Over the course of the last decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) has made the rapid transition from an ambitious concept to a reality that’s almost taken for granted. Remarkably, companies have only scratched the surface of the potential for IoT edge devices. By 2020, Gartner predicts that there will be over 20 billion such devices in service, with companies investing huge sums into IoT development and research.
Despite these trends, there are still a few key IoT challenges to be addressed. In order for the industry to truly take off in the coming years, device manufacturers and the data centers that make their networks possible must work together to meet and overcome these challenges.
Security is by far the greatest concern associated with IoT development. Since each device is connected to a broader edge computing network, the overall attack surface is much larger than a traditional network architecture. To make matters worse, many devices travel between multiple networks, potentially picking up malware along the way that helps cybercriminals bypass some security measures. Many IoT edge devices are also autonomous, which can cause them to behave in ways that traditional network security protocols may not take into account when evaluating risks. Taken together, then, there are quite a few IoT security issues to consider.
To guard against potential threats, organizations should build their networks with the assumption that any device connected to it is already compromised in some way. This allows them to build in protections and authentication protocols that subject devices to rigorous scrutiny and deny them automatic access to potentially sensitive data.
The proliferation of IoT edge devices is already placing strain on many networks. Without the right edge computing framework in place, company networks can be bogged down by latency and subpar bandwidth. Centralized cloud networks create significant bottlenecks, forcing devices to funnel data back to the main servers and waiting for a response. For devices like autonomous vehicles, these processing bottlenecks are simply unacceptable.
In addition to increasing the processing capabilities of the devices themselves, companies can enhance connectivity performance by utilizing edge data centers to take on some of the computing workloads. Located close to the network edge, these facilities can greatly reduce latency and help devices process information faster and more effectively. Edge data centers can also resolve connectivity IoT issues by extending network services into more remote areas and expand the functionality of industrial IoT devices used in agriculture and manufacturing.
Data centers and most technology companies are accustomed to dealing with government regulation and compliance standards. But the rollout of IoT edge devices has happened so quickly that the legal implications this new technology presents have yet to be widely established. Even legal requirements pertaining to customer data are continuing to evolve, as evidenced by the EU’s recent implementation of the far-reaching GDPR standards. Companies that are incorporating IoT edge devices into their network strategies need to consider how shifting legal requirements could impact their operations in the future.
One of the best options for IoT companies looking to avoid these challenges is to partner with a data center that incorporates compliance into every aspect of its operations. These facilities are already anticipating how data collected through IoT edge devices will need to be handled and secured, making them the natural choice for implementing the networks needed to manage that information.
Although there has been a great deal of standardization in the technology industry over the last twenty years, device manufacturers still need to take compatibility concerns into account when building their networks and addressing IoT problems. Not only must networks be able to accommodate a wide variety of IoT edge devices, but they also need to incorporate new functionality that allows their products to deliver additional services. Pushing updates to these devices presents challenges in terms of security and usability.
Since IoT edge devices are always connected to the network, the ability to monitor their current status and software should be built into the core functionality from the very beginning. Updates and compatibility patches should be able to be delivered seamlessly and with minimal user input. By establishing the infrastructure for maintaining these devices, companies can ensure that they will be able to manage them efficiently with minimal service disruption.
Apart from many of the practical concerns listed above, companies must also contend with skepticism customers may have regarding the Internet of Things. According to a study conducted by the Dutch cybersecurity firm Gemalto, 90 percent of consumers lack confidence in IoT security, with 65 percent concerned that hackers might gain control of their devices. Considering that many IoT edge devices are intended for use in the home, it’s critically important for companies to address these concerns.
Transparency is a good start when it comes to earning the trust of consumers. People want to know what information is being collected from them, how it’s being used, where it’s being stored, and how it’s being protected. They want to know what happens if one of their devices is compromised and what recourse is available should the company’s servers suffer a data breach. Communicating this information clearly and proactively can go a long way toward dispelling misconceptions about IoT security and winning the confidence of consumers.
While the IoT revolution is already here, organizations should not take the challenges associated with its implementation for granted. Failing to address these areas could lead to embarrassing security lapses, service outages, or ineffective products, making it imperative for companies to put a great deal of thought into the edge computing strategies that power their IoT networks. By working closely with a data center, they can build effective frameworks that allow them to deliver the sort of groundbreaking services customers expect from IoT devices.