Insight: The Technology of IoT

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 with No comments

Is machine-to-machine technology (M2M) ready for prime time? That's a question now being pondered by network operators, hardware and software vendors, and industry analysts, among others, RCRWireless noted. The answer depends somewhat on the M2M applications you're considering: smart homes, smart cities, connected cars, retail, etc.  

The network used for M2M is also a critical consideration, RCRWireless stressed. People usually assume telecom networks are the only choice for Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M applications and services. But that's not entirely accurate. In Europe, companies like SigFox and Telensa are rolling out alternative networks with M2M specifically in mind. These are not necessarily competitive networks with telcom operators, some of whom are actually contributing funding to these new network build-outs. 

(As an aside, it's probably fair to say that when it comes to IoT and M2M, you can't have too much network capacity. Although, of course, properly managed networks are just as important as volume.)

In a similar vein, RCRWireless pointed out that mobile network operators looking to IoT for new revenue sources have many choices about the types of "things" they can provide connectivity for--ranging from small wearable devices to connected cars. 

These different "things" can address the needs of various vertical markets--like automotive, industry, healthcare, and sports--and their requirements differ significantly. Security, bandwidth, data priority, battery life, connectivity, and intelligence are all factors to consider. Operators need to be prepared for the complexity involved with creating and managing IoT services. 

It's worth pulling out one of those IoT requirements for a closer look: security. Fierce Wireless noted a recent warning from Beecham Research that IoT security is compromised by lack of standardization. Although traditional M2M services are relatively easy to secure, the same is not true for IoT because they straddle so many different sectors, devices, and networks. 

In particular, Fierce Wireless highlighted two elements of IoT security: 

  1. Sensors and devices, where the main challenge is identification, authentication, and authorization.
  2. Network level threats, where the main threats occur at the interface between different network types. 

It's therefore necessary to protect IoT all data within the system, whether in transit or at rest. Significant development is needed in this area.   

While tighter security is needed for IoT data, the opposite is true when it comes to opening up intellectual property in the name of innovation, RCRWireless posited. Secrets are pervasive in the high-tech industry, but in many cases that's no longer the smartest way to do business.

Instead, to gain competitive advantage through differentiation, companies involved with IoT need to do more open collaboration, RCRWireless advised. That means shifting from the "me" to the "we" economy--a major cultural shift that will take time. 

Finally, let's take a look at the "intelligent buildings" segment of the IoT market, a niche that has its own specific use cases for connected technology. For example, RCRWireless noted, factors to consider include energy management, demand response, and security.

To succeed in this market, IoT vendors and service providers need to align with different types of building owners and their tenants--and be patiently persistent given the slow-to-change nature of the industry, RCRWireless advised. The mantra should be: think globally, act locally. Ever heard that before?
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