Connectivity remains a key challenge for IoT projects

The Internet of Things is moving out of the sandbox and starting to drive real outcomes, according to a new survey of IoT developers. But security, connectivity and interoperability are still major hurdles — though not insurmountable.

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Over the past few years, we’ve heard all the hype about IoT, but we’ve also heard about projects failing, getting delayed or never even getting off the ground. So are we finally turning a corner?

Back in 2017, a Cisco report found that 60 per cent of IoT initiatives stalled at the proof of concept stage, and only 26 per cent of organizations had an IoT initiative they considered a complete success. The culprit? Silos, segmentation and lack of experience.

Fast forward to 2019, and the challenges aren’t going away — indeed, the Internet of Things is becoming even more complex.

But if you want the scoop, you need to talk to the people developing the technology. And the newly released IoT Developer Survey from the Eclipse Foundation did just that, surveying more than 1,700 IoT developers to get a better understanding of what’s going on.

Security tops list of IoT challenges

IoT “drives real outcomes today” fuelled by investments in industrial markets, according to the survey. Two-thirds of respondents say they’re currently developing and deploying IoT projects or will do so in the next 18 months. And only nine per cent say their organization has no plans around IoT.

But, challenges remain — and are getting even more complex. Security topped the list of challenges by a long shot (as it did in last year’s survey), though that’s not a surprise (since security tops almost every list these days).

But the second biggest concern? Connectivity, which moved into second place this year, with more than one-fifth of IoT developers (21 per cent) citing it as a challenge. In third place was data collection and analysis at 19 per cent, followed by performance, privacy, standards and integration with hardware. (Interestingly, ROI came in last.)

Rising connectivity concerns

Why the rising concern over connectivity? It could be because “IoT projects are getting real,” according to Mike Milinkovich, the foundation’s executive director, in an interview with Network World.

IoT projects are moving out of the sandbox and into production, but IoT developers are still dealing with a proliferation of incompatible technologies from different vendors using different protocols.

When it comes to connectivity protocols, TCP/IP, Wi-Fi and Ethernet dominate usage, with satellite and thread more than doubling year over year, according to the Eclipse Foundation. The use of specialized connectivity solutions (LPWA, Zigbee, 6LoWPAN, Z-Wave and satellite) hovers between eight and 15 per cent each.

The IoT balancing act

Considering that Gartner forecasts 14.2 billion connected things to be in use this year — reaching 25 billion by 2021 — these concerns are legitimate.

Gartner’s research also shows that security is the greatest technical concern for those deploying IoT systems, since they “often don’t have control over the source and nature of the software and hardware being utilised in IoT initiatives,” according to the research firm’s report on Top Strategic IoT Trends and Technologies.

IoT networking is a tricky balancing act between power consumption, bandwidth, latency and quality of service. But Gartner says new IoT networking technologies will offer more choice and flexibility (and better security), and recommends that organizations “explore 5G, the forthcoming generation of low earth orbit satellites, and backscatter networks.”

What’s next for IoT

AI will add a new layer of complexity, but could also be used to exploit IoT capabilities. We’ll also see sensor innovation (and more affordable pricing), as well as silicon chip innovation that will “reduce the power consumption required to run a DNN, enabling new edge architectures and embedded DNN functions in low-power IoT endpoints,” according to Gartner. And this, in turn, will support data analytics.

The answer to complexity, according to Milinkovich in the aforementioned Network World article, is out-of-the-box interoperability. We’re not there yet, but IoT developers will have more flexibility to handle the challenges ahead.

Image: Adyna/iStock

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