network to prevent any sensitive information from being leaked. Moreover, the user interface needs to be flexible and compatible with devices of various vendors and platforms. Further, there is a need for seamless interoperability across devices and platforms. This requires standardisation of products and platforms, regardless of the make, model, manufacturer, or industry, and a set of open application programming interfaces (APIs) for developers.

 
 

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