Comparing an Internet of Things network to a traditional business network is like comparing the Interstate Highway System to a community bike trail.
Not only do IoT networks and the devices that run on them disrupt traditional businesses, they transmit a large volume of data generated from a variety of sources. As a result, they also come with different requirements.
The days when networks were simply expected to provide basic, reliable and secure connectivity are winding down. The rapid emergence of IoT is complicating life for IT departments.
“The much, much larger number of smart devices being connected to networks means more bandwidth consumption, additional storage requirements and additional security concerns,” says Brent Hodges, industrial and telecommunications IoT lead for Dell.
Over the next several years, massive IoT deployments supported by sophisticated networks will become increasingly common, challenging organizations in a wide range of fields to operate and maintain efficient, reliable and cost-effective infrastructures.
Today’s IT leaders are being charged with designing and deploying a growing number of IoT initiatives. They also are expected to provide relevant data and insights about the projects’ successes or failures. Yet many organizations embark on IoT ventures with the wrong outlook.
IoT makes smart ideas a reality, says Wieland Alge, vice president with Barracuda Networks, noting that many smart ideas make common activities better or less expensive.
“If you do not have such a natural demand, either think harder or just do not build an IoT,” he says. “The IoT is there to connect smart things and collect and process useful information, not to create a network of useless data.”
IoT Data Has Numerous Uses in Retail, Manufacturing
Organizations are on a pace to employ 3.1 billion connected “things” in 2017, and business applications will represent 37 percent of all IoT applications, Gartner reports. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017, according to the research firm.
Gartner notes that in addition to smart meters, applications tailored to specific industry segments — such as manufacturing field devices, process sensors for electrical generating plants and real-time location devices for healthcare — will drive the use of connected things through 2017, with 1.6 billion units deployed.
Data generated by IoT devices and carried over networks to data centers enables organizations to gain deep insights into important factors such as customer behavior, energy usage and machine performance.
Retailers, for instance, often use IoT insights to understand customer preferences and determine optimal pricing. With smart manufacturing, it’s possible to proactively meet production needs through intelligent and automated actions driven by previously inaccessible insights.
Organizations with large vehicle fleets can turn to the technology to optimize routes, evaluate driver performance and monitor vehicle condition and status.
The Infrastructure Needed for IoT Networks
A flexible and scalable network infrastructure is essential to ensure efficient, reliable and secure IoT data feeds. Choosing the right network protocols and topologies requires consideration of many different factors, including application needs, coverage requirements, device type and location, power consumption and budget.
Each of these factors can contribute to a different network decision.
“High-speed connections are essential for lowest latency or large data volume use cases and where low power is not essential,” observes Hodges. “Lower-speed connections work best in use cases where latency is not critical, where low-power sensors are involved and where there are generally lower data volumes.”
Among IoT wireless technologies, Wi-Fi offers advantages in capacity, coverage and ease of use. In remote and wide-area locations where deploying Wi-Fi doesn’t make sense, broadband cellular connectivity — either 3G or 4G LTE — provides a practical alternative.
Cellular’s benefits include global access, high bandwidth, scalability and diversity. In places where both Wi-Fi and cellular can’t be used, satellite services can supply connectivity to virtually any location on earth.
New low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) are also becoming available as alternative WAN technologies. LWPAN tech can provide significant benefits, including lower total cost of ownership, extended coverage and longer device battery life.
While IoT networks are highly standardized, many devices are not. Devices as disparate as mobile phones, environmental sensors, security cameras, and motion and pressure detectors often impose their own network requirements.
“These devices may not like being on a regular network,” says Greg Schulz, founder and senior adviser with Server StorageIO, a technology consulting firm. “Even though they can broadly speak out over the internet, they might have to be on a private network for security or for other reasons.” Schulz says it’s important to stay aware of device network requirements during project planning.
For more on how to get your networks ready for IoT, visit CDW.com/IoT.