5 challenges still facing the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become a huge part of how people live, communicate and do business. All around the world, web-enabled devices are turning our world into a more switched-on place to live.

There are many benefits to the increased adoption of IoT technology, says Kate Began, Polycase sales and marketing manager, from the ability to monitor cargo anywhere to playing your favorite music in the shower from a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. But there are still many challenges to widespread IoT adoption and to a secure, functioning global device network.

From security challenges to the perils of high customer expectations, these five factors are big concerns for the growth and development of the Internet of Things. Overcoming them will be the key to creating true lasting productivity and prosperity through these incredible technologies.

1. Security

Ask any security expert about the biggest headaches of the 21st century and they’ll likely bring up IoT devices. The reason? In cybersecurity terms, IoT devices greatly expand the “attack surface,” or the amount of potential areas for cybercriminals to penetrate a secure network.

Cybercriminals don’t have to crack an IoT device’s plastic enclosure to access sensitive materials. They can simply finesse their way in through one of the many security vulnerabilities that are found throughout the IoT. Many IoT devices have default passwords left unchanged, unpatched software and other major security vulnerabilities.

In 2017, a casino’s data was compromised by hackers who accessed its network through an IoT thermostat in one of its fish tanks. Far worse, parents have reported strangers accessing their IoT baby monitors through the internet and using them to talk to their children.

Much of the burden of fixing this problem falls upon IoT device users. Many people still don’t see IoT devices as potential security threats that have to be patched, updated and protected in much the same way that smartphones and computers do.

(In fact, many people still don’t protect their phones or computers well enough, either.) But, as we’ll discuss below, governments often haven’t moved with sufficient speed to regulate these new technologies as they become available.

2. Regulation

Another common characteristic of technological innovations is that government regulation often takes a long time to catch up with the current state of technology. With the rapid evolution that’s happening every day in IoT, the government is taking its time in catching up and businesses are often left without crucial information they need to make decisions.

The lack of strong IoT regulations is a big part of why the IoT remains a severe security risk, and the problem is likely to get worse as the potential attack surface expands to include ever more crucial devices. When medical devices, cars and children’s toys are all connected to the Internet, it’s not hard to imagine many potential disaster scenarios unfolding in the absence of sufficient regulation.

Quality control in IoT can be particularly tricky from a regulatory perspective. With huge numbers of IoT devices now being imported from countries like China that have different standards of quality and security, many experts are calling for strong and universal security standards for IoT technology.

3. Compatibility

New waves of technology often feature a large stable of competitors jockeying for market share, and IoT is certainly no exception. This can be good news, since competition creates increased choices for consumers, but it can also create frustrating compatibility issues.

Home mesh networks are one area where compatibility trouble is looming. Bluetooth has long been the compatibility standard for IoT devices. In fact, it was named after an ancient king, Harald Bluetooth, known for unifying warring tribes. But when it comes to home automation using mesh networking, several competitors have sprung up to challenge Bluetooth’s mesh network offerings, including protocols such as Zigbee and Z-Wave. It could be years before the market settles enough to crown a single universal standard for home IoT.

Continued compatibility for IoT devices also depends upon users keeping their devices updated and patched, which, as we’ve just discussed, can be pretty difficult. When IoT devices that have to talk to each other are running different software versions, all kinds of performance issues and security vulnerabilities can result. That’s a big part of why it’s so important that IoT consumers keep their devices patched and up to date.

4. Bandwidth

Connectivity is a bigger challenge to the IoT than you might expect. As the size of the IoT market grows exponentially, some experts are concerned that bandwidth-intensive IoT applications such as video streaming will soon struggle for space on the IoT’s current server-client model.

That’s because the server-client model uses a centralised server to authenticate and direct traffic on IoT networks. However, as more and more devices begin to connect to these networks, they often struggle to bear the load.

Thus, it’s important for IoT companies to carefully examine their IoT connectivity providers and to choose one with a strong record of service and innovation. Features like intelligent switching between mobile network operators (MNOs) are particularly useful for creating a more reliable and user-friendly IoT product for your customers.

5. Customer expectations

It’s often said that it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver. Many IoT manufacturers have learned this the hard way, with IoT start-ups failing often and leaving bewildered customers in their wake. When customer expectations and product reality don’t match, the results can be system failures, orphaned technologies and lost productivity.

With such strong competition in the IoT market, customers whose expectations aren’t met won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. Businesses looking to enter this competitive and innovative sector should be prepared for a market that never sits still and customers who always want a smoother and more advanced experience.

Kate Began

IoT is an exciting sector with a lot of potential to change the way we live, work and play. But the tech industry, government and consumers alike must get on the same page about issues of security and performance to ensure that the IoT remains safe and productive to use.

The author is Kate Began serves as the sales and marketing manager for Polycase.

About the author

Kate Began serves as the sales and marketing manager for Polycase. She oversees the customer service representatives, assists with product development and leads the marketing efforts from the Avon, Ohio headquarters. Kate is also an avid Cleveland Indians fan.

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