The internet of things (IoT) continues to stand as a huge opportunity for a wide range of players across the telecom and technology spectrum. The notion of connecting monitors, machines and other objects to a network, thus granting them some level of intelligence, could well revolutionize industry sectors ranging from agriculture to manufacturing.
And indeed, a wide range of players have already invested in this vision. But, with deployments accelerating, now is the time to review what it takes to implement a successful IoT system. How can service providers, integrators, vendors and others best meet customer requests? And how might those customer requests differ across market sectors?
This Fierce ebrief will look at these issues and more in two parts. Read on:
5 pointers on IoT deployments
IoT deployments can be complex, intricate systems, leveraging several partners, myriad technologies and multiple moving pieces. Early deployments in the space have served to underscore the steep learning curve companies face bringing solutions to market, scaling those solutions, and managing them throughout the lifecycle.
One of the first steps in developing an IoT strategy is to know where to play, said Steve Szabo, head of global products and solutions of IoT at Verizon. “It’s such a vast space that knowing where to play is critical,” he said. “Understand what you’re great at, and then how you can leverage that into an IoT solution.”
For companies just beginning to devise an IoT strategy, that means understanding not only their own strengths, but also how best they can leverage those strengths in an IoT deployment. Experts seem to agree that the companies that spend time planning the what, where, how and why of their deployments up front are more likely to succeed. But even the best laid IoT plans can go awry in the field.
Below are five key tips from top IoT solution providers—gleaned from years of experience in the space, billions of data points transmitted and analyzed, and thousands of IoT deployments brought to market—that can help inform IoT strategies and help players position for success:
1. UNDERSTAND OPERATIONAL COSTS AND HAVE EXECUTIVE SPONSORSHIP
Companies developing initial IoT strategies often focus first on the hardware and software components—the nuts and bolts of the IoT deployment—without properly preparing for the ongoing support and maintenance required to manage the deployment, according to Theresa BuiRevon, director of IoT strategy at equipment vendor Cisco. “What I think most companies don’t realize is that your support costs can go up,” she said.
For one thing, the devices themselves are prone to problems. “It’s never as easy as you’d like it to be,” said Syed Zaeem Hosain, CTO and founder of Aeris, an IoT solutions and analytics provider. “People tend to think these devices work perfectly day in and day out, out of the box. Well, the answer is, they don’t.” Device problems can range from connectivity issues to software bugs to hardware failures. Those hiccups can translate into service disruptions and other issues that require operational support.
Depending on the IoT vertical, and the pace of scale, deployments can take months to even years to roll out, with the potential for long stretches of time without any revenue generation. That means companies need to prepare for long sales cycles and executive leadership should be patient for revenue.
“These are complicated solutions with complicated needs,” Verizon’s Szabo said. “Make sure you’ve got complete executive sponsorship, so that they’re not just going to build and fund the product, they’re going to actually invest in it, and support it for the long run. That’s important. The ones that are successful have that kind of sponsorship. The ones that don’t typically end up dying on the vine.”
2. DESIGN FOR END-TO-END SECURITY
Security is a critical piece of any IoT deployment and should be given an early role in the planning process to ensure end-to-end security. “Going back afterwards to try to make sure your device is secure or your application is secure is a bad thing,” Aeris’ Hosain said. “If you can do the design work for security up front, it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to maintain the design down the road.”
For larger deployments with multiple partners, Cisco’s Bui-Revon said companies should create clear guidelines around security responsibilities for each member of the deployment. “There are so many different players in the ecosystem that are responsible for security at different stages,” she said.
Clearly delineating responsibilities among hardware manufacturers, network providers, software applications, data centers and cloud providers can help ensure security is maintained end-to-end. “At the very least, you have a checklist of the players that are involved in the IoT deployment,” BuiRevon said. “Companies understand that they need an end-to-end security model, and assign the right responsibilities to the right partners that they’re working with.”