Customization comes with a competitive edge and a security challenge
We talked about this before: there’s no one-size-fits-all IoT solution because every industry, vertical, and business is different. Whether you have an in-house team or are exporting the building of infrastructure to a trusted partner, make sure the team is asking the right questions when it comes to implementing and deploying IoT solutions.
Ask yourself questions like: What does it need to return in order to afford its cost? What’s possible in the roadmap? What do you have that’s ready for an IoT deployment in-house? Then lay over each connection possibility and security protocol.
There is no one-size-fits-all technology to connect objects, machines, sensors, devices, and appliances to the internet. In an ideal world, we would empower every single sensor with unlimited energy and unlimited wireless broadband IPv6 access to the internet. However, in the real world, wireless connectivity has a cost in terms of radio spectrum, energy, and hardware. This cost needs to be weighed in the financial equation of the application and service being deployed, where total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) dictate.
Much like connecting people was once a luxury for the rich that’s now become a mature business across a number of verticals, connecting things will soon move from luxury to necessity as the expanding market pushes down the cost of IoT deployments. While simple and complex machines and objects might be connecting, smart and disposable sensors might not, for instance. Depending on cost and power constraints on a case-by-case basis, only a selection of connectivity technologies may apply:
- Low-cost body accessories can count on a close-by Bluetooth-capable smartphone to play the role of the internet gateway. That way, these devices can run on small button-cell batteries for months or years.
- Mains-powered home automation devices and machines such as kitchen appliances, voice assistants, and heaters can count on the home WiFi network bridging to a DSL or fiber box.
- Battery-powered home appliances such as smoke detectors, thermostats, and pet trackers will require the deployment of a low-power local area network based upon Zigbee, Thread, LoRaWAN, or a proprietary protocol.
- Always-on vending machines or display panels can afford 2G/3G/4G cellular connectivity
- Battery-powered smart meters or environmental sensors may take advantage of a cellular LPWAN like SIGFOX, public LoRaWAN and Cat-NB1 (NB-IoT) when available
- For industrial assets sitting in very complex radio environments where cellular coverage is harsh, such as factories, you will need to install a self-managed or external vendor-managed NaaS (N-as-a-Service) LoRaWAN network that is able to extract signals from behind thick reinforced concrete walls and floors.
Your solution’s point person should then perform a readiness assessment, evaluating cost, value, ROI, and even a pilot test to get the right buy-in. An in-house build allows for an IoT solution that’s fully customized to your use case. Need a specific protocol to help your sensors pick up information, communicate it to the cloud, and then deliver it to a custom app adapted for iOS and Android? An-in house build from an in-house team is in lockstep with your internal business goals, customizing your build accordingly.
However, collective knowledge from a global network means someone in some corner of the world is keeping up with IoT deployments and solutions from competitors in your industry and innovative companies in others. This built-in competitive intelligence can help them vet your business case with an objective eye, run diagnostics to prove ROI early to top executives, recommend the best solutions during the development phase, and ensure security and maintenance not only with an on-site deployment but also a lifecycle management engagement.
Either way, it’s true that a fully customized in-house solution isn’t vetted for quality and assurance the way something tried and true is. Check the validation of your assumptions in order to ensure customization doesn’t leave you vulnerable to IoT security challenges you have yet to consider.
Feeling secured yet? Learn more about how to ensure security in the Internet of Things by downloading this Avnet whitepaper: SECURITY & CONNECTIVITY IN THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET OF THINGS
Guillaume Crinon is the Global IoT Strategy Manager at Avnet, responsible for security and connectivity solutions.