By Tom Gibbings
Happy Global IoT Day! It’s the 7th year of this ‘holiday,’ and there is plenty to celebrate. The day originated as an opportunity for IoT-minded people around the world to meet up, discuss the implications of IoT and evolve their visions for how an IoT-enabled planet should emerge. We’ve come a long way in seven years, and it’s only the beginning! The discussions are more tangible now, and the community has made enough progress to learn from the past and devise best practices moving forward.
Luckily for many of us in the IoT space, we get plenty of opportunities to discuss IoT more frequently than once a year. In Q1 2018, my colleagues and I spent more weeks at IoT-themed events than not!
One event that stands out in particular as a great learning experience is the Industry of Things San Diego. My colleagues and I hosted a series of World Café roundtable sessions with leaders in IoT, many from companies with deployed IoT solutions, acutely aware of the IoT challenges they face and committed to solving those challenges quickly. Our roundtable topic was “Future Proofing your IoT Deployment.” I had my preconceived notions about what we would talk about, but I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of topics that were presented by the audience.
In honor of IoT Day, I’d like to share the top three takeaways from the session, as they demonstrate the challenges and concerns that real IoT doers are encountering as they look at how to future proof their IoT designs.
- No big surprise here, security was at the top of the list. There were various takes on it from network security to threat detection for local devices to role-based access. Security has been and will continue to be a topic of great interest and anxiety until the pace of security breaches dissipates.
- Next up, standards and protocols. Even with the latest progress in IoT protocols, industry participants continue to be concerned about making the right decision on which standards to adopt. It’s funny how the comparison to VHS versus Betamax still thrives more than 40 years later. Everyone is acutely aware that betting on the wrong standard can cause a serious disaster with product adoption. This healthy skepticism will mitigate the chances of that happening.
- Now this one surprised me, coming in third was “preventing vendor lock-in.” I anticipated security and protocols coming up, but I didn’t expect vendor lock-in to be a top-of-mind concern. It starts to make more sense once you dig in a bit more. There are various concerns related to vendor lock-in. What if you rely on a vendor for a piece of technology and that vendor gets acquired or goes out of business? What if that vendor makes a critical promise and fails to follow through? The concern is definitely valid, but the problem is that none of our discussions provided a good solution to the problem. The IoT ecosystem is so diverse, and the technology stacks necessary to deploy a solution are so large that the only way to reasonably mitigate risk on this topic is to choose vendors that you know will be around for the long haul or your engineering team is able to make decisions that reduce your cost of switching to a different vendor.
All of these various viewpoints brought a lot of valuable discussion around topics that need to be discussed. I’ll continue to maintain my position that the best way to future proof your IoT deployment is by implementing a device management solution that contains a robust capability for remotely updating devices. With the rapid pace of technology innovation and rising security incidents, in order to avoid potentially hazardous situations that include humans physically interacting with a deployed device, robust remote updates must be part of your solution. This will enable IoT operators to deploy their latest software innovation, address the next security concern, and keep the underlying operating system up to date.
The Industry of Things World conference series has been a fantastic venue to explore these types of topics, and I look forward to attending again next year.
What are your biggest concerns around future proofing? Do you agree with the takeaways I’ve discussed? If you are at an IoT event today (or any day), I urge you to discuss this topic with others; it’s sure to be an enlightening discussion!