Is sensing-as-a-service the answer to IoT complexity?

Most enterprises are still trying to build their own framework for the Internet of Things, despite evidence that DIY IoT may not be the best approach. Blockchain-enhanced sensing-as-a-service could offer a compelling alternative.

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The enterprise seems to be experiencing inner turmoil over IoT.

When Cisco surveyed 1,845 organizations in the U.S., U.K. and India last year, 60 per cent said their Internet of Things initiatives were stalled at the proof-of-concept stage. Of the IoT projects that actually got out of the gate, only 26 per cent were considered by their organizations to be “a complete success.”

Why? According to Cisco’s research, the top three barriers to IoT success are internal factors, not external ones: 1) collaboration between IT and business units; 2) lack of a technology-focused culture; 3) lack of IoT expertise. (In the third category, internal staff IoT expertise was bundled together with external partner IoT knowledge.)

Adding all that up, you might conclude that DIY IoT, relying mainly on internal resources, is the hard way to deploy the Internet of Things.

Which makes Cradlepoint’s 2018 State of IoT Survey a tad worrisome. That poll of 400 organizations in the U.S., U.K. and Canada found “IT pros overwhelmingly prefer to use internal (emphasis is mine) resources for all aspects of IoT implementation and support … [A]bout half of the organizations surveyed are deploying IoT solutions on their existing enterprise network and 57 per cent prefer to manage their own IoT device security.”

So despite evidence that DIY IoT may not be the best way to go, most enterprises are still trying to build their own IoT framework.

DIY déjà vu

This is the point at which déjà vu creeps in. Haven’t we been here before? A decade ago, the majority of businesses cautiously opted for a DIY approach when it came to cloud. And just five years ago, many organizations similarly spent gobs of time and money to build apps in-house rather than using APIs or customizing existing SaaS services for their needs.

Like a scene out of Groundhog Day, Cradlepoint’s researchers say the same phenomenon is now replaying itself with IoT: “In an age when organizations’ top priorities are shifting to Networking-as-a-Service methodology, many organizations stay stuck in patterns of the past, trying to build and manage IoT systems themselves.”

An escape route from that rut may have arrived in the form of blockchain-enhanced sensing-as-a-service (also called sensor-as-a-service, depending on the vendor).

Turnkey IoT

Nokia announced its Sensing as a Service solution (bereft of any hyphens in the name) a week before the recent Mobile World Congress. It’s aimed at telcos and other mobile network operators (MNOs), who can offer it to their enterprise customers as a ready-made option for IoT enablement.

Those who sign up can use Nokia’s IoT sensors, analytics platform, data processing and storage — without acquiring or building their own internally. As per Nokia’s description of the solution as offering “CAPEX-free data services,” MNOs can use Sensing as a Service from their own existing base stations.

Blockchain, too

Blockchain is woven into Nokia’s new service, adding extra layers of automation and security to the solution. But Nokia isn’t the only vendor getting into blockchain for IoT. IoTeX, a Silicon Valley startup cofounded by scientists from Canada’s University of Waterloo, just launched its own IoT service that harnesses blockchain for both security and network optimization purposes.

In an MIT Technology Review article, Prof. Ahmed Banafa of San Jose State University argues blockchain “could perhaps be the silver bullet needed by the IoT industry.”

“[Blockchain] can be used in tracking billions of connected devices, enable the processing of transactions and coordination between devices [and] allows for significant savings to IoT industry manufacturers,” Banafa writes. “This decentralized approach would eliminate single points of failure, creating a more resilient ecosystem for devices to run on. The cryptographic algorithms used by blockchains would make consumer data more private.”

In a world where most IoT projects — if they even manage to get off the ground, that is — end in disappointment, turnkey alternatives to DIY IoT could hold appeal for IT departments. If Nokia carves out a clientele for this model, it won’t be surprising to see other vendors follow it into this new neck of the IoT woods.

Image: iStock

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