Top Challenges to Successful IoT Initiatives — And How to Overcome Them

Calum McClelland, Director of Projects at Leverege, provides strategies and solutions for overcoming the obstacles that often hinder IoT initiatives.

1090
Image of an IEE 3D RFID Scanner being associated to a specific entrance point
Illustration: © IoT For All

In the past few years that I’ve spent in the IoT industry, helping to develop, deploy, and improve IoT solutions involving millions of sensors, I’ve learned that often the biggest hurdles to success aren’t technological. A Gartner study last year found that only 26 percent of surveyed companies were successful with their IoT initiatives. This is an abysmal statistic, but it doesn’t surprise me given the many I’ve personally seen—many of which are purely operational or organizational.

Although many issues associated with #IoT deployments aren’t technological, they’re equally painful and difficult to overcome. || #IoTForAll @Leverege Click To Tweet

Although many issues associated with IoT deployments aren’t technological, they’re equally painful and difficult to overcome. And if every organization has to overcome these challenges in a void, a 74 percent failure rate is likely to continue. But here at Leverege, we believe in openly sharing the knowledge and insights that we’ve gained through our extensive experience, because it’s this open sharing of knowledge that will help us all to move forward together, collectively amplifying our human potential.

So in this series, I’ll be exploring the issues we’ve seen, with examples taken from our experiences, and how you can overcome similar challenges as you pursue your own IoT initiatives. Whether you’re a solutions provider building new solutions for clients, or you’re one of the organizations integrating IoT technologies into your current systems and processes, I hope this series of posts will equip you with knowledge and strategies that will help you to succeed.

If you’re relatively new to IoT and the various technologies and terminologies associated with it, I encourage you first to read the Intro to IoT eBook I wrote. This is a comprehensive (but simple!) introduction to and explanation of many important concepts that I’ll assume readers know as I explore various challenges.

I’ll save the in-depth exploration for future posts, but here are just a few of the topics to come:

You Need to Associate

We’re increasingly using sensors and devices to allow us to represent physical objects and their attributes digitally. For example, in asset tracking applications, you’ll likely have a tracker that’s attached to a given asset you’d like to track. The asset is the thing we want to track, but the tracker is the thing that’s capturing and sending data. Therefore, you need to know that this tracker is on this asset, which we call “association” or “pairing.”

For most asset tracking applications, someone needs to manually associate a tracker to a given asset, and when you introduce a manual step, there are bound to be problems. From labeling issues during manufacturing to operational issues like employees simply not associating trackers to the assets, I’ll share some of the challenges we’ve faced with IoT Association and how you can avoid or overcome them.

Little Changes Are Big Changes in IoT Initiatives

The Internet of Things is often called “a system of systems,” and with good reason: successful IoT initiatives usually involve a combination of hardware, software, and connectivity, which is then tied into business processes and operations. Because of the complexity and systemic codependence, a simple change in one part of the system—or subsystem—can effectively break the entire system of systems.

Let’s say that you want to make some changes to the firmware on your sensor/device to help reduce the battery drain, so you reduce the number of messages sent from the sensor/device per day. Great! You’ve just added on a few months of battery life!

But unbeknownst to you, your IoT system uses the number of messages from the sensors/devices to flag when a sensor/device may be defective. After making this change, you suddenly have countless sensors/devices being flagged by the system as defective, which at best hurts user confidence and at worst means that the system itself doesn’t work (e.g. if defective sensors/devices are automatically prevented from being used).

Although this challenge effectively boils down to good communication, this can be difficult within a single organization—let alone across the multiple organizations and partnerships that IoT initiatives often require to be successful. In this future post, I’ll share some examples to demonstrate how seriously you should take even the little changes. I’ll also offer some strategies for effectively communicating and managing these changes.

What Challenges Are You Facing?

I have plenty more topics in mind that I’ll be covering after the above two posts, but this series is ultimately meant to be helpful to you, the reader! So if there’s a particular challenge that you’re facing or that you’d like me to explore, please let me know and I’ll make sure to prioritize it. Just put your thoughts in the “How can we help?” field.