For a long time now, the town criers have been heralding the coming of the internet of things (IoT)—a new suite of connecting technologies that promise to bring billions upon billions of new devices online within the next decade.
What is IoT? The suite of technologies that is IoT covers everything from smart home designs to little devices that fit right in your pocket, as well as dishwashers, dryers, toasters and many other kinds of appliances in homes, vehicles and public spaces. IoT even covers myriad industrial applications. What they all have in common is that they are going to harvest data and send it into enterprise and other systems.
Although we’ve been hearing about IoT for a while, there are a lot of confused ideas about exactly what it is and how it will work in the real world. Here are some of the major misconceptions around the technology of IoT that are helpful for executives and others trying to make top-level choices about how to integrate connectivity into new products and services.
1. It Isn’t All About Wearables
If you ask someone the question, what is IoT? many will answer by mentioning some smartwatch or another such gadget. Many people think that the internet of things is mostly focused on small, wearable technologies like smartwatches and activity trackers. That’s one element to it, but it’s not even close to the whole picture.
Consider, for example, how IoT connectivity is changing manufacturing with next-generation M2M systems. Think about how IoT technologies are going to process tasks of all kinds. It’s not just wearables: it’s a fundamental change in how we deploy any technology, with wireless connectivity that will bring data to our fingertips.
2. IoT Is More Affordable Than People Think
We also tend to think that IoT is only going to be for an elite cadre of big businesses. That’s not necessarily true. Many small-business owners have the tendency, in general, to believe that any new technologies with real application are going to the blue-chip companies first, which, again, doesn’t really jibe with the current reality.
The common belief about which devices are meant to be reserved for big corporations is one of the most entrenched myths about IoT. In fact, open platforms and low-cost IoT sensors are one of the most cost-effective options for small businesses to leverage what resources they have.
The bottom line is that the versatility of IoT promises to make some applications easy for small businesses. As an example, think about the way that a newer technology like point of service (POS) connectivity has already helped tiny delis, sandwich shops, antique stores and other retailers to work smarter and serve customers in new and better ways. In some ways, these POS innovations leveled the playing field, allowing smaller businesses to keep up with frictionless eCommerce. There’s no reason to think that some IoT applications won’t do similar things to numerous other markets.
3. Programming IoT Devices Can be Tricky
Although the manufacturing of IoT devices might not be immensely different from manufacturing other electronics, figuring out how to program those devices is typically a challenge requiring deep embedded engineering expertise.
In a piece that appeared in ADT Mag earlier this year, Bola Rotibi, the research director and founder of Creative Intellect Consulting, wrote this:
“Many of the new cohort of IoT supplier and user organizations fail to understand that connecting a thing can be relatively easy but writing the algorithms that allow for sophisticated control and analytical processing, not so much. Algorithms are both a science and an art form, and not generally for the unskilled.” — Bola Rotibi
This is why skilled data scientists will be in demand to handle these types of sophisticated needs. The same goes for edge computing and how specific network instruction will also be necessary across the IoT industry. These trends may lead to the rise of “network administration 2.0,” where there’s an increased demand for people who know how to keep that data floating around a certain network sector.
4. Security for IoT Is an Ongoing Issue
Another range of misconceptions around IoT centers around the idea that security has a silver bullet answer when it comes to protecting connected devices.
IoT devices are still inherently vulnerable and lack device regulation. The number of misconceptions around IoT security also makes them susceptible to attack. What then is “IoT security”? The solutions to the problem include network segmentation to isolate IoT devices. This isolating principle is very much at the center of cutting-edge cybersecurity—not just in IoT but everywhere. Think about sequestering or quarantining sensitive or untested data processes to keep them separate from those core elements that need to be carefully guarded to mitigate risk.
5. But Good Security Is Possible
Then there’s the opposite type of misconception—the idea that it’s not possible to easily implement comprehensive IoT security.
At Internet of Things Agenda, Masiej Kranz of Cisco talked about dispelling the myth that IoT will never be secure.
“IoT can be secure and safe,” Kranz writes, outlining some of the big ghost stories of today’s internet, such as WannaCry and foreign attacks on domestic WiFi systems. He then goes on to talk about how IoT security works these days:
“Undoubtedly, the pace of technology driven by IoT requires new approaches to security. The good news is that security vendors, enterprises, startups, and even device makers are all finally making IoT security their top priority. We now see more organizations moving from the traditional ‘security by obscurity’ method to an end-to-end, comprehensive, policy-based architectural approach to IoT security. At the same time, horizontal and vertical standard bodies are actively developing IoT security frameworks, standards and methodologies to ensure the safety of connected devices and IoT systems.” — Masiej Kranz, Cisco