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IoT Challenges: More than Ever

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The Internet of Things (IoT) present more challenges than those that were encountered when IP networks were created. There is no common IoT device. There are several wired and wireless connection choices, both local and long distance. IoT devices may be powered locally, by battery, or through Power over Ethernet. IoT devices may be sensors collecting data or they may be actuators where they can respond to commands or condition changes. IoT traffic may be short messages or streaming of low and high priority. Their level of security, which is typically low, has security technicians worried.

There is bill to pay
There will be far more IoT endpoints than what IP networks have needed to support. The cost of IoT devices needs to be low because there will be many of them. However, the total IoT endpoint bill will be high because of the large IoT population. The cost of connecting the IoT endpoint also needs to be low; otherwise the organization cannot afford to connect to all of them. The total cost of IoT will have a serious effect on the ROI.

IT vs. OT
IT has traditionally implemented and managed the endpoints, connecting networks, and the application servers. Its focus is on technology applications. The advent of cloud services has opened up the possibility of implementing IoT by the operations departments (OT) whose focus is on productivity, efficiency, and profit. OT could implement and manage the IoT networks, bypassing IT. The challenges of IoT means IT needs to learn more about OT if they wish to retain the control of IoT installations. OT will have to learn more about IT and networks to ensure that they know enough to be successful IoT operators. I think both IT and OT need more education, neither knows enough to be successful alone.

Connectivity
IoT devices can be connected by wire or wirelessly to a network. Ethernet is the dominant wired technology. It supports high-bandwidth, power over Ethernet (PoE) and can be either short (100 meters) or long-range using LRPoE or fiber. There are a number of wireless candidates. Short-range wireless candidates include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Zigbee, Thread, Near Filed Communications (NFC), and RFID. Medium-range candidates include LTE and 5G. Long-range candidates include LoRaWAN, SigFox, and satellite-based communications.

There are over two dozen standards for IoT. The decision about IoT deployment depends on factors such as:

• Wired or wirelessly connected

• Battery-powered or PoE or local power

• Streaming large amounts of data frequently or send infrequent short packets

• The distance range can be very local or WAN.

Whenever possible, implementers prefer low energy consumption technologies. Specialized industries may require IoT networks streaming

over very long distances, that demand high energy consumption.

Many different types of IoT may be needed by a single enterprise thereby requiring that the ideal network support several standards.

IoT Management
Enterprises will have wired and wireless IoT devices on the network. The network must support a wide variety of heterogeneous devices from many different vendors, and with many different capabilities. Implementing unified management access and centralized security policies for wired and wireless networks becomes very important. Using existing management platforms and adding new ones leads to a disjointed solution. Automation of access procedures becomes necessary and will require modifications to the management approach.

Dealing with Security
IoT devices need to be inexpensive if the enterprise is going to deploy many of them. Less expensive implies less security investment in the devices. The common network security methods based on firewall rules,

ACL, VLANs, and VPNs are becoming more complex, cumbersome, and expensive. IoT is becoming an integral to business processes. This makes it necessary to reinforce security measures and create contained areas in the network (for IoT devices) to ensure that any potential IoT security breach does not affect the other business processes or data.

Network performance
IoT devices require networks to be ready to support an increase in processes and data, while maintaining performance for the existing functions. The large number of IoT devices requires higher capacity (bandwidth) as well as the ability to connect more devices simultaneously since the IoT population is expected to grow significantly. Wi-Fi standards are evolving such as Wi-Fi 6 which includes technical improvements to deal with the IoT. It provides better network resource usage allocation allowing more devices to connect simultaneously to one access point improving performance in high density environments. Is your Wi-Fi network ready?

IoT can help businesses leverage the benefits of the technology to improve workflows and business processes. IoT presents challenges for CIOs and CFOs when they deal with technological evolutions and limited IT and OT budgets.

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Edited by Maurice Nagle
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