Despite being a relatively young technology, there is already a mythology surrounding IoT. In this article we take the 5 biggest IoT myths and bust them wide open.
The 5 great IoT myths
At its most basic level, the Internet of Things (IoT) is merely a giant network of internet-connected “things”, which collect and send information or data. Such “things” can be anything ranging from a wearable device to a jet engine on an aeroplane. IoT solutions have the capacity to massively transform and influence businesses, everything from finance, security and management strategies. So what are some of the misconceptions when it comes to IoT?
Myth 1 - IoT is just about sensors and things
Is IoT really all just about sensors (and things)? There seems to be a growing consensus among business leaders and analysts that there is more to IoT than just connecting remote devices or sensors to an application to monitor a temperature or alarm. If you consider wearable devices, a market that is expected to grow substantially, people have been happy to just track how far they have walked or how many calories they have burned. Another often-quoted example is the ability of your fridge (connected to the internet) to re-stock itself without you having to be involved. In reality this is still really only one device talking to one application. The business world is now starting to recognise that by combining sensor data with a variety of other data sources from inside or outside an organisation, it can save costs, deliver operational efficiencies and support new types of business models for example.
Of course, IoT is utterly dependant on sensors (and things) to capture all of that all important data. A percentage of these things and sensors ‘make’ the information whilst the rest see their actions largely governed by inbuilt software or remote control. IoT Software Development isn't just about sensors and things; it is also about the administration and support of the whole IoT arrangement. This arrangement, whilst clearly including things and sensors also includes all the other infrastructure such as portals, centre points, repeaters, cloud, programming and so on.
Myth 2 - IoT can never be secure
Cybersecurity incidents appear in the news on a daily basis; it seems that we are never too far away form the next ‘big’ company being hacked. Businesses and consumers alike are justifiably worried about the security, safety and privacy of millions of IoT devices. Have you heard about the one where a discarded smart lightbulb was hacked to retrieve WiFi passwords? Or how about those consumer complaints that Alexa or that the average IoT device bought in a shop can be hacked within 30 minutes and added to a botnet?
IoT is driven by a technological pace that requires new approaches to security. Enterprises should be making IoT security their top priority. Stronger security measures should be seen as a growth advantage against the risk-and-reward environment of security investment. Organisations seem to be moving from a 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 standards bodies are actively developing IoT security frameworks, standards and methodologies to ensure the safety of connected devices and IoT systems.
Governments can also play a role in underlining IoT security. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission has published guidelines on how manufacturers must inform customers about device security. Inevitably though, IoT security is everyone’s responsibility. From startups and service providers through to corporate end users, industry and government organisations must increasingly follow and share best practices to make IoT safer and more secure for all.
Myth 3 - IoT is all about big data
Big data is an evolving term that describes a large volume of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information. It is often characterised by the 3Vs: volume of data, variety of data types and the velocity at which the data must be processed. Essentially, big data is an idea that useful information can be derived or extracted from a large set of data.
With the advent of IoT, smart and connected things have come under very close scrutiny from a data point of view. In some cases, the data being aggregated may be sourced from IoT devices but that is not necessarily a requirement or typical of the majority of IoT devices right now. Devices are often paired with an application on a user’s smartphone. In many instances, the data generated by IoT devices does not even approach the levels of big-data limits. Yes, huge data can be generated with a minimum of effort, but that doesn’t mean that it will be.
Are the relatively new terms that are coming up like fog computing and roof computing, merely marketing gimmicks to generate attention? Is this is just another view from cloud service and IT infrastructure providers that ultimately limits their ability to see through the whole solution? From an end customer’s point of view, only end-to-end application is sensible and useful; big (or small) data is just another cog in the wheel. IoT is generating a huge amount of data that is usually retained in vertical silos. However, a true IoT is dependent on the availability and confluence of rich data sets from multiple systems, organisations and verticals which will usher in the next generation of IoT solutions.
Myth 4 - IoT is all about consumer devices
What do most people think of when they hear the phrase, “Internet of Things (IoT)? Probably connected fridges, smart light bulbs, thermostats and other ‘smart’ household appliances. However, the greatest adoption and largest opportunity for IoT so far has been in the business world. For example, heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar has long been an IoT pioneer. It now uses IoT and augmented reality (AR) applications to give machine operators an at-a-glance view of everything from fuel levels to when air filters need replacing. If an old filter expires, the company can send basic instructions for how to replace it via an AR app. The company has also used sensor-driven analytics to save a whole load of money on boats and shipping vessels.
Consider also, global mining company Rio Tinto, which owns the largest fleet of giant autonomous trucks in the world. These trucks work in huge, open-pit mines which are miles away from the nearest place the trucks can be serviced if they breakdown or need a repair. By using IoT sensors to monitor the condition of all its trucks, the company has enabled preventative maintenance to address issues before they become major problems. Rio Tinto now saves $$ millions every month by avoiding breakdowns.
There is currently a significant transformation regarding the way we produce products thanks to the digitisation of manufacturing. This transition is being called by many, Industry 4.0 to represent the fourth revolution that has occurred in manufacturing. From the first industrial revolution (mechanisation through water and steam power) to the mass production and assembly lines using electricity in the second, the fourth industrial revolution will take what was started in the third with the adoption of computers and automation and enhance it with smart and autonomous systems fuelled by data and machine learning. Clearly, IoT will not only be busy with consumer devices..
Myth 5 - IoT is a single market where one size fits all
When the internet first became widespread, technology companies focused on developing solutions for IT, service providers and consumers. However, this approach alone won’t work when it comes to the IoT. That’s because the IoT is a collection of markets, sub-markets and ecosystems where "Lines of Business," which are the primary IoT buying centres, want business solutions, not individual technologies or products. IoT comprises many markets, each with unique environments, legacy technologies, requirements and ecosystems. Thus, the integration of horizontal, vertical and regional capabilities into a solution is key. Technology providers must either develop highly-targeted, horizontal capabilities and integrate them with vertical and regional ecosystems or, they can focus on one or two use cases in a specific market.
For example, smartphone component manufacturer Qualcomm, found traction in IoT by creating an extended range of reference platforms using its components across nearly 25 different applications. From drones to wearables, to smart meters and connected cars, the company has built and shared an impressive range of specialised designs, leveraging various members of its Snapdragon CPU and modem family of SOCs. Qualcomm found that many of the smaller (and even some larger) players in specific IoT markets didn’t have the in-house expertise to design the circuit boards they needed to drive their creations. By creating vertical-specific solutions, they certainly attracted attention.
Working interdependently, an ecosystem of horizontal, vertical and geographic specialists can more easily scale technologies and solutions to meet an organisation’s specific needs, no matter where in the world they are located.